Mackerel snapper

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"Mackerel snapper" is a sectarian slur for Roman Catholics, originating in the United States in the 1850s. It referred to the Catholic discipline of Friday abstinence from red meat and poultry, for which fish was substituted. That practice distinguished Catholics from other Christians, especially in North America, where Protestant churches prevailed and Catholics tended to be poor immigrants from Italy, Poland, and Ireland.

Catholics are still called to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and every Friday of Lent. Fridays throughout the year are days of penance, but forms of penance may be substituted at the discretion of national bishops' conferences, and may include works of charity instead of abstaining from meat.


One example of the term's use comes from a letter to University of Notre Dame's president Father Matthew Walsh from an anonymous Klansman who was upset with the actions of Notre Dame students in breaking up a Klan rally in South Bend.

The term was also used by character in the motion picture, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, set in the South Pacific during 1944 (the screenplay compares the rituals and commitment of the Roman Catholic Church and the United States Marine Corps). In the film, the unchurched U.S. Marine Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchum) refers...
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