Lenten Fish

As regular readers will note, I’m not Catholic, and neither do I observe Lent (although I know many Protestants who do). I grew up in heavily evangelicalized East Tennessee, where Lent was known as something that accumulated in one’s belly button.

Since I moved to heavily-Catholic Louisville, I’ve been confronted with the vast number of Lenten Friday fish fries that pepper the churches and restaurants. Even Arby’s has a fish sandwich that they’re pushing now. Question for the blogosphere: why is fish approved for Lent and not other forms of meat? Is there something special in Catholic doctrine that separates fish from red meat or poultry? Just curious.

If we want to further the question, why do many so-called vegetarians eat fish? It is surely not a vegetable…

3 thoughts on “Lenten Fish”

  1. An explanation that I heard back in college (for “fish on Friday”, not just during Lent) is that the fishing boats would always come in on Friday, and in pre-refrigeration days, the fish needed to be eaten sooner rather than later. So the Church, in an effort to help out, “encouraged” everyone to eat fish on Friday by banning consumption of other meats.

    Some Catholics will observe the fish rule throughout the year, I think most in the US stick to Fridays during Lent.

    That came straight from the mouth of a Catholic who went to Mass exactly twice a year, so for what it’s worth…

  2. The economic explanation is an urban legend. Broadly put, the law of abstinence (as practiced today) forbids the flesh of warm-blooded animals. The details of what’s allowed and what isn’t have varied from place to place and time to time. The Eastern Christians even forbid milk, eggs, and anything that was ever a part of an animal. I think some of them forbid fish, too. At any rate, historically the eating of flesh-meats has been considered more pleasant than eating things pulled out of the water. That, I imagine, has as much to do with it as anything.

    As is often the case, the Catholic Encyclopedia has a good article on abstinence, although some of the legislation is out of date.

  3. No hefty historical data here, just simply commenting that, yes, indeed, judging by my kid’s reactions to certain meals, that eating “flesh-meats” is more pleasurable and preferable to eating fish.

    “Fish? Is it fried? No? yuck!”

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