Now Catholics in England and Wales are being asked to revive the practice.
The general secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Father Marcus Stock, said
"Because sometimes penance in the past had become mechanistic, many bishops' conferences were wanting to use the opportunity to renew the spirit of penitence. I think what hadn't been envisaged at the time was that because people wouldn't be carrying out the same act together that this might lead to the loss of penance in people's lives."At a time when the Catholic church should have bigger things to worry about, following the Cloyne Report and the wider child abuse scandal, they are back trying to micro manage the personal lives of the faithful.
I don’t think this is a coincidence. Many Catholics have lost trust in the church and its hierarchy in recent times, even if their core beliefs have not changed and this loss of authority is anathema to the Vatican. This smacks to me as a non too subtle ploy to re-assert some authority and cohesiveness on Catholics in the west and create the impression that the faithful are united behind the Bishops. I predict a series of similar initiatives over the next few months, along with more vocal efforts by the Church to assume the moral high ground on all sorts of issues it has no business meddling in.
As an aside, I can’t resist commenting on the absurd theology (is there another kind?) underlying this Friday penance.
For one thing, there is no evidence, biblical or otherwise that Jesus died on a Friday. In fact some readings of the scriptures make it a Wednesday
But Father Marcus makes it even sillier with this…
It's about recognising that a wrong was done when our Lord was crucified and killed, It's linked to almsgiving and concern for the poor and to bring to our minds that we have responsibilities - all of us.Christian theology rests on the assumption that Jesus had to be crucified. Without their bloodied scapegoat for original sin, they haven’t got a religion so in what way can they consider it a “wrong”.
Also if it’s about almsgiving, fine, give something to charity and do it regularly. If you have to give up some treats to afford this and you are prepared to do it, more power to you but don’t parade your piety just because you eat environmentally suspect cod and chips in front of the telly instead of rib-eye steak on Fridays.