Remember back in 2010 when 33 miners in Copiapó, Chile were trapped underground for 69 days? With only the meagerest of rations, every single one of the men managed to make it out alive. Back in 1973 when “The Severed Arm” was made, I guess folks just weren’t as sturdy. With only a week or so gone by, these guys were already considering going all Hannibal Lecter on one of their own…
Well, all of them except for ol’ Mad Man Herman (the character’s actual name in the film). Like any good Catholic boy, he was determined to stick to the Lenten obligation of no meat on Friday. But did the rules really apply in his situation?
Colin B. Donovan, STL notes that Canon Law requires Catholics between the ages of 18 and 58 to observe the Lenten fast. However, there are some who are exempt. “Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.”
You see, as the Catechism reminds us, observing the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church is meant to ensure “the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” But if you’re making yourself so sick that you can’t focus on the reason you’re fasting in the first place, it kind of defeats the purpose. So, in Herman’s case, being on the brink of starvation, I’m pretty sure the Church would give him a pass if he broke the fast and ate a little meat.
Now, as for where Mad Man obtained said meat, that’s a different story.