February 14, 2013
Of frog legs alligators: more on the law of abstinence
Dear Prof. Scaperlanda,
I would have written this in the comment box at Mirror of Justice, but it appears to be closed.
Archbishop Aymond's letter, which you posted on Mirror of Justice, reflects the long-standing interpretation of the law of abstinence, which is that "meat" is the flesh of a warm-blooded, terrestrial member of the kingdom Animalia. See 1983 CIC c. 1251 ("abstinence from meat"). Eggs, milk, and dairy products are well known as falling outside the scope of "meat." Likewise, we tend to describe those things that aren't "meat," at least colloquially, as "fish." So mollusks and fish are in on days of abstinence.
But the traditional rule has always, or at least long, been that the flesh cold-blooded animals, at least aquatic cold-blooded animals, doesn't count as "meat." Some people on the internet cite Paul VI's constitution Paenitemini for this principle, but it's not there. The origins of the distinction are
obscure, at least to me (that is, I haven't looked for them very hard). I do know that there are additional oddities, such as the tradition that capybara is not "meat," apparently predicated on a mixture of food scarcity in certain regions of South America and a rather loose grasp of zoology by some early-modern curial officials.
Enjoy your frog legs,
Note: Thanks Paul. I'm not sure why the comments appear closed.
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