The Task of Moral Theology vis-a-vis Non-Human Animals

“As moral theologians, our first responsibility in writing about the moral treatment of non-human animals is to understand and communicate God’s story about them. That story, as I understand it, is first and foremost a story of God’s providential love and concern for each species of animal, including the individuals of each species. And an aspect of God’s providential love are the ends of each animal, ends by which it flourishes as a member of its species. On this understanding, part of human stewardship of our fellow creatures consists in seeking to understand the flourishing of various species and the conditions un- der which various species flourish. And when possible, to facilitate or at least seek to avoid diminishing the capacity of God’s creatures to flourish according to their kind.” – John Berkman “From Theological Speciesism to a Theological Ethology: Where Catholic Moral Theology Needs to Go” in Journal of Moral Theology July 2014

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New Things to Check out…

  • Charles Camosy answers your questions about animals and Christian ethics over at The Dish. In the first video, Camosy makes the case for factory farming as a “structural sin”. In the second and third videos, he tackles the question “Should Christians Eat Animals?” More to come soon!
  • An interesting story about a dog named Guinefort, who was venerated as a martyr and a saint in the 13th century (albeit unofficially)
  • The AAR’s annual meeting is coming up, and there will be a panel discussion of David Clough’s book On Animals (Vol. 1): Systematic Theology. So stoked!
  • Hampton Creek Food’s new all plant-based egg substitute “Beyond Eggs” has been getting a lot of attention lately. I’m interested.

Humphrey Primatt on the “Sin of Cruelty”

“Pain is pain, whether it be inflicted on man of on beast; and the creature that suffers it, whether man or beast, being sensible of the misery of it whilst it lasts, suffers evil; and the sufferance of evil, unmeritedly, unprovokedly, where no offense has been given; and no good end can possibly be answered by it, but merely, to exhibit power or gratify malice, is Cruelty and Injustice in him that occasions it…. We may pretend to what religion we please, but cruelty is atheism. We may make our boast of Christianity, but cruelty is infidelity. We may trust to our orthodoxy, but cruelty is the worst of heresies.” – Humphrey Primatt, 1776

What is a Charitable Heart?

“What is a charitable heart? It is a heart which is burning with charity for the whole of creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons – for all creatures. He who has such a heart cannot see or call to mind a creature without his eyes becoming filled with tears by reason of the immense compassion which seizes his heart; a heart which is softened and can no longer bear to see or learn from others of any suffering, even the smallest pain, being inflicted upon a creature. This is why such a man never ceases to pray also for the animals.”

-St. Isaac the Syrian, cited in Vladimir Lossky’s, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.