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When Cincinnati McDonald’s fran­chise owner Lou Groen noticed in 1962 that business in the Roman Catholic area slumped on Fridays, espe­cially during Lent, his solution was to introduce the Filet-O-Fish. The sandwich saved his restaurant and has been a friend to Catholics and non-Catholics ever since.

The College’s dining service has served fish on Fridays this semester. It should keep it up during Lent and offer more meatless protein options throughout the year. Former food service Saga Incor­po­rated offered fish con­sis­tently for both lunch and dinner on Fridays during Lent and throughout the year. It was Fish Friday, as con­sistent as Taco Tuesday.

Approx­i­mately a quarter of the student body is Catholic, and these stu­dents — as well as Catholic pro­fessors and staff — need a meatless option. Although the Roman Catholic Church permits eating meat on Friday outside of Lent, it will be hard to swallow as Lent begins.

The tra­dition of abstaining from meat on Fridays has early Christian roots. Because Jesus died on a Friday, Chris­tians hold the day as one of absti­nence and sac­rifice. The flesh of mammals and fowl was con­sidered more nour­ishing than fish, so absti­nence from meat weakened the body as a sac­rifice.

Up until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, most Catholics abstained from meat on all Fridays throughout the year, and failure to abstain was con­sidered a grave sin.

The council decided that it was no longer a sin, but American Catholics were asked to con­tinue absti­nence freely or make another sac­rifice. The price of fish plum­meted in the U.S., because Catholics stopped abstaining on Fridays and stopped buying fish.

But in 2011, the bishops of England and Wales rein­tro­duced oblig­atory absti­nence on Fridays all year, and in 2012, Bishop Earl Boyea of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, in which lies the city of Hillsdale, encouraged Catholics to renew freely the tra­dition of year-round absti­nence as a way of per­sonal purifi­cation. “I myself am trying to change my own habits in this regard,” Boyea said. “Let’s each reflect on how best to make Friday a day of penance.”
The point is, some Catholics, including some within this diocese and at the College, strive to fast from meat not just during Lent, but all year.

Bon Appétit should keep up Fish Fridays to meet the reli­gious need of a sizeable minority. The prices of chicken and tilapia, as well as the protein content of each, are com­pa­rable.

But if the company does not want to serve fish, it has other options.

New Orleans Arch­bishop Gregory Aymond responded when a member of his diocese asked if it was acceptable to eat alli­gator on Fridays of Lent: “Yes, the alli­gator is con­sidered in the fish family and I agree with you, God has created a mag­nif­icent creature that is important to the state of Louisiana and it is con­sidered seafood.”

The flesh of rep­tiles, as well as fish, shellfish, and amphibians, is per­mitted.

In Southern Michigan, par­tic­u­larly in the Detroit and Lansing dio­ceses, there is an informal dis­pen­sation granted for eating muskrat.

This comes from a tra­dition in the early 1800s when Michigan’s mis­sionary priest Fr. Gabriel Richard allowed the French-Canadian trappers to eat the aquatic mammal on Lenten Fridays.

One Lansing bishop, who did not like the dish, said that, “anyone who could eat muskrat was doing penance worthy of the greatest saints.”

Nev­er­theless, unless Bon Appétit wants to serve alli­gator or muskrat, the company should follow the example of McDonald’s and keep fish con­sis­tently on the menu.

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Emma Vinton
A senior and English major from Brighton, Michigan, this is Emma’s second year as assistant editor of the Features page for the Collegian. She has interned as a writer and editor at Faith Magazine in Lansing and at Family Research Council in Washington D.C. doing research on marriage and family issues. She enjoys writing about culture, literature, and religion. This is her sixth semester contributing to the Collegian.