Open letter asks Pope Francis to adopt vegan diet during Lent

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An environmental group is asking Pope Francis to abstain from all animal products during Lent, promising a $1 million donation to a charity of his choice if he does so.

“Today, Pope Francis, I am asking you to join me in abstaining from all animal products throughout Lent, and to endorse the Million Dollar Vegan campaign,” Genesis Butler wrote in a Feb. 6 open letter to the Roman Pontiff.

“Should you join me, the Blue Horizon International Foundation will donate $1 million to a charity or charities of your choice as a gesture of their utmost gratitude for your commitment.”

While a vegan fast is not now prescribed by the Church, the practice would hearken back to practices of the early Church, and of the Christian east.

Butler, 12, is an animal rights and environmental campaigner. Her letter is backed by Million Dollar Vegan, a non-profit group which highlights the effects of animal farming on climate.

She recalled that in Laudato si’, his 2015 encyclical on care for our common home, Francis “stated that every effort to protect and improve our world will involve changes in lifestyle, production, and consumption.”

She also expressed her appreciation for his “speaking out on climate change, habitat loss, and pollution, and for reminding the world that Earth is a home we all share.”

Butler said that “the current eating habits of predominantly richer nations are causing global destruction and devastation,” as animal farming is resource-intensive relative to calories yielded.

The activist said that “moving towards a plant-based diet will have substantial environmental benefits.” She said it would protect the environment, “help feed the world’s most vulnerable,” and “benefit human health.”

An accompanying petition asking Pope Francis to try vegan for Lent and to encourage others to do the same has garnered more than 33,000 signatures.

This year, the Lenten season begins March 6; Easter Sunday will be April 21.

Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Catholics aged 18-59 are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. And Catholics 14 and older are  to abstain from meat on all Fridays; this rule allows the use of eggs, milk products, and condiments made of animal fat.

But in times past, a vegan Lent would not have been so different from Catholic practice.

According to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, “during the early centuries the observance of the [Lenten] fast as very strict.”

The reference work says that in the early Church the Lenten fast allowed one meal per day, taken towards evening, and that “flesh-meat and fish, and in most places also eggs and lacticinia, were absolutely forbidden,” but that the practice “began to be considerably relaxed” in the west from the 9th century.

The 12th century Decretum Gratiani, a compendium of ecclesiastical law, includes the text of a letter which was believed by Gratian to be from St. Gregory the Great to St. Augustine of Canterbury. This letter says that during Lent “we abstain from flesh meat and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, eggs.” A critical edition of the Decretum calls the source of the quote Pseudo-Gregory, and according to Dr. Mark DelCogliano, an associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas, the quoted text “first appears in Gratian.”

Writing in the late 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas said that it was “common custom” that those fasting abstained from meat, eggs, and dairy products, but were allowed fish.

It is said that the practice of calling “Fat Tuesday” the day preceding Ash Wednesday derived from a period when the use of animal products was barred during Lent. “Fat” Tuesday was thus the last day to use up the meat, cheese, and animal fat stored in the home.

And while not precisely vegan, the traditional Byzantine fast barred the use of meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. Animal-based foods that were permitted included honey and invertebrates.

In the Byzantine rite, Lent is preceded by a pre-Lenten period known as Fore-Lent. The last two Sundays of this preparatory period are known as Meatfare Sunday and Cheesefare Sunday.

Under traditional fasting rules, Meatfare Sunday was the last day before Easter to consume meat, and Cheesefare was the last day to use dairy products. The Lenten fast then began on the Monday after Cheesefare.


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9 Comments

  1. Very scholarly and I like this dude at CNA. But I do not depart from the current. St. Thomas I loved enough to read his entire Summa Theologica…but the dude helped get 5000 Protestants killed in the long run so I have my reservations. Those dangerous Prots now are good enough to fix our cars, mend our heart valves, lend us ladders, help us jump start our cars. If you want a safe neighborhood, move near the Amish…not to Brazil. St. Thomas…I’m giving up Gentleman Jack (Jack Daniels twice filtered) and I’m buying Teachers Scotch; I’m giving up all dessert. I only eat two meals a day all year. That’s it. You said the Deuteronomic death penalties showed us which sins were mortal but premarital sex was punished by divorceless marriage (Deut.22:29)…so there was a flaw in your theory. I’m having eggs because I can no longer trust you…mainly the 5000…not the premarital couple.

    • Your comment makes almost no sense at all. What are you trying to convey? And whose deaths are you blaming on St. Thomas? I must say, if you actually did read the Summa it doesn’t seem to have taught you anything about reason, or organization, or stringing together coherent thoughts.

