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Meatless Fridays get nod from area Catholics

November 08, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

A possible move by the Catholic Church back to abstaining from meat on Fridays as part of a spiritual struggle against a "culture of death," including abortion, drew mostly positive reviews from some Tri-State area Catholics.

"That couldn't be anything but positive," said John Rendeiro, 45, of Charles Town, W.Va.

Rendeiro said the church shouldn't go back to having it mandatory, as it was before 1966. "Something like that has to come from the heart," he said."

Rendeiro said it could be a step towards reviving the spirituality of Catholics.

A convention of U.S. Catholic Bishops will consider studying the idea this week.

"I think it's a good idea because God knows we do not do enough penance in this world," said Thomas W. Dwyer, of Sharpsburg.

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Dwyer, 79, said he remembers eating salmon every Friday while growing up in Baltimore.

"I was raised in the midst of the Depression. I was happy to see anything on the table," he said.

St. Maria Goretti High School Principal Anthony M. Durso said the school doesn't serve meat in its cafeteria on Fridays during Lent, the season before Easter, but doesn't have a restriction during the rest of the year.

"It seems to me the church is trying to get a little bit back to the fasting aspect," Durso said. "Sacrifice has always been a method of appealing to God for a divine result. `I'm willing to carry a cross so to speak if you grant my wish.'"

Durso said he didn't expect the practice of not eating meat to go back to being under penalty of sin.

Rev. Keith Boisvert of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Halfway, said he liked the idea behind the proposal as a way to bring back discipline to Catholicism.

"As Americans we don't like discipline and we don't engage in it too much voluntarily," Boisvert said.

"On the other hand, I find this idea of withstanding from meat to be inconsequential because of my own love for seafood. Maybe not eating meat was a serious thing in the past but it certainly isn't for us."

He suggested fasting on Fridays from sunrise to sunset instead - the way Muslims do during the holy month of Ramadan.

Rev. John DiBacco of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Martinsburg, W.Va., said not eating meat on Fridays could be beneficial if it's explained properly.

"It has to come from the viewpoint of why we're doing things and not just `Do it.'

"I think it can have an effect. It depends on what they are going to substitute."

DiBacco said if someone substitutes an extravagant lobster meal for meat, they're missing the point.

Bishop P. Francis Murphy, who heads the western vicariate of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which includes Washington County, said in a statement that he "sees this new call for abstinence as a wonderful way for a society that has so many people with an abundance of food and goods to be in solidarity with those who have less."

Murphy noted that as early as 1983, the bishops asked for fasting and prayer on Fridays throughout the year for peace.

"It's certainly an affirmation of changing to a world of less violence," he said.

Donna Acquaviva, co-founder of a local chapter of Catholic reform group Call to Action, said she doesn't have any problem with a meat-free Friday.

Acquaviva, a vegetarian, said she would support fasting as well.

"There's a wonderful thing that happens when you're fasting. That feeling of emptiness, it reminds you that you should be filling yourself up with God," said Acquaviva, a resident of Gerrardstown, W.Va.

But Acquaviva, at loggerheads with the church leadership on issues from ordination of women to marriage of priests to equal rights for gays and lesbians, said the church leaders should ask lay Catholics what they think.

"The people of God are the church. The church isn't a building, it isn't the pope. We need to be asked `What do you think?' We can no longer be treated like children."

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