Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No dispensation for this Friday (St. Joseph) is needed

That the general law of abstinence from meat on Fridays (c. 1251) does not bind on "solemnities" (like the Solemnity of St. Joseph, per c. 1246.1 and the Gen. Norms for the Lit. Year and Calendar) is so obvious that few commentaries bother to say "If the Solemnity of St. Joseph falls on a Friday, even in Lent, one need not abstain from meat." Nevertheless, the exemption from abstinence on solemnities is patent, and one need not bother pastors or bishops for a dispensation before enjoying a pepperoni pizza this Friday. Nuf said.

Now, for my fellow canon law geeks, let me add something really cool. The revised law is not only clear in itself, but reflects two significant changes from the discipline of the 1917 Code.

First, whereas the 1917 Code exempted Lenten Fridays from the exemption associated with certain holy days (1917 CIC 1252.4), this "exemption-from-the-exemption" does not appear in the revised law, meaning that solemnities trump even Lenten Fridays (pace Good Friday, of course).

Second, whereas the 1917 Code spoke in terms of "feasts of precept" as generally exempting one from the law of abstinence, the 1983 Code speaks in terms of "solemnities", thus obviating thorny questions about what to do if a given "solemnity" were not observed as a "day of precept" here or there. Today, the designation of a liturgical day as a "solemnity" suffices to occasion the exemption from abstinence, regardless of whether the solemnity is treated as a holy day of obligation. By the way, this explains why dispensations are sometimes sought to celebrate St. Patrick's Day when it falls on a Friday in Lent, for St. Paddy's t'aint'a solemnity, don'tchaknow.

So, this Friday, feel free to enjoy spaghetti and meat balls, and remember to seek the indulgences attached to invoking the powerful intercession of St. Joseph. (See Preces in honorem S. Joseph. Enchiridion 1999, conc. 19; Enchiridion 1986, conc. 6. Circumstances might suggest using the "Blessing of St. Joseph's Table" contained in the BOOK OF BLESSINGS, Chap. 53; SHORTER BOOK OF BLESSINGS, Chap. 33.)