thank god i dont have to worry about going to hell for eating meat on friday now that i am an atheist :)

Lenten rules relaxed for St. Patrick's Day

Emily Fredrix Associated Press Mar. 16, 2006 12:00 AM

MILWAUKEE - Michael O'Leary doesn't need to choose between sinning and nibbling this St. Patrick's Day.

O'Leary will enjoy his corned beef on Friday with a clear conscience, thanks to a special dispensation from another Irish-American, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee.

Dolan is among dozens of bishops from Green Bay, Wis., to Arlington, Va., to Chicago to Boston granting one-day dispensations from Lenten rules that prohibit Roman Catholics from eating meat on Fridays to observe the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In many cases, the bishops are asking for a similar day of penance in exchange for relaxing the rules this Friday.

Many bishops offered the same deal the last time St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday during Lent, in 2000. The Archdiocese of New York has always extended a dispensation when the calendar lined up because St. Patrick is the patron saint of the archdiocese, spokesman Joseph Zwilling said.

If Dolan hadn't granted the dispensation, O'Leary, director of Milwaukee's St. Patrick's Day parade, said he would have kept to the rules, meaning he wouldn't prepare his corned beef brisket. But now he plans to put a brisket in his slow cooker early Friday and slather it with mustard and other condiments at dinnertime.

"It is being done in honor of St. Patrick," O'Leary said. "It's not as though I'm having something I would normally have. It's a special thing."

The connection between Ireland and corned beef dates to colonial times in Boston, when meat was imported from Ireland and preserved in salt, said Kevin O'Neill, history professor in the Irish studies program at Boston College. The result, corned beef, was associated with Ireland.

Although eating meat on a Friday in Lent isn't a mortal sin, it does take a dispensation for the church to lift the rule. At least 67 of the country's nearly 200 dioceses provide such dispensations, said Rocco Palmo, a Catholic commentator who has been keeping an informal count on his blog Whispers in the Loggia.

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