I told myself I was not going to be doing another one of these, but the more I thought about it, the more I could not keep silent. The main instigator for this year's rant is the decision made by many Catholic bishops in the United States to offer a dispensation from the obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent on Saint Patrick's Day. For all those who take advantage of the dispensation, I have two questions:
1.) How does eating corned beef honor Saint Patrick?
2.) What act of penance are you choosing to replace the abstinence from meat?
I fail to see how eating corned beef is necessary to honoring a Scottish saint. Even if one is not partaking of the despicable rowdiness that seems to be synonymous with Saint Patrick's Day, eating corned beef is an odd way of celebrating a Scottish saint who converted pagans as a missionary bishop. Should not the commemoration of a saint involve a spiritual aspect or at the very least studying the saint's life? Ask anyone at the Irish pub on St. Paddy's Day to tell you Saint Patrick's life story, and very few would be able to do so. A few vague details might be muttered, but unless the person is a Catholic history nerd, it would be a waste of time to learn about Saint Patrick at a bar on March 17.
Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that everyone who takes advantage of the dispensation from abstaining from meat is going to be substituting another act of penance in place of the usual Lenten requirements. Call me a pessimist, but I imagine many will forget or intentionally ignore that requirement the bishops put in place for those who wish to take advantage of the dispensation.
Lastly, this whole dispensation has made me feel confused, frustrated, angry, and disappointed. I do not intend to criticize the bishops who offered this dispensation. I know that many of them are good bishops, and I do not wish to stain their reputations. However, I expect the Church to promote sanctity. This dispensation does not do that. On a day that is already plagued by drunkeness and debauchery, a more appropriate action would be to make the Optional Memorial of Saint Patrick a day of prayer and fasting.