CATHOLIC PewPOINT:

Getting to the meat of "Meatless Fridays" for the sake of America's soul!

      Yesterday we dealt with the "culture of death" platform advanced by the N.O.W. organization and it's elected head Patricia Ireland, an avowed abortion proponent. We follow that "negative" with a positive response, this coming from Judie Brown the tireless Roman Catholic president for the American Life League. As one of the leading advocates for pro-life since 1969, Mrs. Brown is mustering support for encouraging Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays. That's not an original thought for meatless Fridays were a staple of the Church for centuries...until Vatican II. What is encouraging is that Cardinal John O'Connor of New York is strongly behind this movement to enhance pro-life. He wrote Mrs. Brown saying, "I can not begin to thank you adequately for the support of the American Life League in encouraging 'people of life' to abstain from meat on Friday as a penance and act of solidarity with the vulnerable in the cause of human life. This is the kind of action which will one day win the battle for life." The good cardinal also pointed out that "some demons can be cast out only by prayer and fasting." That's exactly what the Blessed Mother Mary has been repeating constantly throughout the last two centuries, especially these past few decades and especially at Medjugorje where she asks us all to fast and pray! That is her constant refrain and finally America is getting the message. And not just to traditional, loyal cardinals like Cardinal O'Connor but also to Cardinal Adam Maida, the controversial prelate of Detroit who succeeded that liberal and gay crusader Thomas Gumbleton. Cardinal Maida wrote, "I commend and thank the 325,000 families of the American Life League for committing themselves to working for the creation of a culture of life here in the United States by abstaining on Fridays. Remembering the Gospel teaching that some evils can be cured "only by prayer and fasting," [Matthew 17: 21] we, the Bishops of the United States, have offered the suggestion of a return to Friday abstinence as one part of a larger effort to demonstrate the solidarity of our conviction about the dignity of human life from the first moment of conception until its last natural breath. While there are many admirable and appropriate forms of penance, so many of us are familiar with the traditional practice of abstinence from meat on Fridays. We can recall the way it helped to identify Catholics. This relatively simple act of changing our normal dietary pattern forces us to remember the needs of others, especially those who are the most vulnerable and most in need of our prayers and concern. We need to proclaim the 'Gospel of Life' not only by our words, but, above all, by our deeds and by our very persons!"

      We are hopeful all the rest of the bishops will be in unison toward this movement back to meatless Fridays because it is the right thing to do. In the Diocese of Dallas, after the shocking trial last summer regarding the sexual abuse case of former priest Rudy Kos, the Bishop Charles V. Grahmann implored his constituents and parishioners within his diocese to go on a one year fast of meatless Fridays in reparation for the sins committed and in prayerful hope healing would come. More bishops need to divert their attention away from the administrative politics of their chanceries, close their ears to the squeaky wheel liberals and open their eyes and ears to those who are truly loyal to all that is synomymous with the Roman Catholic Church. This is one of the great concerns of Mrs. Brown who alerts us that the bishops passing this this spring is not a fait accomplis. She ambitiously is aiming to reach ten million Catholic households and accrue as many pledges as possible toward commitment from the faithful to meatless Fridays for the specific purposes of fasting and praying to end the "culture of death." Bishop James T. McHugh from Camden, New Jersey, who was a member of the Vatican delegation that moved the Cairo conference to reject mandatory population control through abortion, remarked that "Political and public relations efforts to replace the 'culture of death' with a 'culture of life' will not succeed without a spiritual component - prayer and fasting." Mrs. Brown goes even further, stating "This may well be our last chance to avert total moral collapse in America!" Those are strong words but so true. She expresses fears that this proposal will get lost in the shuffle of parliamentarianism where it will be studied but by the time it is brought before the full body of bishops for a vote this June it could very well have been watered down so that it will have lost its impact and what God truly wants. Bishop McHugh echoes this possibility and is openly lobbying for it among his fellow bishops, claiming "The problem is that if there is no specific discipline, everyone forgets and nothing penitential takes place." That is a very good point for if left up to each individual or by diocese you know what the outcome would be. There would be a faithful remnant that would adhere to meatless Fridays for praying and fasting, but the majority would rationalize that since it is not mandatory they don't have to. That is part of the fallout of today's society which the Holy Father has cautioned us on. So also does Mrs. Brown when she remarks that "in order to be effective, the 'Meatless Friday' proposal must be mandatory...for all Catholics." She reminds us that's how it used to be and that this set Catholics apart from all others. She laments that it is no longer that way today. "Many Catholics have lost this spirit of sacrifice and atonement for sin. One of the results of this is the fact that our entire world has 'lost the sense of God,' as Pope John Paul II rightly puts it." For more on the storied history of "Meatless Friday" we refer you to an excellent accounting at the American Life League web site.

      The League is also an advocate for stopping liturgical abuse because it is all part and parcel of satan's plan to divide and conquer. Mrs. Brown echoes what we have been saying in these pages for years: "The devil has entwined himself throughout every element of today's society - our schools, our government, our courtrooms, our news centers, our entertainment industry...even our Church!" She gives such examples as the Georgetown University debacle with removing the crucifixes which would have been returned sooner if it weren't for a liberal administration that had to "study" the proposal and examine if the University, a Catholic and Jesuit University no less, should "redefine its mission in a pluralistic society." She states in no uncertain terms that a "Catholic University's mission is to TEACH the TRUTH as defined by the Magisterium!" Her greatest fear regarding the grass roots petition to make "Meatless Fridays" mandatory once more is that it will get bogged down by those bishops who sense a conservative push behind it and therefore will stubbornly forestall it. She cites the facts that many bishops are "being defied when they attempt to curb liturgical and theological abuses in parishes." Cardinal O'Connor used the word "solidarity" to rally the faithful to the cause and this is the battle cry Mrs. Brown employs asking all lay Catholics to "band together in SOLIDARITY with these bishops and deliver this message to all our bishops: Lead us! Shepherd us! We will follow!"

     For those who would like to join this crusade and who realize now is the time for Catholics to PRAY and FAST!, we are including the American Life League's Survey where you can pledge your prayerful support toward "Meatless Fridays": SURVEY. This National Catholic Survey is only four questions and should take you all of ten seconds to complete but the more who throw their support behind this movement, the more the bishops will sit up and take notice in June. If we can do that, and the bishops can follow suit, then we can be confident that God will do the rest. So put aside the steak, chicken and burgers and break out the bread, fish and cheese. Peanut butter sandwiches also serve their purpose to remind us that it is a sacrifice. This editor can attest to that first hand! Yet, despite what meatless foods we may opt for, it is only through our commitment to pray and fast on Fridays that we'll be able to get to the meat of "Meatless Fridays" for the sake of America's soul!

Michael Cain, editor


Daily CATHOLIC          April 16, 1998