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Church Daddy's Corner

No, Put the Chicken Broth Back!

Yes, chicken broth is “using meat”. Come on people!
Can you use meat-based broths on Fridays in Lent?

I vote no.

Rocco of Whispers in the Loggia asked the question this morning if chicken broth sans the chicken itself can be used today (as a Friday in Lent). A reader pointed him to Jimmy Akin (another Catholic blogger) who said yes.

I’m not a canon lawyer, but you don’t need to be to get a reasonable answer. The beauty of the Catholic faith is 99% of the teachings, rules and regulations simply make sense if you accept the premises and the authority of the Church to decree certain things, such as the whole notion of Lent.

First, the canon law argument. Mr. Akin tries to claim that since the 1917 Canon Law prohibits “meat and soups of meat, but not” milks, etc and that the Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini of Paul VI (which establishes the rules in force) simply says “use of meat, but not…”, we are no longer bound to avoid soups of meat. Wait… No, sir.

Boxes of Chicken Broth
photocredit: flickr/pswansen

I don’t know how you make chicken broth, but in my house, we take leftover pieces of chicken and leftover pieces of vegetables, place them in water and leave it heating on the stove a long time. Then, we extract the solid and the remaining liquid is the broth. I’m just a simple layman, but that seems to be using meat.

Paul VI, of blessed memory, stated that milk, eggs and condiments rendered from animal fat are acceptable. Thank you, as I have zero idea what is in any of my condiments. Wouldn’t it be easy to add broths if such an exemption was foreseen?

Is it that we have divorced the process of making chicken broth since majority of people grab a box or can from a shelf and call it a day?

Penance isn’t supposed to be easy. It isn’t meant to only be done by the superhuman either. Across the board, things in life that make us better are hard.

I want to lose 25 pounds. I’m not going to do it by only walking around the block until it becomes hard. (That may be a start depending on your life circumstances). I can go out right now and run four miles. Run all of it. Damn slow, but I can do it. If I seriously expect results, I need to push myself.

I want to earn a Master’s degree. I’m not going to do it by only reading material I find interesting until I get sleepy at night. I have to work at it. Study both the interesting and the dull. Write the thousand words that come easy and the thousand words that does not. My friend Nate had, seemingly, 19,000 lasers break on him during his PhD research. Was it easy to continue? No. But Dr. Nate did.

I want my family to continue to grow in a house full of love. I’m not going to do it by only doing what is easy around the house. A grocery store trip, two baths for a two- and an one-year-old and cooking dinner in the same 90-minute window isn’t easy.

I want to become closer to God. I’m not going to do it only by going to church on Sundays when I happen to wake up early enough.

Do you see the pattern? Penance is supposed to be attainable, but should require us to stretch. Someone who is vegan has the meatless Friday gig down, but perhaps they should voluntarily give up soy on Fridays. The point of the Friday penance isn’t not eating meat—it is to grow, to be drawn into conversion, to change our hearts. Paul VI says as much in the first chapter of Paenitemini.

At the same time, if you forget it’s a Friday of Lent or started making a recipe and mistakenly missed that it included a meat broth or ordered a meal at a restaurant, then remembered too late to reverse the action (e.g. stop cooking without wasting the food, change the order before the cooks made it, able to use a veggie broth instead, etc), then just eat the food. My personal thought is the waste of food is not the intention of the penance. Learn from the mistake, pay more attention next time and include it as part of your Lenten confession package.

Call me old-fashioned or oppressive, but leave the broth in the pantry today, okay?

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By <span class='p-author h-card'>Brandon Kraft</span>

My life is an open-source book.

24 replies on “<span class='p-name'>No, Put the Chicken Broth Back!</span>”

I like it.  I couldn’t fast on Wednesday because I’m nursing, so instead, we didn’t watch TV, and I skipped my nightly glass (or two) of wine and a cookie.  All about calling your mind to it.


Then, we extract the solid and the remaining liquid is the broth. I’m just a simple layman, but that seems to be using meat.”

And that seems to me the crux of the issue of what “using” means in the context of canon law.  And to Jimmy’s point:

“So one can still eat chicken noodle soup until Rome says otherwise.
I don’t favor that myself, but my job here is to explain what the law says, not what I’d prefer it to say.”

So it would seem to me that Jimmy would actually favor your interpretation but seems that there is room for disagreement over what constitutes “use.”

For me, I’m thinking that canon law (by way of the Apostolic Constitution) doesn’t forbid the mere consumption of meat, but use. If you use it in the process of cooking, it is using it, with the exception already mentioned.

My counter would be that since the old law did specify that specific clause, and because of that, since the clause is dropped in the revision, now no longer applies.

