Pescetarianism, Vegetarianism and the Catholic Church - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 08-15-2010, 02:49 AM
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I've read a lot of comments on here about people's encounters with "vegetarians who eat fish". My mother told me that her former boss was the same - she told Mum she was vegetarian but then Mum spotted her eating fish at a company lunch.

I'm curious to know if this mindset comes from the traditional Catholic practice of Friday abstinence. Before the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) the Catholic Church required everyone over the age of seven to abstain from eating meat on Fridays as a form of penance. However, the Church allowed fish to be eaten on Fridays instead. This somehow implies that fish is different from meat.

Do you think it is this traditional practice that has led many Westerners to erroneously believe that fish is not meat and that vegetarians eat fish?

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#2 Old 08-15-2010, 04:15 AM
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IT's possible... it may also be the fact that they're not mammals, and are therefore somehow less qualified as animals in some people's eyes. People are extremely speciesist.


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#3 Old 08-15-2010, 05:37 AM
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If you go to a restaurant and look at the dinner menu, there are usually separate categories for fish and "meat". (And here it's implied that the latter refers to flesh from mammals.) I can recall that there is a definitive difference in taste and texture. So from a food-only perspective, it makes sense to distinguish between them.

I believe that pescetarians find some "justification" in a few Indian / New Age traditions as well as in Catholicism and other Christian denominations. See e.g. the Wikipedia article on Ichthys (the "Jesus fish", often seen on bumper stickers).

Edit: As for New Age traditions, I know Omraam Aïvanhov sanctioned fish eating.
Edit 2: Also see this article on how religions in India affect diet and which briefly mentions "lacto-vegetarian" fish-eating hindus: http://www.indiacurry.com/faqhints/r...ffectfoods.htm

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#4 Old 08-16-2010, 07:44 AM
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I never thought about this connection, but it's an interesting conversation to have. I know a lot of people, including omnis, believe that fish do not feel pain, or cannot process pain as we do. I have an omni friend who suggested I at least eat fish, as it's good for me, and "they do not feel pain as we know it." Fish are considered less intelligent by many and therefore acceptable for eating.

As far as Catholicism goes, it seems like the reason for giving up meat is to make a personal sacrifice in penance. Maybe fish is acceptable, then, only because it is considered to be of a lesser quality taste-wise and in greater supply at the time that this tradition began. It is therefore less of a significant sacrifice to give up fish, so there would be no point in NOT consuming it. I'm really just speculating here, but this is the answer that seems most logical to me. I don't think it has anything to do with the ethics of consuming mammals versus consuming fish.
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#5 Old 08-16-2010, 10:39 AM
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My understanding of the theological justification for Christians eating fish is that Christ ate fish which implies divine sanction. Saint Francis was among those holding this view I believe.

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it may also be the fact that they're not mammals

Interesting/amusing item - the capybara, a south American rodent (in fact the largest rodent species), is, by papal decree, a fish. At least for lent.

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#6 Old 08-16-2010, 04:27 PM
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Jesus was not believed to have abstained from other kinds of meat, though people of his class could probably not afford to eat it often. Lamb for the Seder, etc., if he'd passed that up, I think somebody would have mentioned it, and the more hard-core of his followers would have taken it up as a practice. I don't think mammal/non-mammal had so much to do with Fridays for Catholics. We couldn't eat chicken on Fridays either.

Jesus said something funny about eating pork; something like (and I paraphrase) It's not what goes into your mouth that makes you unclean, it's what comes out of it.
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#7 Old 08-20-2010, 08:40 PM
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Jesus was not believed to have abstained from other kinds of meat, though people of his class could probably not afford to eat it often. Lamb for the Seder, etc., if he'd passed that up, I think somebody would have mentioned it, and the more hard-core of his followers would have taken it up as a practice. I don't think mammal/non-mammal had so much to do with Fridays for Catholics. We couldn't eat chicken on Fridays either.

Jesus said something funny about eating pork; something like (and I paraphrase) It's not what goes into your mouth that makes you unclean, it's what comes out of it.

I love that quote, thanks for sharing. This is so consistent with his belief in keeping the spirit of the religious laws, not merely the ritual. He preached strict adherence to Torah, so he was not really saying to not watch what we eat, au contraire, but emphasizing what was most important.

