Saturday, May 14, 2011


Fish on Friday is back: a sign that we are proud to be Catholic

Catholic bishops have not always been proud to be Catholic. They are always wary of triumphalism, always nervous of sticking out of the so-called faith community. They’re not sure they like Catholic schools that are too Catholic (hence the recent tussle over the Cardinal Vaughan school in London) or figureheads, like Ann Widdecombe, who are too conscious of their Catholic identity. Their reluctance to show off their true colours has left the Church open to attacks from secularists who hate it as antideluvian. When the recent spate of child abuse scandals rocked the image of the Church, few raised their voice to remind outsiders that there were good priests as well as bad ones, and that the Church’s charitable legacy should not be ignored because of horrible tragedies.

But now, the bishops have declared that the age of self-doubt is over. There’s no encyclical, no drum-rolling for a big announcement. But the bishops are introducing once again the traditional diet of fish on Friday. It’s a brilliant move, calculated to bind Catholics in Enlgand and Wales in an ancient observance many will remember as children. A change in diet may seem a small thing, but make no mistake about it: this is about strengthening the group’s identity, drawing a clear line distinction (even if only at meal times) between Catholics and the rest. Finally, the bishops believe Catholics are proud of their faith, and are ready to show it every week.

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