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BRAINTREE -- As the people of Massachusetts find themselves under a stay-at-home advisory and are being urged limits trips outside -- even to the grocery store -- Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley has lifted the obligation for Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston to abstain from meat on Fridays for the remainder of Lent.
In a message to the people of the Archdiocese of Boston sent March 26, Vicar General Bishop Peter Uglietto said, "One of the effects of the current events is uncertainty regarding what food products are available on any given day. At this time, we are called to make the best of what we have at hand or is available for purchase. Many people are using what they have stored in their freezers and on their shelves. Others are depending upon pre-packaged meals or food delivered through support agencies, which are providing an important service for individuals and families in our communities, especially for children and our senior citizens."
"In light of these circumstances, Cardinal Sean is dispensing all Catholics in the Archdiocese from the obligation of abstaining from meat during the remaining Fridays of Lent," Bishop Uglietto added.
In the U.S., Catholics aged 14 and over are required to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and each Friday during Lent, and those who are 18 to 59 are required to fast as well on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
However, because these are disciplines, or practices, rather than doctrine, as the head authority in his diocese, a bishop can grant a dispensation from these rules if he feels circumstances warrant it.
Code of Canon Law No. 87 states, "A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church."
In the past, the cardinal has lifted the obligation to abstain from meat when St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday in 2006 and 2017.