Corned beef OK on St. Pat’s day? For Catholics, it depends on where you live

The Archdiocese of Chicago won’t grant special permission to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Friday during Lent this year. The Joliet diocese takes a different approach.

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The Chicago River is dyed green in 2022 by members of Plumbers Union Local 130.

The Archdiocese of Chicago is not giving special dispensation for Catholics to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Corned beef lovers, put down your forks — depending on where you live.

The holiday, which is celebrated on March 17, falls on a Friday during Lent, a period when observant Catholics older than 14 don’t eat meat on Fridays,

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago says the 2.2 million Catholics and 221 parishes in Cook County and Lake County won’t be exempt from abstaining from meat on St. Patrick’s Day this year.

In Chicago, where St. Patrick’s Day traditions include dyeing the Chicago River emerald green for the St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown, it’s common to celebrate by eating corned beef and cabbage — a problem for abstaining Catholics.

The rules are different elsewhere. The Diocese of Joliet, which includes Will and DuPage counties, will offer special dispensation on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Catholics in the Joliet diocese, in good conscience, may substitute the general rule of abstinence from meat with another form of penance or a significant act of charity that benefits the poor that day,” a diocesan representative said.

The Joliet diocese comprises 658,000 Catholics and 120 parishes.

St. Patrick’s Day marks the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland in the Catholic faith.

This year is the 33rd time St. Patrick’s Day has fallen on a Friday during Lent since the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States was ordained in 1790, according to the National Catholic Register.

The most recent previous time was in 2017. That year, the Chicago archdiocese gave the OK to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day. Nearly 80 of 200 Catholic dioceses in the United States did likewise, Time magazine reported.

Chicago Catholics who took advantage of the ruling to chow down on corned beef were advised to substitute another form of penance or act of charity.

This year, according to the archdiocese, “Catholics who find themselves at an event where meat is served in celebrating St. Patrick may in good conscience substitute the general rule of abstinence with another form of penance or a significant act of charity that benefits the poor.”

Finding an appropriate act that upholds the reflective spirit of Lent, the archdiocese said, is up to each would-be carnivore.

According to the Joliet diocese, Catholics can be drawn “closer to Jesus” during the observance of Lent through other acts of penance or charity.

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