Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.


Fish Food for Thought

Many fast food restaurants have started their pre-Lent fish sandwich advertising campaigns including Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, and Long John Silver’s. McDonald’s has yet to release a sequel to its memorable 2009 commercials but it has apparently reinvented this as a singing fish decoration (Give me back that filet o' fish, Give me that fish...) available at a retailer near you.

According to estimates from CARA’s national surveys, CARA Catholic Polls (CCP), of the more than 51 million adult Catholics in the United States, 31 million (about six in ten) are expected to abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Although some may fast and others may choose a vegetarian/vegan option, many will seek out fish on coming Fridays.

Those abstaining from meat are not just the weekly Mass attenders. A majority of Catholics abstaining from meat either attend Mass only a few times a year (25%) or at least once a month, but less than weekly (28%).  However, among the 31 million, 10.5 million attend Mass at least once a week (34%). Of those Catholics who do not abstain from eating meat, 60% "rarely or never" attend Mass.

Of those who do abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent:
  • Nearly nine in ten have celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation (89% compared to 74% who do not abstain)
  • Nearly eight in ten are in a household registered with a Catholic parish (79% compared to 34% who do not abstain)
  • Nearly three in four “agree” that they think of themselves as “a practicing Catholic” (74% compared to 26% who do not abstain)
  • A majority are married (53% compared to 48% who do not abstain)
  • Four in ten say they regularly wear a crucifix or cross (40% compared to 22% who do not abstain)
  • Nearly four in ten self-identify as Hispanic or Latino (39% compared to 36% who do not abstain)
  • Nearly four in ten go to confession at least once a year (38% compared to 7% who do not abstain)
  • One quarter attended a Catholic high school (25% compared to 17% who do not abstain)
  • One in six attended a Catholic college or university (17% compared to 9% who do not abstain)
There are absolutely no generational differences. Catholics both young and old are just as likely to abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent.

When CARA first released survey data regarding Lenten practices in Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice among US Catholics we got a message from one concerned reader who worried about the impact of the tradition of eating fish on Fridays during Lent on the sustainability of the world’s fisheries. Here is an interesting article on this topic specific to McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish from The New York Times: “From Deep Pacific, Ugly and Tasty, With a Catch.”
Instead of going the restaurant chain route, many Catholics craving seafood will likely go to a parish fish fry or a local eatery and get a plate that looks much like the image above. If you are wondering what this means nutritionally there is good news and bad news!

Above photo courtesy of rick at Flickr Creative Commons.

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