Polish Congress of Catholic Women and Men‘s ‘Caring for Creation’ Group.
In my opinion, the Catholic Church is deserving of strong criticism in one major area: Her disregard for animals as beings in their own right, that we should treat with love and respect.
Pope Francis’s Encyclical dealing with mankind’s treatment of planet earth doesn’t introduce a new concept regarding animals; he reiterates what the Church has always taught but failed to practice, which is that we should treat animals kindly. Unfortunately, the Church has never conceded rights to animals. Kindness is good, but it is justice that animals want, a recognition that their lives and their sufferings matter.
In sermons I was baptised a Catholic as a baby and during the decades that I have been attending Mass, priests’ sermons have urged me to live a life of kindness and consideration, but only towards my own species.
In the Catechism What the Catechism gives with one hand, it takes back with the other. It tells us that we must be ‘kind’ to animals, but then tells us that we may use animals for our needs – food, clothing, entertainment, research etc… very ambiguous – we need food, but we don’t need meat. We need clothes, but we don’t need wool or leather.
In pastoral letters Statements and letters from the bishops with advice on how to vote in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections and the 2016 EU Referendum contained not one word about animals.
Things have not changed. Although the environment is mentioned these days, animals are not.
On the website of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, there are departments, projects, committees, offices, groups, initiatives aplenty, but I can’t find anything to do with animals. Even under ‘Concerning the Environment’ the whole thrust is on the effect on humans of our abuse of the planet, with barely a nod towards animals.
‘Catholics and God’s Animals, how we fulfil the task of being human’
This Report by Barbara Niedźwiedzka, published May 2023, examines the whole question of the Church and animals.
Barbara is from the Polish Congress of Catholic Women and Men‘s ‘Caring for Creation’ Group, and her Report presents us with the reality of the Catholic attitude to animals. The author is Polish and the Report relates to Poland concerning the statistics, but can be extrapolated to the global Catholic Church concerning attitudes.
It is very relevant in these days of factory farming and environmental crises, but it also shows the theological and humanitarian reasons for respecting animals.
The Report looks into all aspects of the issue, starting with how animals should be part of our moral vista, and how we treat animals today, then looking at why Catholics accept ill treatment of animals.
Barbara looks back at how the Scriptures spoke of animals, how early Christians viewed them and how the Church has presented them in her teachings. She explains the impact of our mistreatment of animals on our health and on the environment, and describes the various ways that Catholics are intimately involved in animal abuse, while other Catholics choose to ignore the whole issue.
If you need a reason not to kill or abuse animals, and obviously most of us do, then I urge you to read this Report.
Virginia Bell, Virginia Bell, a Laudato Si’ Animator, UK
member Catholic Concern for Animals: https://catholic-animals.com/
And Catholic Action for Animals: https://catholicactionforanimals.wordpress.com