One of my favourite dinners of all time, and surprisingly it’s never the first thing we think of, is egg and chips.
———–Here is a logic problem:
The catholic church wants people to remember that Jesus died for us. This is good.
They suggest we can do this on a friday, since Jesus died on a Friday. No problems there.
They say we should offer some small sacrifice or penance. Okay, seems like a good plan.
They say that the way in which we must do this is by not eating meat. Hang on, a minute!
Not eating meat is penitential, how, exactly? Well, as far as I can make out, it was originally though that meat would inflame the lustful desires. But we don’t believe that any more.
And some other points to note:
Some people don’t eat meat anyway. So they are not marking Friday specially?
Some people eat fish and meat and vegetarian dishes interchangeably on any day of the week, so how is this penitential?
And some people, like me, think that a non-meat dish can be more of a celebration than a meat one. Egg and chips. Fish and chips from the chippy. Smoked salmon. Scallops. I even think Rollmops are a special treat.
And anyway, wait a minute! I thought no-meat-on-a-Friday was old-fashioned. Didn’t the Bishops of England and Wales say we could choose something else instead? Yes, they said we should choose something meaningful instead. Maybe we could give up booze or fags or sweets on a Friday, or help out at a charity, or pray a little extra…
Sounds perfect! So what’s the fuss?
The Bishops of England and Wales changed their mind and said we had to go back to no-meat.
They said this would identify us as catholics, because we’re all doing the same thing.
Except, we aren’t doing the same thing, because we don’t all live the same way, so making the same lifestyle sacrifice doesn’t work. Imagine if the Friday fast wer ‘no smoking’, or ‘no drinking alcohol’, or ‘no eating sweets’, or ‘no gambling’, or ‘no wearing jewellery’? None of these things would work the same way and have the same effect on all people.
Imagine if the Friday fast were ‘no cheese’, or ‘no carrots’, or ‘no pineapple’? Daft? Well, to many people meat has as much significance in the diet as a potato. And, I’m told, vice versa.
And is it helpful to be identified as ‘making a fuss because you’ve been offered chicken but you say you can’t eat it because you’re a catholic and it’s Friday’? Wouldn’t it be better to eat what you were offered and be thankful?
The Bishops also said that this would make sure we never forgot Friday penance. Except, we still do, because ‘not eating meat’ has become ‘an idiot rule’: the sacrificial, penitential meaning, once lost, can’t be restored.