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‘Complete Lack Of Catholic Instinct’: Catholics React To Leaders Canceling Meatless Lenten Obligations Due To Coronavirus

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • Catholic dioceses have begun dispensing parishioners from their obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent.
  • The move came as Catholic dioceses across the United States suspend masses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • “To me it’s astonishing — or would be, if so many bishops hadn’t already shown such a complete lack of Catholic instinct,” one Catholic writer said.

Several Catholic dioceses have begun dispensing Catholics from their obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent — a move that one Catholic writer said shows a “complete lack of Catholic instinct.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley announced to the Boston Archdiocese on Thursday that Catholics need not follow their Lenten obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent due to potential grocery shopping difficulties.

His announcement came the same day that Bishop James Checchio, head of the New Jersey Diocese of Metuchen, said that his diocese need not follow their Lenten Friday obligation except on Good Friday. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston issued similar guidance Tuesday.

Their announcements came after almost all United States dioceses suspended masses due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many dioceses have already canceled Easter Sunday mass as well.  (RELATED: Cardinal Burke Calls For Restoration Of Masses: ‘Without The Help Of God, We Are Indeed Lost’)

Releasing Catholics from their Lenten obligations is hardly surprising, considering the “complete lack of Catholic instinct” shown by bishops throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Catholic author Phil Lawler told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“To me it’s astonishing — or would be, if so many bishops hadn’t already shown such a complete lack of Catholic instinct,” he said. “In time of trouble, the time-honored Catholic response is to call for MORE prayer and fasting, not less.”

South Carolina Catholic priest and author Fr. Dwight Longenecker also said that “strong” Catholics should be adhering to Lenten promises more than ever.

“It is out of kind concern that bishops have dispensed the faithful from their Lenten fast, but in addition to a dispensation for weak and frightened souls, I would encourage those who are strong and determined in their faith to adopt even more stringent Lenten disciplines,” Longenecker told the DCNF.

“Now, in a time of anxiety and distress — when we are faced with uncertainty, illness and possible death — it is all the more necessary for those who are able to renew their commitment to prayer and fasting,” he said. (RELATED: Northam Criminalizes Gatherings Larger Than 10, Even For Religious Services, As Part Of Coronavirus Restrictions)

He added: “Let those who are strong, rally forth and ‘storm heaven’ with extra prayer for protection and power for the health workers, comfort for the sick and dying and rapid relief from pestilence.”

Dr. Chad Pecknold, an associate theology professor at The Catholic University of America, told the DCNF that acknowledging the new burdens the people carry “is a very well-intentioned gesture.”

“But I do not believe it is a proper response,” he said.

“Having involuntary burdens thrust upon all of us cannot replace the penances we voluntarily take upon ourselves,” Pecknold said.  “Catholics believe that our penance is purifying, and strengthens us in union with Christ Crucified.”

“Catholics should not want to relax or replace Lenten penance at all, but to double-down in this time of great need for God’s mercy,” he added.

Cardinal Raymond Burke has also weighed in on the cancellation of Catholic masses due to coronavirus, calling for the restoration of masses in a Saturday statement where he reminded Catholics that secular government does not fully understand the magnitude of faith.

“In our totally secularized culture, there is a tendency to view prayer, devotions and worship like any other activity, for example, going to the cinema or to a football game, which is not essential and therefore can be cancelled for the sake of taking every precaution to curb the spread of a deadly contagion,” the American cardinal said.

He continued: “Therefore, we cannot simply accept the determinations of secular governments, which would treat the worship of God in the same manner as going to a restaurant or to an athletic contest. Otherwise, the people who already suffer so much from the results of the pestilence are deprived of those objective encounters with God Who is in our midst to restore health and peace.”

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