Who gets to define Catholic doctrine? That should be an easy one -- the Catholic Church defines doctrine for itself through its catechism, liturgy and through the statements of its magisterium.
This truism gets tricky for newspapers when individuals who are Catholic make claims about Catholicism that do not square with the church’s formal teachings. It is the problem of self-definition. I may believe myself to be the pope and call myself the true Bishop of Rome, but does that make it true?
Newspaper reports of female Catholic priests or of same-sex Catholic blessings are being faithful to the facts when they stated the participants claim to be Catholic and that their actions are in accord with Catholic teachings (or should be in accord if the teachings were only brought up to date). Yet these assertions conflict with the truth claims of the institutional church.
These Pontius Pilate-like musings were prompted by an article in the Limerick Post about animal cruelty and Catholicism. The story entitled “Anger over priest’s ‘offensive’ blessing of coursing club grounds in County Limerick” has animal rights activists defining the church’s teaching on animal cruelty. Are these claims correct? Is the Limerick Post allowing the activists to set the norms of Catholic moral teaching?
The lede begins:
ANIMAL rights protesters in Limerick are up in arms over a priest blessing a field used by Glin Coursing Club last weekend.
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports (ICABS) have not only complained to Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy, about what they deem as a “grotesque blessing”, but have also tweeted Pope Francis about the matter. In their message to the Vatican, ICABS asks the Pontiff to “act to stop clergy involvement in Ireland’s cruel hare coursing”.
An ancient form of hunting, coursing is the use of dogs who chase their prey by sight and not be scent to catch game. In the UK the sport is regulated by statute, limiting the dog’s prey to rabbits and rats.
The article reports the ICABS has protested against the participation of a Catholic priest in a ceremony blessing a field used by a local coursing club, writing to the bishop and the pope with their complaints, saying his participation in the event violates Catholic moral teaching.
In a letter to Bishop Leahy, the animal rights group pointed out that the blessing at Glin Coursing Club’s new grounds is in direct contravention of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church which clearly states that “it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer and die needlessly.”
“We also pointed to the part of the Catechism which says that ‘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’,” explained Aideen Yourell of ICABS. “The blessing of a hare coursing field by a Catholic priest is a gross misuse of a blessing and should not be permitted in your diocese,” ICABS stated in a message to Bishop Leahy,” she added.
A second animal rights group is then quoted in the story in opposition to the blessing.
Continue reading "Rabbit hunting and God" by George Conger.