Local Catholics eat meat this St. Patrick’s Day, some against the change

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – This year, area Catholics can add some corned beef to their diet on one of the Fridays during Lent.

Normally, St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday would be a problem since Catholics abstain from eating meat during the 40-day period.

Many parishes put on fish fries to feed their parishioners and to raise money for parish improvements and local charities.

St. Brendan in Youngstown still held its fish fry today, but noticed a smaller lunch crowd because of Bishop George Murry’s special dispensation allowing Catholics to eat meat this St. Patrick’s Day.

“Last week’s lunch was pretty good. We did around $1,400 this week, we’re down pretty bad. Nobody’s been calling because we get to eat meat today,” said St. Brendan’s John Coudriet.

Bishop Murry encouraged Catholics to abstain from eating meat another day this week, but some are having trouble understanding the dispensation.

“If you tell your kids there’s a certain rule they have to follow and then next you don’t have to follow it. I mean, make up your mind because some people hold this very seriously and religiously, pardon the pun, that they’re not supposed to eat meat today. A lot of people may think that they’re committing a sin if they do,” said St. Brendan’s Fred Merlo.

The church’s decision has had a big impact on many other Valley fish fries as well, some even cancelling them thinking Catholics will leave seafood behind for the day.

“I don’t think one week you hold to it — we’re bound by it — and the next week you’re not. Either we abstain all of lent or we don’t. If you start doing that, we’ll start dispensing for every little thing that goes on,” Merlo said.

The church hopes to bring in a larger dinner crowd. It brought in $6,100 last Friday from the dinners, and has been averaging $5,000 this Lent.

“There are a lot of people, even though the Bishop said you can eat meat today, that are saying, ‘I’m not going to eat meat,’ and they just want to eat fish today,” said St. Brendan’s Cindy Rockney.