Do the American Bishops hate fasting?

I was shell shocked today by an omission I can hardly believe. At Mass, I heard the Gospel about the possessed boy out of whom the Apostles could not drive the demon. We all know the tale:  Our Lord drives the demon out, and the Apostles ask, “Why could we not drive out the demon?”  And Our Lord’s answer should be second nature to everyone: “this kind can be driven only be prayer and fasting.”

The problem is that priest never said: “and fasting.”

There I was waiting for the Gospel to finish, but the priest was done! What happened? Where’d the fasting go? It bothered me all day, but I know this priest well enough to know he read what was in the text. So I looked on the USCCB daily mass readings site. Today’s reading is found here. And sure enough, the phrase is missing:



Sure enough… it’s not there. I thought to myself, “well, maybe it was only in St. Matthew’s Gospel.”  No. I went home and pulled my trusty 1955 New Catholic Edition Confraternity Bible out and here’s what it reported:


Yep…  “and fasting” is there.

Why? Why would the Bishops authorize a Gospel text missing such a fundamental phrase as this? Why do they make fasting optional anymore? Friday penance, ember days, and all sorts of other ways to fast are gone. And now they are erasing it from the Gospels?

Surely they jest…

The norms for exorcism that existed prior to the new ICEL version (that allegedly caused demons to laugh at the weak text), had a norm for the priest that said this:

“10. Therefore, he will be mindful of the words of our Lord (Matthew 17:20), to the effect that there is a certain type of evil spirit who cannot be driven out except by prayer and fasting. Therefore, let him avail himself of these two means above all for imploring the divine assistance in expelling demons, after the example of the holy fathers; and not only himself, but let him induce others, as far as possible, to do the same.”

(Norms for Exorcism, as cited in Fr. John A. Hardon, What is Exorcism and How is it Performed? 1996 – available online here )

If there really are Judases among them, as Pope Paul VI and Fr. Hardon were cited as saying in the recent “Father Hardon: Why the devil is so strong today“, then it may make sense as to why a Judas would delete this key phrase.

But, really…  did anybody at the USCCB actually read that translation before issuing it? It nearly sounds like a bad joke to think that the phrase “and fasting” is gone. They wouldn’t make a joke of the Gospel, surely not. But yet, no right minded person would advocate deleting the phrase so well known and upon which so many doctors of the church have commented…  would they?

I don’t understand it. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three fundamental things to do, and of those, almsgiving and fasting are said to be the wings on which prayer flies to Heaven. Why is it always erased, forgotten, or minimized? Do the United States Bishops hate fasting?

This article, Do the American Bishops hate fasting? is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.
  • Wow. Were it a typo, one would think it would have been addressed by now.

  • Adam Frey says:

    Odd. If you go to the full text of Mark 9 in the online NABRE, it also ends “in prayer.” However, there’s a footnote to 9:29 which reads “This kind can only come out through prayer: a variant reading adds “and through fasting.”” So it’s acknowledged, but glaringly absent from a traditional standpoint.

    Checking Biblehub (a website I like to use for cross-translation), it looks to be split 50/50 on whether “and fasting” should be added. (See: Weirdly, the KJV uses it. Also, the old Douhay-Rheims uses it. Maybe an expert on Biblical study could tell us why the Church prefers one translation over the other…

  • Adam Frey says:

    For what it’s worth: I googled “Should Mark 9:29 use the words “and fasting”?” and found this article: I can’t vouch for the veracity of the article–I mean, it’s a Yahoo piece–but it’s *an* answer. I suppose we should start this discussion by acknowledging that there’s a disagreement over whether the text should add those two words or not. (I’m sure the answer is “yes, it should,” but I’d like to know how we get there while maintaining the integrity of the text.) We should then ask why the American Church chose one translation over the other. It could be something sinister, but it could also be that the translators believed that the shorter translation was more faithful to Mark’s original text. Or it could be that the translators didn’t put greater thought into whether going with the shorter version would detract from the traditional emphasis on fasting. Or maybe the adversary wanted them to go with that answer for a literal translation with spiritually weakened consequences. It’s a complicated question. How about polling somebody at the American Church’s translation office and getting the real scoop?

    • Adam,

      Thanks for the well intended help, but yahoo answers isn’t really authoritative on the proper matter for the mass readings.

      The point I made by referencing the Confraternity New Catholic Bible is that that is an authoritative Catholic source, as is the vulgate, the Douay-Rheims, and the Septuagint. They all have the phrase “and fasting.”

      Catholic renditions as well as Byzantine and Orthodox have “and fasting.” Doctors of the Church commenting on this, such as Cyril of Alexandria, have the phrase “and fasting”

      There’s really no reasonable reason for them to change it. There wasn’t some sudden alien text found in the last twenty years that suddenly upended St. Mark.

  • Steve Koob says:

    It isn’t just the American translation. The Vatican’s English version is the same as the USCCB’s

  • Darren Szwajkowski says:

    I’m at a lost for words that “and fasting” is only there if one looks at the footnotes.
    Our Lady of Snows, pray for us and most of all for good and holy priests.

  • Marc Clunies-Ross says:

    This should NEVER surprise us (i.e. true Catholics).

    There is only one fundamental, guiding principle in all this. He is who is not with Me (i.e. Christ), is against Me. It is black or white. Modern day Catholics must follow either real Catholicism or fake Catholicism. This should immediately come to mind – especially for Catholics who seriously meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary (the relevant one being the 4th Joyful mystery, where the aged Simeon prophesied that Christ is set for the resurrection and the fall of many in Israel, etc).

    Real Catholicism teaches us and exhorts us to love and practise prayer AND THE REST:- fasting, penance, mortification, self-denial, dying to the world, dying even to self – in a word – love of the holy cross. Real Catholicism teaches us that suffering is precious and has redemptive value. Real Catholicism goes further- teaching us not to always try to escape suffering, but to sanctify our sufferings. To have a constant remembrance of the sufferings of Jesus (which unimaginably exceeds our sufferings), to suffer in union with Jesus, to offer our sufferings for the expiation for our sins, and also for the conversion of sinners. This is zeal for the salvation of souls. Why did God the Son become incarnate in the flesh? So that \He would have a human body with which to die on the cross – to save souls from eternal perdition. And He Himself told us that unless we do penance, we shall likewise perish. Read the life of any saint, and you will find that the most basic, common form of penance is fasting.

    Fake Catholicism talks about prayer – but leaves out the rest. Because “the rest” is negative. It can only think about relieving suffering, soothing feelings. It has NO conception of the need/value of penance, nor of the value of redemptive suffering. In fact, it disparages penance.

    Our Lord told us that His kingdom is not of this world; St Alphonsus Liguori wrote that the maxims of the world are opposed to those of the Gospel. The world says: “make money, eat, drink, make merry, be famous/popular, get even,etc” while the Gospel says: “be poor in spirit, learn of Me to be meek and humble of heart, deny yourself, take up your cross daily, etc”. Couldn’t be any clearer that these two principles are directly opposed to each other.

    And it should be painfully obvious that real Catholicism (the traditional, apostolic teaching) is the polar opposite of the fake Catholicism (the modern,form tolerated by Post-Vatican II authorities). They are opposite in form, appearance, principles, practices and ethos. And yet there are many who cannot see the obvious. No wonder Our Lord said “they have eyes but they see not”.

    Long story short: fake Catholicism does NOT believe in the traditional Catholic faith which comes to us from the Apostles. It is a new religion, which explains why it needs new translations, new biblical texts which delete “unsuitable” words/phrases.

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