The coronavirus pandemic has altered the lives of millions of people drastically. In light of that, some Catholic bishops are saying that their faithful have given up enough, and are issuing statements saying that churchgoers don't need to follow the usual "no meat on Fridays" rule of Lent.
While the actual practice of Lent differs between branches of Christianity, in Catholicism it involves giving something up for the 40-day period, plus not eating meat on Fridays. According to NBC, several Catholic bishops are alleviating that restriction for multiple reasons. Some are saying that it's because folks are giving up "many other sacrifices" as is during the pandemic, while others refer to the fact that searching for certain types of food (ie. meat-free) has become hard given the current state of grocery stores.
I can personally speak to the struggle of finding meat-free foods at this time. As a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, I abstain from all meat, dairy, and fish products during the Lenten period. This has been extremely difficult this year, given that when I do go shopping, many stores are very low on stock or completely out of vegan products, including tofu, vegan meats, beans, and other substitutes I rely on during this time annually.
This is an absolutely disgraceful decision. First, we are denied communion. Then, we are denied adoration. Now, Catholics are being pardoned from the true meaning of Lent (sacrifice and repentance)?— Kate & Mike Catholic Crusade (@KateNMikeCC) March 27, 2020
While these announcements may come as a welcome reprieve for some, particularly those struggling to find meat-free foods, not all members of the Catholic Church are on board with the idea. Some have taken to Twitter disagreeing with the decision, saying that they've already been denied other parts of the faith, like being able to congregate or partake in Holy Communion, during the pandemic.
"Why are we assumed to be so weak?" reads a tweet from one disapproving member. "Elijah, the prophets, and the saints would spit on us."