There are a lot of things about Catholicism that many people don’t know or are confused about, and in this article let’s discuss one of them: eating pork. Once deemed “dirty”, pork is prohibited in some religions. So does this include Catholics? Find out here.
Catholics can eat pork and any meat. This is because Jesus Christ declared “all foods clean” in the New Testament. Eating pork only becomes a sin if we deliberately eat it on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. But such is a sin of disobedience to God and his Church and not because eating pork is evil.
This question, I believe, is rooted in what is said about pork in the Old Testament and the old Catholic obligation of abstaining from meat every Friday. So why don’t they apply now? Continue reading to find out.
Are Catholics Allowed to Eat Pork?
Catholics are free to eat pork and any meat on any day except for Lent. Some, however, choose not to eat it on Fridays as a way of penance. This is voluntary and no longer required from all members of the Catholic Church.
See, there was a time when Catholics were obligated to refrain from eating pork on Fridays. This can be seen in the Code of Canon Law (#1251), which says: “Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.”
The reason for this was that meat was seen as a luxury, and thus, abstaining from it can be considered a sacrifice. But this doesn’t apply today since meat, including pork, has become too common. This is why the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its 1966 Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence, relieved us from such obligation, explaining:
“Changing circumstances, including economic, dietary, and social elements, have made some of our people feel that the renunciation of the eating of meat is not always and for everyone the most effective means of practicing penance. Meat was once an exceptional form of food; now it is commonplace.
Accordingly, since the spirit of penance primarily suggests that we discipline ourselves in that which we enjoy most, to many in our day abstinence from meat no longer implies penance, while renunciation of other things would be more penitential.”
With that said, they emphasize: “Our people are henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence, except… for Lent.”
So can the National Conference of Catholic Bishops just change what the Catholic Church has always taught? Yes. The Code of Canon Law (#1253) states that: “The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.”
Take note, however, that while abstinence from meat is no longer mandatory, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops still recommends members of the Church do it by “free choice”.
What Does the Catholic Bible Say About Eating Meat?
One of the reasons why some people are confused about whether or not Catholics can eat meat is because of what’s stated in the Bible. So what exactly does Scripture say about eating meat?
The Old Testament prohibits eating meat, particularly pork. This can be found in Leviticus 11:7-8, which says: “And the swine, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you.” This can also be seen in Deuteronomy 14:8.
Pork’s uncleanliness is also emphasized in Isaiah 65:4, stating: “Who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;” This is similar to Isaiah 66:17.
With these passages stated in the Bible, why then do Catholics still eat pork? Well, because these are part of the Mosaic Law or Law of Moses, which are ceremonial laws given to God’s people so they can be purified and cleansed. But when Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to save us from our sins, he fulfilled all these laws. Because through him, we became clean, pure, and sanctified. It is also through him that we are brought to a New Covenant.
This means that we are no longer bound to these laws. This is stated in the New Testament, including the following passages: Romans 6:14, Romans 7:1-14, Galatians 3:10-13, Galatians 3:24-25, Galatians 4:21, Galatians 5:1, Galatians 5:13, and 2 Corinthians 3:7-18.
In the New Testament, Jesus himself declared that the laws stating which foods were clean and unclean in the Old Testament were already abolished by God. You can see this in the following passages:
“And he said to them, ‘Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, What comes out of a man is what defiles a man.” (Mark 7:18-20) This is similar to Matthew 15:11, which states: “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
“One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him.” (Romans 14:2-3)
“Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.” (1 Corinthians 10:25)
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
Furthermore, in Acts 10:1-28, Peter had a vision where “all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air” appeared. God’s voice then told him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Then when Peter said no as he has “never eaten anything that is common or unclean”, God told him: “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” (Acts 10:15). This means that God told Peter that the animals, which were considered unclean under the Mosaic Law, including pork, was now suitable to eat. Of course, this can be interpreted in a much deeper meaning where God tells Peter not to call any person common or unclean. But God did say to “kill and eat”, which talks more about pigs rather than people.