I'm just wanting to clarify the rule about eating fish on Good Friday: Is the intention to add fish to the diet or to remove all other meats from the diet?

  • 5
    Which tradition are you asking? As a protestant, I have no idea what you are asking.
    – Mawia
    Jan 23, 2014 at 5:51
  • Closely related, perhaps to the point of being a duplicate: Why was eating meat on Fridays forbidden in the Catholic Church for so many years? Jan 23, 2014 at 7:55
  • I don't really consider my question to be like that one. I'm more interested in whether it's compliant with the tradition to have say, beef or pork at lunch then fish for dinner (inclusion of fish) or abstain from all meat except fish (exclusion of non-fish). Jan 23, 2014 at 20:31
  • @Maxwell'sDemon whose tradition?
    – wax eagle
    Jan 24, 2014 at 17:16

2 Answers 2


is the intention to add fish to the diet or to remove all other meats from the diet?

The answer is "Neither". The intention is to remind you of your need for, and dependence on God.

Abstaining from meat is a specific example of the teaching on Abstinence. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains the purpose of abstinence in general as follows:

Inasmuch as abstinence signifies abstaining from food, the Bible narrative points to the first instance wherein such a course of conduct was imposed by law (Genesis 2:16-17). The obvious purpose of this mandate was to lead the moral head of the human race to recognize the necessary dependence of creature upon Creator. The hour which witnessed the transgression of this law marked an increase in the debt which the creature owed the Creator. Adam's disobedience rendered all men criminal, and liable to the necessity of appeasing God's justice. To meet this new exigency nature dictated the necessity of penance; positive legislation determined the ways and means whereby this natural obligation would best be concreted. The chief results of this determination are positive statutes concerning fasting and abstinence. Laws relating to fasting are principally intended to define what pertains to the quantity of food allowed on days of fasting, while those regulating abstinence, what refers to the quality of viands. In some instances both obligations coincide; thus, the Fridays of Lent are days of fasting and abstinence. In other instances the law of abstinence alone binds the faithful; thus ordinary Fridays are simply days of abstinence. The purpose of this article is to trace the history of ecclesiastical legislation regarding the law of abstinence, as well as to examine the motives which underlie this legislation.

Short version: Abstinence is a form of penance, the purpose of which is to remind us of our dependence on our Creator, God.

If your focus is "why meat, specifically", that is answered, as @Andrewleach pointed out, at svidgen's answer this question:

Short version, meat was exceptional, and the idea was to abstain from something that we enjoy the most.

I'm not going to steal his quotes or answer, but if that's the angle your most concerned with, vote that answer up.

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    Hmm, a well-reasoned response, but doesn't take history into account. Originally it was a fast from all animal products and alcohol, and it was almost every Wednesday and Friday, not just during certain times of the year. During Lent and other seasons you were expected to follow this fast the whole time. The Eastern Orthodox still practice this....
    – Dan
    Jan 23, 2014 at 18:56
  • @Daи - You should work that into an answer of your own. It's good info. Jan 23, 2014 at 22:54
  • unfortunately I'm not sure the question is open enough to allow for such a response. It assumes 'Good Friday,' that fish should only be eaten on this day, and likely many unspoken assumptions about these practices which makes me think such an answer would be unwelcome (often the case here, unfortunately).
    – Dan
    Jan 23, 2014 at 23:06
  • Very interesting stuff. Please post your own question and answer. Jan 24, 2014 at 9:03

The Catholic Church's law prohibits eating meat on days of complete abstinence. Fish, and other seafood, are permitted and are therefore often eaten on those days, but they are not in any way required. An entirely vegetarian or even vegan diet would comply with the law of abstinence.

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