Catholic and Vegetarian


One of my favorite dishes has always been the simple antipasto. While I was growing up, it was a staple of our holiday meals, and I’ve continued the tradition of serving antipasto throughout the Christmas season.  My husband and kids like antipasto well enough, but to me, the dish is the absolute pinnacle of gustatory perfezione. Give me a hunk of Italian bread and a glass of vino alongside a plate of olives, “giardiniera” (pickled vegetables), mozzarella cheese, anchovies, cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers, provolone, and marinated artichoke hearts, and I’m. In. Heaven.

Wait.anti 5

What about the Genoa salami? And the prosciutto? And where’s the “soppressata” (dried salami)?

Well, there isn’t prosciutto or salami of any kind on my antipasto plate. That’s because several years ago I adopted a who-needs-it attitude towards meat, and since then, I’ve been discovering new and compelling reasons for being a Catholic Vegetarian.

Want to know more about Catholic vegetarianism? Read on for a Very Basic Primer.

What’s a Vegetarian Diet?

A vegetarian diet is comprised of foods that come from plants: fruits, vegetables, dried beans, grains, seeds, and nuts. There are several kinds of vegetarian diet, but although they differ one from another in the permissibility of certain foods, all of them exclude meat.

The Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

The low-fat, high-fiber characteristics of the typical vegetarian diet put vegetarians at lower risk for developing obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. When following a meatless diet it’s especially important to include a wide variety of foods and to guard against overconsumption of sweets and fatty foods, but the disease-fighting benefits are well worth the effort.

Think of it this way: Catholics observe meatless Fridays and reap the spiritual benefits. Why not give up meat more often than once a week and reap the physical benefits as well?

The Church’s Teaching on Vegetarianism

According to the Catechism, “It is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing” (CCC2417), so Catholics are free to choose whether to include meat in their diets. However, the Catechism goes on to state that it is “contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly” (CCC 2418), prompting Catholics to also consider the means by which meat is obtained.

Are animals raised for meat being treated humanely or are they the victims of the “industrial use” condemned by Pope Emeritus Benedict? Is arable land which would yield grain and produce to feed people being used instead to grow cattle feed? Do the production methods of any given meat-provider reflect a “religious respect for the integrity of creation” (CCC 2415-2418)? Ultimately, Catholics are obligated to apply the principles of good stewardship when making decisions about what to eat.

Mindful and Meatless

Mindfulness is an important part of Catholic vegetarianism. Reflect on the God-given gifts of field and garden; be fully aware of what you are eating while you are eating; remember that nourishing your family with wholesome foods is a privilege. As both a steward of God’s creation and a recipient of its bounty, the Catholic vegetarian can enjoy the fruits of the earth with a grateful heart and a clear conscience.

A meatless diet is by no means the only choice of diet for the conscientious Catholic. But it is certainly an option to weigh when making decisions about what to eat. The most important thing to bear in mind is that, while vegetarianism is merely a way of life, Jesus Christ is the Way and the Life.

Copyright 2015 Celeste Behe


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  1. Pingback: Catholic and Vegetarian

  2. As a fellow vegetarian Catholic and steward of Creation, I really appreciate your balanced explanation of our options as Catholics. When people find out that I’m vegetarian, they often think I’m one of “those” radical environmentalists. The reality is that I, like many in monastic orders, don’t eat meat as a part of our faith lives not our political views.

  3. I think your interpretation of CCC 2418 is out of context. The text applies to the personal treatment of animals, as the previous paragraph already says it is fine to eat animals as food. While we can choose to not endorse industrialization of agriculture, it is subjective judgment as to whether these practices are a sin. If they do prove to be a condemned evil, we are still not complicit or even indirectly participating in the evil if we eat from these sources.

    • So if we receive stolen goods from someone, but didn’t do the stealing ourselves, are we “sill not complicit or even indirectly participating in evil?”

    • I don’t think it was taken out of context at all. It is well documented and known that factory meat comes from animals who lived and died in horrid conditions. The entire system has been developed and manipulated by man to have no regard for animal (or human) welfare, and only have regard for company profits. If you know the meat you are purchasing came from this torturous system, then you are endorsing that treatment of those animals. If you are going to eat meat, it is important that you take the responsibility to source it from a humane farmer. Don’t forget, these are God’s perfect creations, and man should not genetically manipulate them, or torture them.

  4. Pingback: Catholic and Vegetarian (Catholic Mom 2014)

  5. I am just now coming to see the reality of the meat and dairy industry. I always believed that God gave us dominion over the animals and therefore He gave them to us to consume. However, seeing how they are treated and how much disease our consumption of them has brought us, I can’t imagine why anyone can believe that. This is not how He intended for us to live, it is so clear. Thank you for sharing this, it helps me to know that I am not alone in my new realization!!

  6. Very thoughtful. I pray more Christians explore the benefits of eating less meat. I’ve been at it for 18 years and I haven’t looked back.

  7. I would like to echo the above comments. I’m so glad to read to this. It’s unfortunate that more Christians don’t see it in this light. What a huge voice Catholics and Protestants would have if everyone demanded change!

  8. Could anyone please, please give me an answer to a problem I have recently encountered. Wine! Animal products are used (finings) in the process of wine making. How does this affect the taking of the blood of Christ in the Mass?


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