Mr. Akin’s point is that the law can be interpreted depending on the data presented.  If the old law is considered (and should be given how canon law works), then there is a good argument that the revision is actually a relaxation of the norms and not a strengthening.  This to me is consistent with the trends for regulating fasting and abstinence in the 20/21 century.
I think Mr. Akin’s overall point is: 
“I think it says you shouldn’t use it.  But there is room for doubt from the perspective of canon law and tradition.  And since there is room for doubt, a person can in fact use the broth given there is some room in the matter.”

The old law said “meat and soups of meat” (not “use of meat and soups of meat”) and the new says “use of meat”. I don’t see that as dropping “soups of meat” but a merging of the phrase at the least or a new phrase completely. (Although, I understood Latin better, there may be more to it than what my basic understanding plus the English translation alludes to).

I don’t see it as a strengthening. The Paul VI document reduced greatly the days of fast as prescribed in the 1917 code (which itself was a reduction of previous law in this regard). I understand his point and, in many cases, agree. Simply stated though, I don’t grant that the phrase was dropped.

Concerning Canon 14 and the actual legality of it. My opinion is for me (and not even my house, as Vanessa disagrees with me). I don’t encourage the application too broadly since it’s far too easy to legalize everything when doubt can remove obligation.

Personally, I’m tired of everything becoming more and more relaxed. I don’t think we need to be overly legalistic and I think the “penalties” should make sense (e.g. canon 915 should not be applied in any conversation about chicken broth on Fridays!), but, if we already grant the notion of a “meatless” day, we can’t go a day without chicken or beef broth while reminding ourselves that Jesus gave his life for us?

I understand where you are coming from.  And I would agree that at least in spirit the continued relaxing of fasting and abstinence rules have been counterproductive.  But I think Mr. Akin has a valid point from canon law’s perspective.  

In any event I doubt Mr. Akin would use the chicken broth (and neither would I).  But canon law is a fickle thing, and the intent behind the law is often surprising vs American fondness of literalism in law.  IMO, I think as a layman while I have my own opinion on the matter I would not go so far as to claim to interpret canon law for others.  That’s why there are blogging lawyers like Dr. Edward Peters who can do such.

Have a happy Lent!

That’s a very true point. I recall a story I was told where in Italy (I think) a rule was decreed that a man needed like 10,000 hours of classroom education before being ordained (which is eight hours a day, five days a week, for thirty weeks a year (the typical academic year, minus summer), for 10 years). Someone asked the Cardinal/Bishop/Whomever how they expect someone to actually get 10,000 hours and they responded: “Of course he won’t actually get 10,000 hours. We want them to take their classroom work seriously, that’s all!”

Happy Lent to you too! We’ll enjoy our brothless dishes together.

[Editor’s Note: Since this post is getting comments on both the site and Facebook, I’m experimenting with importing comments from Facebook into this interface. It isn’t perfect…]

Eddie- that’s the first time I’ve heard of anything like that! I would lean that, while going above and beyond is always laudable, discriminating to that level isn’t required. Anything know of anything to the contrary?

This was in the bulletin of my parish –

Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but does not include meat juices and liquid foods made with meat. Such foods such as chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces are not forbidden. It is permissible to use margarine and lard.

Anh I’ve seen that same language elsewhere. Not sure the actual origin (USCCB? I saw it on a random Catholic website). I’m willing to admit my view isn’t binding, but still don’t quite get how “use of meat” doesn’t include broth-based dishes.

Do you think God really cares about that? I think He cares more about how we praise Him and treat others. Some times we get so caught up in the small things we over look the really important ones.

I don’t think He cares about a lot of stuff going on down here, but the point of the Church is to focus ourselves on heaven. It’s easy to write off any practice that doesn’t seem applicable. Does God care what color vestments we use? Or the exact wording of the Mass? Probably not, but those practices are designed to help focus and push us to heaven.

Among other things, penance practices help protect us from being too self-centered. We’re having to do something hard, something that hurts a little, to remind us that 1. Jesus did a really hard thing for us, but 2. Others in this world do not have what we have. We give up a bit of meat and recall that so many in the world eat exclusively rice and beans every day.

Does it matter if we use broth or not? Not really, no, but as we let some of these practices slide into abeyance, the loss of the actual practice may not be matter, but what else does that impact? How is it impacting the construct of our popular devotion, which is how we live our day-to-day? If our day-to-day is further and further from practices that drive us toward Christ, it is easier to fall away from that drive.

Is this the only way to do that? Of course not. Does it mean it doesn’t matter? Eh.

Interesting point of view.  We were always taught that Fridays were more about being simple.  So the idea was not to go to Pappadeaux for shrimp and lobster, but to have a simple meal instead.  So in theory I think you’re right, it’s not about it being easy, it’s about it being a sacrifice and something different.

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