RE whether Jesus PBUH, ate meat or not, when I was growing up as a Catholic, I remember questioning something he was to have said that clearly discouraged if not forbade eating meat, but this seemed in contrast to him providing fish for the masses who assembled to hear him speak.
Is there any reference to him eating meat?

Since he was passionate about strict adherence to the Torah, (in spirit, not only ritual) regarding meat, i.e. Kosher and this was really hard to do during his time, given the strong Hellenic influence, I think there is a good chance he didn't eat it.

Interesting about the fish and Fridays. My friend's husband is Catholic and still does this.

Even when I was a meat eater I hated the idea of eating fish. I saw them swimming around, so could relate to them, not like flesh in a package.
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#8 Old 08-21-2010, 07:32 AM
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The Christian gospels specifically mention Jesus keeping three Passover feasts in Jerusalem. And in order to keep the feast, the participants were given roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread to eat. The entire lamb had to be eaten during the feast. If there were any leftovers, they had to be burned. If Jesus did not eat the lamb, he would have been violating the Law and could have been accused of sin.* When Christianity broke off from Judaism, changes in practice did not incorporate vegetarian practices (except in some fringe sects), but even in the very early days, expanded the range of animal flesh that could be consumed, to anything edible (shellfish, pork, etc.) that the gentiles were eating. Which probably made it a lot easier to find converts among the gentiles.

There is no real conflict between vegetarianism and Catholicism. As has been mentioned, abstaining from meat is sometimes done as a voluntary personal discipline; if it's good to give up during Lent, even better to extend it over a lifetime. There are some Franciscan communities that have abstaining from meat as a fourth vow, after poverty, chastity and obedience. But looking to scripture for evidence Jesus was vegetarian, or pescetarian, is pretty fruitless. I know PETA has tried to do exactly that, but like so many of the PETA stunts it seems to be creating more blowback than support. The metaphor of the Good Shepherd (sheep were kept for meat and wool) and the parable of the prodigal son (his father killed a calf for the feast to welcome him home) would not have come from a vegetarian or a pescetarian.

*Italicized section lifted from a Christian, anti-PETA site. They seem to have their facts right in this matter, and to know many things I do not regarding scripture and historic ritual.
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#9 Old 08-21-2010, 06:41 PM
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Abstinence from meat in the Catholic Church is not done for ethical reasons. Rather, it's forcing people to give up something that they like. Most people out there are sick and disgusting and like to eat dead animals, so forcing them to abstain from it is a form of penance.

It's not possible to be a good Catholic and believe that killing animals for food is wrong. According to Catholic Tradition, God has permitted mankind to kill and eat animals, so Catholics cannot say it's wrong. Same goes for Muslims.

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#10 Old 08-21-2010, 07:10 PM
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Abstinence from meat in the Catholic Church is not done for ethical reasons. Rather, it's forcing people to give up something that they like. Most people out there are sick and disgusting and like to eat dead animals, so forcing them to abstain from it is a form of penance.

It's not possible to be a good Catholic and believe that killing animals for food is wrong. According to Catholic Tradition, God has permitted mankind to kill and eat animals, so Catholics cannot say it's wrong. Same goes for Muslims.

Nobody is ever forced to abstain from meat in the Catholic church, as a form of penance or for any other reason. Anyone who abstains is doing so voluntarily. And although Catholic tradition does see "food animals" as a wholesome gift from God, there is no church law against objecting to the killing of animals for food. Or objecting to the way animals are treated by contemporary agribusiness. It would not be considered heretical to suggest that Jesus might be a vegetarian if he walked the earth today, that an enlightened being such as himself would see the prolonged, enforced suffering of animals as an insult to their Creator. Not to mention the desecration of our earth and water by the same evil processes. Nobody would be excommunicated from the church for objecting to any of that. The church itself does not provide a tradition or real framework for living as an ethical veg*n, but it tolerates ethical vegans among its followers. Francis of Assisi (ascetic and apparently a pescetarian) stands as a canonized, approved-of example for people who have a very strong fellow-feeling for nonhuman animal life. And of course who are drawn to a path of voluntary simplicity in their lifestyles.
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#11 Old 08-31-2010, 07:04 PM
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Again I have to agree with Indian Summer here (not sucking up, honestly). Walk into just about any grocery store or restaurant in the U.S. and you will see 'meat' separated out from poultry and fish. Additionally, every cookbook I've ever owned treated them as separate categories as well. And as a 'Catholic' I was taught at a very young age that fish is not meat. I will never chastise anyone for thinking that chicken and/or fish is vegetarian. I will use it as an opportunity to educate, but never poke fun at. I understand why people think the way they do, and proceed accordingly.
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#12 Old 08-31-2010, 09:15 PM
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They did, but they were exterminated by what then became the Catholic Church as we know it: the "Roman" Catholic church. The Essene Gospel of Peace contains the relevant Jesus quotes, if I recall correctly. I'm not into it all that much anymore, because to me it is now self-evident that I should not eat animals, so I no longer search for answers in that area.