      • Leslie…you’ll notice Blaise Pascal understood me perfectly…lol. Have you read any of the Summa T.; any of Splendor of the Truth; any of the heretic death counts by scholars? I think Blaise has. That is why he understood me…perfectly. Here are some incoherent fragments…pieces of the puzzle:

        St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica…
        “With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.
        Second Part of the Second Part/Question 11.

        St. John Paul II lists “attempts to coerce the spirit” as an intrinsic evil in section 80 of Splendor of the Truth.

        Scholars ascertain that Catholicism Killed 5000 heretics subsequent to Thomas time.

        Here’s Christ in Lk. 9 telling the disciples not to kill the heretical Samaritans in the way that Elijah was allowed to kill the idol worshippers:

        “51
        * When the days for his being taken up* were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
        52
        * and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there,
        53
        but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
        54
        When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
        55
        Jesus turned and rebuked them,
        56
        and they journeyed to another village.”

        The Samaritans heretically held that Mt. Gerizim was God’s choice of most special place not Jerusalem. Hence their inhospitality was based on Christ’s destination. Yet Christ is far from the very thing He as Word permitted to Elijah in the destruction of two companies of fifty men sent from the idolater king.

        • Your post was an incoherent, poorly punctuated, disorganized mess. “But I do not depart from the current.” Current what? “I’m having eggs because I can no longer trust you…mainly the 5000…not the premarital couple.” Seriously? You can’t trust the 5000? You can trust a premarital couple? What?

          St. Thomas doesn’t mention Protestants. He discusses heretics, and given the heresies current in his time and the fact that their attacks on not only people’s salvation but also on the entire fabric of society his sternness is quite understandable.

          https://www.firstthings.com/article/1995/12/aquinas-and-the-heretics

          “St. John Paul II lists “attempts to coerce the spirit” as an intrinsic evil in section 80 of Splendor of the Truth.”

          Actually, St. John Paul II quotes Gaudium et Spes (from Vatican II).

          • A disorganized mess that Blaise understood clearly. Perhaps he was a James Joyce fan.
            Actually your place as a non moderator of this cite has nothing to do with correcting others on writing choices with vehemence. Why did you keep reading me past the second sentence? That’s the anomaly. I’m wondering if you kept reading me past the second sentence because you were hunting for turmoil..due to not opposing me on an idea elsewhere and regretting it. Why else would such a traditional grammarian keep reading while having no jurisdiction at this cite for the correcting of writing style.
            Vatican II used the word “shameful” which is not as strong since people apply that to things children do at times…St. John Paul II changed it to intrinsic evils.
            Thomas’ avoidance of Christ’s sternness in Luke 9 about a violence that He as Word helped with in respect to Elijah is not understandable in the greatest Catholic mind in that time period and forward. It means Aquinas didn’t take Luke 9 seriously enough for his office level in the Church.
            The idolaters in the northern kingdom were involved in child sacrifice just like the abortion industry now is…yet few now in the Church advocate murdering the abortion people like Cuomo but they do want him excommunicated. The first millennium in general was against killing heretics. The second was not.

          • “Actually your place as a non moderator of this cite has nothing to do with correcting others on writing choices with vehemence.”

            Actually I can point out that your message is a mess with as much vehemence as I want.

            “Why did you keep reading me past the second sentence?”

            In the hope that somewhere in your post I would find a coherent and intelligent thought. Sadly, I was disappointed.

            ” I’m wondering if you kept reading me past the second sentence because you were hunting for turmoil..due to not opposing me on an idea elsewhere and regretting it. ”

            Snort. If I had wanted to oppose you on something elsewhere, I would have done so. I know I’ve seen your name on posts, but I don’t remember what those posts were; I may have replied to some, or not. If I didn’t reply to something, it would not set me to hunting for another post of yours to which to reply. Good grief, who thinks that way?

            “Why else would such a traditional grammarian keep reading while having no jurisdiction at this cite for the correcting of writing style.”

            Site, not cite. I don’t have to have “jurisdiction” to comment on lack of intelligibility.

            St. John Paul quoted Gaudium et Spes. He did not create a list.

            “Thomas’ avoidance of Christ’s sternness in Luke 9 about a violence that He as Word helped with in respect to Elijah is not understandable in the greatest Catholic mind in that time period and forward.”

            Oooh, lookie, another incomprehensible sentence!

            “It means Aquinas didn’t take Luke 9 seriously enough for his office level in the Church.”

            Am I understanding correctly that you are setting yourself up as a judge of St. Thomas’ Aquinas’ competence for his position? So, your judgment is better than that of one of the greatest philosophers in history, who is also a great saint. I take leave to doubt that very much.

    • Try to avoid comparison apologetics. It’s essentially irrelevant. I’m sure the Mayans and Incas were doing worse also. It does not brighten the Bride of Christ to note other sinners.

  2. And, perhaps next, a diabetes association will ask him to give up candy for Lent and they will donate 1 million to his favorite charity.

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