Two bishops’ advice to Catholics in Lenten crisis: Eat meat on Fridays
March 27, 2020 (CatholicCulture.org) — Another week dominated by news about the CO19 epidemic; another week without access to the sacraments. These are distressful times, and we are facing troubles that we could not have imagined, even a few weeks ago. As this troubled week moved toward a close, a couple of headlines truly looked surreal:
Bishops advising Catholics to ease up on their Lenten sacrifices. As I remarked to the Daily Caller, “In time of trouble, the time-honored Catholic response is to call for more prayer and fasting, not less.” But in Metuchen, New Jersey, Bishop James Checchio said that the rule for meatless Fridays during Lent would be lifted, in light of the “many other sacrifices that we are suddenly experiencing.” Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley took the same astonishing step. It’s inconceivable (well, at least until this week I would have thought it was inconceivable) that a Catholic bishop would advise his people to pray a bit less. Yet in traditional Catholic practice, prayer and fasting are inextricably linked, particularly during Lent. (Actually there are three elements to the traditional Lenten routine: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Would any bishop suggest that Catholics should be less generous during the epidemic?) I’m searching for the place in the Gospel where our Lord says that “this kind is cast out only by cheeseburgers.”
The other surreal headline was actually on an editorial in the New York Times — not just a routine unsigned editorial, but one endorsed, with an unusual invocation of authority, by the editorial board of the New York Times. The headline conveys the idea: Make Abortion More Available During the Pandemic — Not Less. The secular liberal establishment never lets a crisis go to waste, never misses an opportunity to seize the offensive. But the crass insensitivity of this argument is astonishing. At a time when the specter of death hovers over New York, the city’s most influential newspaper calls for: more death.
In a climate of hysteria, a fresh and balanced perspective — in particular, a distinctly Catholic perspective — is especially valuable. So I’m pleased to pass along something from Thomas More College, where I’m now teaching part-time. It’s a very small school, very strongly imbued with the spirit of a Catholic community of learning, and it was painful for everyone — students, faculty, and staff — when state regulations forced the college to close. But in this message to the college community, President William Fahey provided some reasons for hope, along with some useful reminders of how Catholics respond to crisis.
Published with permission from CatholicCulture.org.