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It’ll Be Cabbage AND Corned Beef on St. Pat’s Day Thanks to Bishops’ Ruling

March 11, 1989

Undated (AP) _ ’Twill be a grand St. Patrick’s Day after all for millions of Catholics who faced the disheartening possibility of eating their cabbage and potatoes straight up.

Some fellas named O’Connor and Quinn and a few of their pals have decided to make a wee bit of an exception March 17 to the rule forbidding Roman Catholics from eating meat on Fridays during Lent.

The ″special dispensations″ granted by bishops in Irish enclaves throughout the country in recent days will permit many of the nation’s 53 million Catholics to have their corned beef and eat it, too.

″We’re very grateful that (they) understand that fish doesn’t have any place in a good Irish stew,″ said Dorothy Cudahy, who will be grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City.

Up until the 1960s, the Catholic Church banned meat on all Fridays. It was a penitential practice in commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ on a Friday ″and also in expressing sorrow for one’s sin,″ said the Rev. Michael Walsh, head of the Office of Pastoral Research and Practices for the U.S. Catholic Conference.

The rules changed in 1966 when Pope Paul VI issued a papal document allowing church leaders in each country to establish their own rules on doing penance.

In the United States, bishops decided to encourage Catholics to do other forms of penance most of the year, but kept the Friday ban on meat during Lent, which runs from Ash Wednesday to Easter.

″The basic principle is that it is good for the soul to do some sort of penitential practice,″ said Bill Ryan, deputy director of the Office of Media Relations for the Catholic conference.

But individual bishops still hold the right to grant special dispensations, and that’s just what many did after they realized St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday this year.

They include Cardinal John O’Connor of New York; Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco; Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston; and their counterparts in Chicago; Cincinnati; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Newark, N.J.

The prelates have asked those who eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day to observe another day of abstinence or do some other additional act of penance.

Individual Catholics always remain free not to follow the fasting regulations for ″just and serious cause,″ Walsh said, but the bishops’ action ″kind of eases everybody’s conscience.″

″We have an old expression in the Latin - Ecclesia est benigna mater: The church is a kind mother,″ said Monsignor William Stanton, pastor of a church in predominantly Irish South Buffalo. ″Her children are feasting, and why not?″

One observer in San Francisco said Quinn was just a step ahead of his flock with the dispensation.

″Sure, sure, sure, they’ll all be eating corned beef, especially in the places where it’s free,″ said John Whooley, publisher of the Irish Herald newspaper. ″The archbishop was wise to do that because they’ll all be eating it anyway.″

A Cincinnati restaurant owner said there’s only one item they could have banned that would affect affect her business on March 17.

″Most people, as long as they can get green beer - that’s all they care about,″ said Helen Russum, co-owner of the Crow’s Nest on the city’s west side.

Not everyone agreed with dropping the ban on meat.

The Rev. Daniel Hurley, a campus minister at St. Bonaventure University in western New York, said he would prefer the church keep the centuries-old ban as a sign of reverence - but he is not going to be ″holier-than-thou″ about the whole thing.

″If it were my decision, I’d probably stick with it throughout Lent,″ Hurley said. ″Since it isn’t, I’ll probably take advantage of it.″

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