1970: Irish Bishops Abrogate Friday Abstinence
The Irish Episcopal Conference issued the following statement on 3rd July, 1970:
As from tomorrow the only days in the year on which meat will be forbidden will be Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
We are aware that many Irish Catholics will be saddened by this decision, for historical as well as religious reasons.
We ourselves share this regret. We have come to our decision only because it has become more and more difficult to retain here a law of Friday abstinence which no longer binds in so many other countries.
Needless to say, the basic Christian duty of penance and self-denial remains. The difference is that in future Catholics will have to make up their own mind as to how they will fulfill that duty.
We sincerely hope that a great number of Irish Catholics will continue to observe Friday abstinence as a purely voluntary penance. This has happened to a considerable extent in other countries, and it will be surprising if it does not happen also in Ireland, where the tradition of penance for the love of Christ is so strong.
Whether we continue to observe Friday abstinence or not, however, the obligation to do penance remains. We may decide to make personal sacrifices in the matter of food, or alcoholic drink, or smoking or amusements — perhaps giving what we thereby save for the relief of the needy at home or abroad. We may choose the sacrifice involved in special service to the poor, the sick, the elderly or the lonely — or the special effort which is often involved in the practice of daily Mass, daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament or the Stations of the Cross.
What we have got to remember is that we must practice some form of penance if we are to be true to the spirit of Christ.
We are confident that the Irish people as a whole will take this obligation seriously and we would suggest that each person should now decide for himself some form of penance for each Friday, in memory — as was Friday abstinence — of the passion and death of Our Lord.