Several Australian bishops said they would support re-establishment of year-round Friday abstinence in Australia, following the lead of England and Wales, reports the Catholic News Service.
Auxiliary Bishop Peter Elliott of Melbourne, Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore, and Bishop Michael Kennedy of Armidale, are among prelates who said they support abstaining from meat on Friday - without sanction of sin - almost 30 years after it became non-compulsory in Australia.
In 2011, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales restored Friday abstinence. Friday penance regulations in England and Wales were relaxed in 1985, as they were in Australia, allowing Catholics to perform an alternative form of penance. US bishops ended obligatory abstinence in 1966.
Looking back at the decision to end Friday abstinence in Australia, Bishop Elliott said it was a 'big pastoral and spiritual mistake.'
'I can understand why that happened, in the mood of that era, but I believe it failed to take into account human psychology,' he said.
Friday abstinence was a universal practice that Catholics were obliged to fulfill under pain of sin until Pope Paul VI issued his apostolic constitution on penance in 1966. The document gave bishops, acting through their episcopal conferences, the ability to establish the norms 'they consider the most opportune and efficacious' in regards to fasting and abstinence.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law confirmed that authority, stating that 'the penitential days and times in the universal church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent,' but that any conference of bishops can 'substitute other forms of penance' in place of abstinence. It defined abstinence as applying to all Catholics 14 and older on all Fridays unless a solemnity falls on that day.
In 1985, the Australian bishops declared that Friday penance could be fulfilled by prayer, self-denial or helping others. However, some of the bishops believe permitting Catholics to determine their own penance has failed.