Lehigh Valley

Catholics get a pass for St. Patrick's Day

VIDEO: Local Catholics get a pass on...

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - At the Red Stag Pub and Whiskey Bar in Bethlehem there are a plethora of shamrock topped pints and plenty of Catholic patrons partaking in traditional Irish fare.

St. Patrick's Day may have fallen on a Lenten Friday, but the Diocese of Allentown is one of 119 dioceses in the country that has given Catholics a free pass.

"We have been dispensed and we can have meat and right now I am having a banger which is an Irish pork sausage," said customer Mike Shay.

"We actually have a corned beef dish that we created ourselves. It's the red stag cheese steak it's corned beef and cabbage and caramelized onions and cheese and a roll," said Red Stag owner Neville Gardner.

Gardner says the kitchen staff prepared 150 pounds of corned beef for St. Patrick's Day.

He points out it's an Irish-American tradition created when instead of feeding beef to starving people in Ireland, farmers sent it to America to be sold.

"So you have your Irish immigrants in New York and the big cities Boston who all of a sudden could buy Irish beef," said Gardner.

Gardner says eating corned beef and cabbage soon became the traditional meal for St. Patrick's Day, a day honoring the Saint who Christianized Ireland.

But while Catholics are allowed to eat meat in order to partake in St. Patrick's Day feasting, there is one stipulation.

"If they are going to eat meat today they must do some other form of penance or some other way to observe Lent in place of eating meat," said Diocese of Allentown Director of Communication Matt Kerr.

Another Red Stag customer, Kathleen Rothrock is an Irish citizen.

She says Ireland automatically grants dispensation when St. Patrick's Day falls during Lent, but she says the Lenten replacement for eating meat is the same as in the United States.

"I'm trying to be say nicer things trying to be a better coworker and  behave myself a little bit better," said Rothrock.

The diocese says the dispensation is only for St. Patrick's Day.

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