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Meat on Lenten Fridays
Question from K.O. on 2/22/2014:

Every March my director takes everyone out for lunch. It always falls during a Friday during Lent. March is the beginning of the fiscal year. He always starts by saying his Uncle Paddy gave everyone a dispensation to eat whatever they want. It a limited menu: ham, roast beef and turkey sandwich or a turkey burger. Last year I ordered the turkey burger but only ate French fries and wine and brought the burger home with me to eat the next day. Both my manager and my director were upset. In fact my boss, an atheist, was livid and said I was insulting the director. It was very uncomfortable. What should I have done? I have asked numerous practicing Catholics and I get various answers. Please respond. March is coming up.

Answer by Catholic Answers on 2/26/2014:

K.O.--

While it is generous to treat people to lunch, it is intrusive and rude for anyone to monitor what people actually eat. If Uncle Paddy gave everyone a dispensation "to eat whatever they want," then there should be no problem with you eating just the French fries and taking the rest of your meal home to be consumed later. My guess is that you probably should not have stated why you did not eat the burger. Had you said, "I'm on a special diet and have to limit my food intake today" (which is, strictly speaking, absolutely true), no one would have questioned you. But that is hindsight. You had every right to explain that you were abstaining for reasons of religious conviction.

That said, the question is what to do now. If you believe your job is in real jeopardy if you do not comply, you could ask your pastor for a dispensation from the Friday abstinence requirement. I would only caution you that to do so would demonstrate to your bosses that bullying works and make your workplace even more hostile to religious employees.

If you think you can do so without risk to your job, you might order what you wish, eat of it what you can do so in good conscience, and if challenged again, say politely, "This is a matter of religious conviction for me." If you get any blowback from standing up for your religious convictions, I recommend that you contact the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers


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