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Need for Compassionate Religions

Story ID:8227
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:various various usa
Year:2012
Person:various
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Now I am so glad that my summer cold made it impossible for
me to do much work of any kind. So I picked up Vasu Murti's
wonderful book "They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy." It is like
an encyclopedia of animal concerns and why we should adopt
vegetarianism. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants
to truly learn why we should care about animals.

Sadly, reading it only confirmed for me something which I
have basically come to know for the past 30 years or more-
that the major religions of the world do not presently have
teachings of compassion for the animals, and this despite
having teachings of inspiration from their founders, teachers,
and saints. Compassion to animals is largely ignored by the
Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions. If it were not so,
why is there so much animal cruelty in the world?

It is always good to read compassionate quotes and there are
indeed many to choose from. In fact, Murti's whole book is
wonderfully filled with them, In this particular chapter -
"Christianity and Animal Rights" he chooses two to start his
reflections:

"There is no religion without love, and people may talk
as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not
teach them to be kind to beasts as well as man, it is all a
sham."
---Anna Sewell, author, Black Beauty.

I agree. It is with great sadness that my respect for the
Roman church has diminished considerably over the years. As
a child and young person, I felt that the teaching hierarchy
of the church was almost as perfect as that of Jesus Christ.
I have now been disabused of this faulty thinking and placing
them on pedastals where they did not belong. If, as a church,
they can not recognize by now that they should have produced
a teaching of compassion for animals which would have condemned
CAFOs, dog, cock, and bull fighting, etc. then, in my opinion,
they are not reflecting the kind and gentle Jesus who I am
sure could in no way justify these cruelties and all the rest-
including using innocent animals so cruelly in research and
unnecessary experimentation.

It is beyond sad to come to this realization, but only because
I believe that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic church will I
remain a member. I look to Him for inspiration and guidance,
because I cannot get it from the leaders of the church or, for
that matter, my fellow parishioners.

Abraham Lincoln was not a Catholic to my knowledge, but what an
inspiration to me. Murti uses his quote here as well. It is
one that I have heard often- "I care not for a man's religion
whose dog or cat are not the better for it...I am in favor of
animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a
whole human being."

He brings back memories of a teaching moment long, long ago
when I would ask the fifth or sixth graders I was teaching
to give me reasons why either George Washington or Abraham
Lincoln was their favorite president. Since February honored
both of them, I thought it was a good opportunity for them to
do some reading on their accomplishments. At the time, I did
not know anything about animal rights nor about Lincoln's
compassionate thoughts re the animals. Now, I wish I had, because
certainly that would have been something which beautifully
described the man in his whole world view of creation.


At the time, I was sadly buying into the "Utility Principle" of
St. Thomas Aquinas which said animals were made for our use. I
know longer accept that "teaching" which I consider erroneous.
Thank goodness, I am not living in the Middle Ages. I probably
could be brought up on charges of heresy (another sad chapter in
my church.)

In the case of Washington, I doubt that he much cared about animals
seeing as he didn't even recognize the evils of slavery. Ditto, it
seems the majority of the founding fathers. But, yes. I am grateful
to all of them for the sufferings they endured in the "birthpangs" of
fighting for a new nation. They were not perfect, though none of us
is for that matter, including a saint like Thomas Aquinas.

It is interesting to note that at the time of the birth of our nation
that Dr. Humphrey Primatt, an Anglican Priest in 1776 published "A
Dissertation on the Duty of Mercy and the Sin of Cruelty to Brute
Animals." Murti notes that this may have been the first book devoted
to kindness to animals. He believed then as many of us do today
that cruelty towards animals leads inevitably to human violence and
remarked "..if all the barbarous customs and practices still subsisting
amongst us were decreed to be as illegal as they are sinful, we should
not hear of so many shocking murders and acts as we now do."

I have only begun to scrape the surface of this comprehensive chapter,
but I want to share something beautiful from our comparatively modern
times. On the feast day of St. Francis in October, 1986, the Very
Reverend James Morton in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York
City delivered this message: "We don't own animals, any more than we
own trees or own mountains or seas or, indeed, each other. We don't
own our wives or our husbands or our friends or our lovers. We respect
and behold and we celebrate trees and mountains and seas and husbands
and wives and lovers and children and friends and animals...Our souls
must be poor --must be open--in order to be able to receive, to behold,
to enter into communion with, but not to possess. Our poverty of souls
should allow animals to thrive and to shine and be free and radiate
God's glory."

Beautifuly said, but it sadly reminds me that I have basically never
heard anything like this about how we should treat animals compassion-
ately from any Catholic priest, bishop, or Pope. I am sure they may
have said something compassionately for the animals, and if you can
quote any of them, I know it will be appreciated by me and other
readers. Aside from the saints, I haven't found any of them to quote
from the Murti book.

Sadly, I am closing on an unhappy note for me. I didn't know about
these uncaring actions by some mentioned in this article:

"Influenced by Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, the Church of Rome
maintains that animals lack souls or divinity, even though such a
doctrine contradicts many biblical passages, (Pope John Paul II corrected
this wrong notion before he died.) Previously, during the Synod of
Macon (585 AD) the church had debated whether or not women have souls!
Women in the Western world are finally being recognized as persons in
every sense of the word--social, political, and spiritual. Animals have
yet to be given the same kind of moral consideration."

And lastly, I sadly was unaware of this re four popes:

"Pope Innocent VIII of the Renaissance required that when witches were
burned, their cats be burned with them; Pope Pius IX of the 19th century
forbade the formation of an SPCA in Rome, declaring humans had no duty
to animals; Pope Pius XII of World War II stated that when animals are
killed in slaughterhouses or laboratories,"...their cries should not
arouse unreasonable compassion any more than do red-hot metals undergoing
the blows of the hammer;" and Pope Paul VI in 1972, by blessing a batallion
of Spanish bullfighters, became the first Pope to bestow his benediction
upon one cruelty even the church had condemnned."