Evidence befitting the depth of the claim would be appropriate in a post like this. At the very least, from a peer-reviewed neutral historical source without its own axe to grind.

As I understand it, the consensus is that the "Essene Gospel of Peace" was made up by the guy who claimed to have found and translated it. Nobody else has ever seen the manuscripts in question, and there are no scholars in biblical anthropology today who will speak for the "translator's" bona fides.
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#13 Old 08-31-2010, 10:45 PM
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It's not just Catholics who don't consider fish to be meat. The Jewish religion is the same. The Kosher rules forbidding eating meat with dairy don't apply to fish, only land animals. Fish is routinely eaten on a bagel with cream cheese, and it's Kosher. Thus, Kosher gelatin is from fish.

And I've always assumed that these practices played a large role in the general public not considering fish to be "meat", and thus assuming that vegetarians would eat fish.

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#14 Old 09-01-2010, 08:15 AM
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Again I have to agree with Indian Summer here (not sucking up, honestly). Walk into just about any grocery store or restaurant in the U.S. and you will see 'meat' separated out from poultry and fish. Additionally, every cookbook I've ever owned treated them as separate categories as well. And as a 'Catholic' I was taught at a very young age that fish is not meat. I will never chastise anyone for thinking that chicken and/or fish is vegetarian. I will use it as an opportunity to educate, but never poke fun at. I understand why people think the way they do, and proceed accordingly.

chicken is separate from meat, as well, though, in restaurants. at least all the ones I've ever gone to. you've got your birdie section, your moo cow/piggie/etc section, and then your fishie section. and then, if you're lucky, a teeny tiny veggie section.

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#15 Old 09-01-2010, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by phi;2701601
Anyway, if it makes you feel better, I concede that Jesus might have approved of factory farming and taught that animals don't have souls and people who say the Earth is not a disk have to be burned at the stake. He may or may not have, and as we all know, a hundred "peers" can decide inquisition is the way to go one century and be all enlightened about it the next. Unless we develop a time machine, it's really beside the point to pretend the magical aura of peer review, neutrality, or scientotainment is going to shed any light on what [I
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really[/I] happened over 1000 years ago.

In my opinion, Jesus was healthy, smart, enlightened, and informed enough to understand animal cruelty is wrong. In my opinion, the bible contradicts itself and those gospels that were eliminated from it at the council of Nicea, if it ever took place at all. In my opinion, the stories of the extermination of competing churches make sense, given how dogmatic and power hungry the Roman Catholic church is even today, and the Gnostic scriptures contain a lot of truth. In my opinion, science is an OK tool for understanding natural laws and developing technology, but when it comes to history or even something like our modern disease industry, we would be better off if those that write the stories admit they are basically just inventing them and stop trying to hide behind Latin and Greek terms or statistical methods they have neither the education nor (in most cases) the intellectual capacity to understand.

If you want one of my peers to review the opinions I express on here, I encourage you to find one. I have been looking for one myself.

Phi, are you familiar with the concept of peer review in the selection process of publishing scholarly books and articles? What I was reacting to was your seeming to credit the text in the "Essene Gospel of Peace" as a legitimate source of historical information regarding the dietary beliefs of Jesus. As opposed to, say, a blatant forgery, which scholars don't need to be Catholic to conclude that it was. Your post made it sound like you take its legitimacy as a given, and that you were not aware of any of the disputes or inconsistencies surrounding it. If you want to argue "Jesus was Essene" based on history, there is decent information out there. And what information there is suggests that he might well have been familiar with Essenes and maybe would have admired their ascetics and piety, but would also have probably disagreed with some of their beliefs and practices. None of it really helps make a case about whether he would have taken on their eating habits, much less influenced their eating habits, as the "Essene Gospel" would have people believe.

