Are there official guidelines for mortifying the flesh in the various Christian denominations? I'm interested primarily in the modern and historical practice exercised in Catholicism.

  • 1
    What counts as "mortifying the flesh"? Or is that what you're asking? Dec 4, 2015 at 21:45
  • I believe that self flagellation, or whipping, as practiced by John Paul II counts. Fasting also counts. I've found articles that advise care and supervision but I was wondering if there are any official document released that outline methods or guidelines for acceptable practices.
    – bigLarry
    Dec 5, 2015 at 4:14
  • This is far too broad. There are countless Christian denominations, and their views (official, and de facto) could therefore fill countless volumes. Can you focus on a single denomination?
    – Flimzy
    Dec 7, 2015 at 20:41

1 Answer 1


From the Code of Canon Law:

Can. 1249 All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence which the following canons prescribe.

Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Can. 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

One's confessor should be aware of any fasting or mortification beyond this, as one can be too ascetic, which might be a sign of pride.

(source; cf. this)

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