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Rethinking Aquinas

Story ID:5689
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Lakewood Ohio USA
Year:2010
Person:various
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On the Catholic calendar (Jan. 28) is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. Greatly
esteemed by the church, he is the writer of the Summa Theologica - which I
believe is the "bible" for theological teachings used in the training of young
seminarians. The priest at the children's mass extolled his "virtues." I
cringed in my seat.

Though recognizing that all saints have very special qualities, I find they
still are human and frail to some extent because they are not God. For me-
I believe that one of St. Thomas' teachings has led to the indifferent posture
assumed by the church re animal suffering.

I concur with a former graduate student of St. Clara University who wrote
"Rethinking Aquinas" in regard to his "utility" principle which says that animals
were made for our use. I have always been taught that everything created
is God's first. We are all His creatures and believing that - animals deserve to be
treated humanely and compassionately.

This, of course is just not the case. I hope many of you saw the Mercy for
Animal's tape which ABC's Brian Ross used as well as his own material re Willet
Dairy Factory Farm in New York. Anyone who did not watch with disgust and
horror re the cruelty meted out to some of the cows as well as to their deplorable
living conditions - in my opinion, has no heart.

Martha Rosenberg on Oped.com also wrote a compelling piece re the dairy and
prefaced her article by asking Gov. Patterson of N.Y. to shut down this cruel dairy
factory farm. Mercy for Animals has a tape on the internet for anyone who
missed seeing some of the clips on ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer or
Nightline with Brian Ross later in the evening. I think it was great that this
made the national news. Some of us think it's about time.

Re the "Rethinking Aquinas" article, it can be found on the internet. I am grateful
that his thoughts were not squelched by a Catholic University. If he had written
something like this in the Middle Ages, I shutter to think what would have
happened to him. I shutter to think what would have happened to me too for
approving his message.

This week I read an article by Dr. Richard Ryder of the UK in the Catholic Ark.
He is one of the pioneers of the animal liberation movement (which I have
reservations about) but otherwise applaud him for his work on behalf of animals.
He also invented the term "specieism" which claims that one species is superior
to another.

He said that in 1970 at his home near Oxford he thought about the huge gap
between the way humans worry (quite rightly) about how we treat other humans
but how relatively little concern we showed to the other animals. (Yes, he is
a Darwinian.) Elaborating, he said "We kill them, chase them for sport, imprison
them, torture them for science and eat them and nobody worries. It seemed totally
disproportionate! The scientific evidence suggested strongly that dogs and cats
and monkeys and pigs and hundreds of other species could suffer pain and distress
almost exactly like humans, so what was the real difference?"

I know what Catholics will say - we have immortal souls and they don't. Is that
a reason to be cruel to them? Even Pope John Paul II acknowledged that even
animals have the breath of life (soul). Now the church is trying to put another spin
on what he meant. However, the real issue in my opinion should be that if we
are so specially blest by God - would He not expect us to treat our "smaller" animal
brothers and sisters with kindness and compassion? For me, it would be a
resounding yes, but of course it doesn't seem to be the position of the church or
the majority of Christians. Even the Catholic media frowns on my concern for
animals and it is rare now when a Catholic editor will publish my thoughts in this
regard. I was saddened when three compassionate editors left their positions.
They were open, kind and receptive. Were they dismissed because of this? I
hope not.

And today on Care2 was a petition asking us to vote on whether we thought the
churches should be compassionate to animals. The person who started this
petition was shocked when she asked the Episcopal priest to not offer lobster
and pig for their social. She said he was aggravated by this and walked away
from her. This was not surprising to me. When I tried to broach the topic
of vegetarianism to a Catholic priest - he cut me off and said that Jesus ate
the paschal lamb. End of conversation. Some of us believe that Jesus had
no need or desire to eat the paschal lamb because he was the paschal lamb-
shortly to be slaughtered on the wood of the cross.

I am waiting and praying for the day when a true compassionate teaching
will supplant the Thomistic utility principle which seems to empower us
to do whatever we want to our fellow living creatures - the animals.