Corned beef OK on St. Pat’s day? For Catholics, it depends on where you live

Corned beef lovers, put down your forks — depending on where you live.

The holiday, which is celebrated on March 17, falls on a Friday during Lent, a period when observant Catholics older than 14 don’t eat meat on Fridays,

Chicago Catholics will not be exempted from abstaining from meat on St. Patrick’s Day this year, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago. The archdiocese comprises 2.2 million Catholics and 221 parishes in Cook and Lake counties.

The rules are different in some suburbs. The Diocese of Joliet, which includes Will and DuPage counties, will offer special dispensation on St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day marks the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland in the Catholic faith.

Celebrations in Chicago can get particularly boisterous, with thousands gathering along a green-dyed Chicago River. It’s common to celebrate by eating corned beef and cabbage — a problem for abstaining Catholics.

"Catholics in the Joliet Diocese, in good conscience, may substitute the general rule of abstinence from meat with another form of penance or a significant act of charity that benefits the poor that day," a diocesan representative told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Joliet diocese comprises 658,000 Catholics and 120 parishes.


This year will mark the 33rd time that St. Patrick’s Day has fallen on a Friday during Lent since the first Roman Catholic bishop in the U.S. was ordained in 1790, according to the National Catholic Register.

The last overlap was in 2017.

That year, the archdiocese of Chicago gave the OK to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day. Nearly 80 of 200 Catholic dioceses in the United States did likewise, Time magazine reported.

Chicago Catholics who took advantage of the ruling to chow down on corned beef were advised to substitute another form of penance or act of charity.

And while the Chicago archdiocese will not greenlight a corned beef feast this year, the same caveat will apply to those who dig in.

"Catholics who find themselves at an event where meat is served in celebrating St. Patrick may in good conscience substitute the general rule of abstinence with another form of penance or a significant act of charity that benefits the poor," the archdiocese said.

Finding an appropriate act that upholds the reflective spirit of Lent, the archdiocese said, is up to each would-be carnivore.

The Joliet diocese agrees that fasts during the observance of Lent are intended to "draw Catholics closer to Jesus."

However, the Joliet diocese feels this can be accomplished through other acts of penance or charity, representatives told the Sun-Times.