Tellingly, Jesus is not mentioned once in the Dead Sea Scrolls, that whole Essene library of ancient texts, which of course he would have been repeatedly if he had held the elevated position imputed to him in the "Essene Gospel."
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#16 Old 09-01-2010, 11:06 PM
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That some early Christian factions were vegetarian is a matter of historical record outside any consideration of that specific text.

Not that it would matter at all to me if there were no such entities, but it is interesting that there were.

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#17 Old 09-02-2010, 11:33 AM
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If everyone has his own personal Jesus, there's no reason to quibble with the construct of a vegetarian Essene Jesus. When I was a practicing Christian, my Jesus was a radical, a pacifist, an egalitarian, and something of a hippie. He wasn't vegetarian but then neither was I. In such a mind-set, history is beside the point. As for your question about persecutions, I'm pretty sure that whenever the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians were forced to interact in those first centuries, each faction saw the other's practices as wrong-headed if not sacreligious. That would have to have deteriorated further as the generations went by and the two groups developed largely isolated from one another. I've got to think circumcision would have been caused far more animosity than diet between those groups, but I'm sure both issues were prominent and part of a fairly long list.

It is disheartening to think of these two embattled, persecuted and largely despised groups, in the very first generations after the death of their beloved teacher, already going at one another in the "You're not even a real Christian!" game.
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#18 Old 09-02-2010, 11:41 AM
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Now you've got me singing Depache Mode, Joan.

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#19 Old 09-02-2010, 12:25 PM
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Now you've got me singing Depache Mode, Joan.

I remember that one, now it's rattling around in my head
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#20 Old 09-02-2010, 05:15 PM
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Saint John Chrysostom was vegetarian.

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#21 Old 09-13-2010, 12:22 PM
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I've read a lot of comments on here about people's encounters with "vegetarians who eat fish". My mother told me that her former boss was the same - she told Mum she was vegetarian but then Mum spotted her eating fish at a company lunch.

I'm curious to know if this mindset comes from the traditional Catholic practice of Friday abstinence. Before the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) the Catholic Church required everyone over the age of seven to abstain from eating meat on Fridays as a form of penance. However, the Church allowed fish to be eaten on Fridays instead. This somehow implies that fish is different from meat.

Do you think it is this traditional practice that has led many Westerners to erroneously believe that fish is not meat and that vegetarians eat fish?

I don’t know any Catholic pescetarians. If I did, the premise for this thread would make more sense to me than it does, that those Catholic "meatless Fridays" that ended in the 1970s are somehow responsible for the idea that fish isn’t meat. One thing that did occur to me though, was how comparatively easy it is for people to identify with land and air animals, which we see in their natural state, sometimes keep as pets, and grow familiar with by observing their movements and facial expressions. We look at them and think we know how they feel about us from how they look at us, especially if they also narrow their eyes or widen them dramatically or c0ck their heads. We might have it all wrong, but we feel like we know a lot about them from what we see, and we end up projecting a lot of our own ideas onto them. But fish are different – they do have faces of course, but they don’t so much have facial expressions. Their faces give away nothing, so it’s easy to surmise that they are basically feeling nothing. And also to believe that most of them never “think for themselves” because of the ones that move in schools, as if the organism were the school itself instead of the individual fish. And we don’t see them tenderly caring for their young, feeding them, teaching them, defending them from danger. This is why “Finding Nemo” had to depart so outrageously from the way fish act so they could cobble together a father/son narrative that made children care what happened to Nemo. Compared to something like “Lion King,” which although it did have them talking and singing, also showed lions acting like lions in some fairly recognizable ways.

So for many reasons fish seem a lot more alienated from us, creature-wise, unless we happen to spend years observing and studying them. To most of us they seem more remote, less purposeful, less capable of feeling, less like us, than other kinds of animals. People don’t feel bad for what happens to fish because it’s harder to imagine themselves in the place of the fish.
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#22 Old 09-13-2010, 01:17 PM
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No, I don't think it has to do with the catholic traditions necessarily because those aren't heard of by everyone, yet the fish = vegetarian seems to be more widespread. so in some cases, definitely, yes, but not all.
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