At the end of a humorous CNA story about alligator being suitable for consumption on days of abstinence, e.g., Fridays in Lent, there is mention of the USCCB echoing the UK’s bishops by encouraging Catholics to abstain on all Fridays. It’s unfortunately a faint echo, however; UK Catholics are obligated to abstain and not just encouraged. And outside of a few Catholic news sites, I haven’t come across any stories or commentary about it. Cincinnati’s Archbishop Schnurr … echoes the echo in a new Lenten letter to his flock, but if the past is any guide, that’ll be the last we hear about it from him. In any event, it’s a superb idea and would be all the more so if it had some teeth (which Cardinal Dolan hints might come later this year). Here’s the end of the CNA story:

However, the possibility of extending Friday abstinence throughout the year has been recently raised. During the U.S. bishops’ 2012 General Assembly, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York suggested it.

“The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent,” he said Nov. 12.

Although they did not make the practice mandatory, the bishops subsequently released a statement in December encouraging Americans to voluntarily give up meat on Fridays for the intentions of life, marriage and religious liberty in the U.S.

The move to re-institute Friday abstinence all year long has already been made by the bishops of England and Wales. Since Sept. 16, 2011, English and Welsh Catholics have been obliged to abstain from meat every Friday.

“The Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity,” read a statement from the English bishops explaining their decision.

“They recognize that the best habits are those which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness. It is important that all the faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.”

Friday penance is a way for Catholics to commemorate the death of Christ and identify with his suffering.

Cardinal Dolan commended the English bishops, writing on his blog that “many welcomed the initiative of the bishops of England as a step in the right direction: restoring a sense of belonging, an exterior sign of membership, to a Church at times adrift.”

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