Roman Catholicism

A Strange Kind of Kindness – On Catholicism’s Moral Ambiguity toward Animals

Authored by: Kurt Remele

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Animal Ethics

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138592728
eBook ISBN: 9780429489846
Adobe ISBN:


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The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first version of which was published in 1992, contends: “Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. …” (par. 2416). Yet, according to the consecutive paragraph, “kindness” towards animals does not exclude the use of animals for “food and clothing”, “work and leisure”, “medical and scientific experimentation” (par 2417): a strange kind of kindness indeed. The texts quoted from the Catechism express and symptomize the deep moral ambiguity of the Catholic Church towards animal protection. This ambiguity will be analyzed and challenged in my paper. It will be illustrated by the liturgical rite of “The blessing of food” (vernacular: “The consecration of meat”), which is very popular at Easter in (parts of) Austria, Bavaria and South Tyrol. The final part of my paper will grapple with the suspicion that “Catholic culture” might even be more violent – including violence towards animals – than other forms of “Christian culture”. In an essay on baseball the US-American author and radio personality Garrison Keillor portrays a young player called Ronnie: “Ronnie is Catholic, and they have more taste for blood, it seems.” In parentheses Keillor adds: “Was there ever a Methodist bullfighter?” Probably not. But does this signify a general Catholic bloodthirstiness? Probably not.

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