Many American Catholics have been given the Church’s blessing to eat meat this Friday in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. In the United States, the holiday is widely celebrated, often with the traditional consumption of corned beef, but there was concern this year for Catholics, as the holiday falls on a Friday during Lent, in which Catholics are forbidden to consume meat. That said, whether or not people have the dispensation can still vary from where they live. On the other hand, freedom from the obligation to abstain for certain holidays in nothing new for Catholics.

Over a third of American Catholic dioceses have given their blessing

Catholic dioceses in states that include Wisconsin, Georgia, Minnesota, Illinois, and New York have made such special dispensations. Although not universal within the United States, it has been said that more than 80 out of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States have given such dispensation.

Bishop Daniel Conlon of Illinois released a statement saying that Catholics within the Dicoese of Joliet who feel that it is "important enough" to eat meat to celebrate the saint's feast day have permission to do so. That said, some Catholics who were given this blessing were obligated to choose a later day to abstain from eating meat or make another penance.

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, for example, added such an obligation in a statement.

Even by state, whether or not someone received a dispensation depended on which diocese they belong to. For example, in Minnesota, only five of the state's six bishops announced this exemption.

Even St. Francis demanded that meat should be eaten on certain holidays

In the Catholic religion, it is traditional to abstain from eating meat on Fridays and on certain holy days, in homage to the belief that Jesus Christ had been crucified on a Friday. Traditionally, however, fish is permitted for consumption. While the reason is often debated, it is speculated that the exception comes from the fact that the Latin word for meat, “caro,” generally excluded the flesh of fish.

In addition, it is also believed to have origins in the Biblical story of the Resurrection, as Christ ate cooked fish in front of his Apostles to prove he had been restored to life. In addition, non-flesh food products that come from animals are usually permitted for Catholics to consume, such as milk, cheese, butter, eggs, and even broth made from animal stock.

Traditionally, the obligation to abstain from meat on Friday could often been dispensed if a certain holy day fell on a Friday, and this has even been done for St. Patrick's Day in the past. In a story detailing the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, the saint once got into an argument with a friar, Brother Morico, who wanted to abstain from meat on Christmas as it had fallen on a Friday. According to Francis, Christmas was such a holy day that even “the walls should eat meat on such a day.”