Should the Church be concerned about returning to abstinence on Fridays instead of helping people in need?


Full Question

I received a brochure in my church bulletin regarding the bishops' upcoming meeting. It was from a group of Catholics that wanted to urge the bishops to reinstate the practice of meatless Fridays. Why are we retreating into the past? There are many areas we could put this kind of energy to better use. How about the poor and the homeless? The shut-ins? The people of Haiti? How did this become an issue within the Church?

Answer

The purpose of the proposal to return to meatless Fridays is to do so as an act of penance for having allowed the culture of death to take over America, where between one and two million children are killed every year by abortion, where violence on the streets is rampant, and where we are on the verge of legalizing euthanasia.

The purpose of the restoration of the discipline would be to do penance in hopes that God will help us change our society and push back the culture of death. It also will serve to raise people's consciousness about the need to combat the culture of death rather than sitting back and doing nothing.

You are obviously in favor of helping people, and the goal of the restoration would be to help people by working to turn America back to the culture of life, where people are cherished and protected instead of callously killed whenever they are "inconvenient."

We should avoid being guilty of chronological snobbery in viewing the present as automatically superior to the past. We should have no fear of "retreating into the past" with our practices if doing so would help solve problems in the present.

Sociological studies have shown that the fewer demands a church makes of its members, the weaker their faith becomes, and eventually they end up doing nothing. Right now, the Church in America expects almost nothing of its members, and there has been a corresponding decline in activity on the part of the laity. If we want to see the homeless and shut-ins helped, nothing will do that better than helping Catholics builds their devotional lives, such as reawakening them to the fact that Friday is a day of penance (something which is true even now; the form of penance to be done being up to the individual).