What is Abstinence?
Abstinence is a spiritual discipline that requires a catholic to avoid and renounce the eating of meat as a part of repentance, of turning away from sin and returning back to God.
What must be avoided and what are permitted?
Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Likewise, moral theologians have traditionally considered to forbid soups or gravies made from them.
Eggs, milk products or condiments from animal fat are not included. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.
What are the provisions from the Canon Law pertaining abstinence?
The 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics:
Canon 1250 All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.
Canon 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Canon 1252 All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.
Can. 1253 It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.
When is abstinence obligatory?
Abstinence from meat on Fridays of Lent, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is obligatory.
On all other Fridays of the year, the faithful are encouraged to do some penance such as abstaining from meat, but one may choose another penance or charitable deeds.
Who are exempted from Abstinence?
1. Persons who are below 14 y/o.
2. Those of unsound mind
3. The sick
4. The frail
5. The pregnant
6. The nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment
7. The manual laborers according to need
8. The guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.