In April 2005 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was chosen as Pope Benedict XVI. His Holiness is a gentle man who has spoken passionately in the past about the exploitation of God’s creatures at the hands of man.
In an interview for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in which Pope Benedict was asked about the teachings of the Church concerning non humans, he said, “That is a very serious question. At any rate, we can see that they [animals] are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God’s creatures.”
He went further and commented on specifics of animal exploitation, “Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”
If you believe in God, then it is indisputable that animals are God’s creatures too.
Cardinal Ratzinger was echoing Pope John Paul II, who went even further and declared animals have souls, and people must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.
He went on to say that all animals are “fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect” and that they are “as near to God as men are.”
“By their mere existence they bless Him and give Him glory. Thus men owe them kindness.”
St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of animals said it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.
Catholics and Protestants spring from the same roots, they read the same messages of compassion and empathy in the Bible, and they worship the same God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It is therefore reasonable to assume that God’s message to all Christian denominations would be one and the same, and that the words of two Pope’s should be enough to deter even the most bloodthirsty men of the cloth.
Blood sports have a long association with the Church in the UK, and long before the hunting ban in 2004, members of the clergy were riding to hounds, blessing the day and drinking from the stirrup cup.
The notorious Reverend John "Jack" Russell (1795-1883) (after whom the Jack Russell terrier is named) was a passionate proponent of foxhunting and it is said he even wore his hunting breeches and boots under his robes when giving a sermon.
Difficult to equate the Rev Russell with a God who cares for all living things, when he bred terriers to fight below ground with foxes too exhausted to run any further.
One of the first demonstrations to expose the hypocrisy of some men of God took place on Sunday September 26th 1976 at St. Andrew's Church, Boscombe near Salisbury.
The Reverend Robin Ray was the Joint-Master and Huntsman of the local Courtenay Tracey Otter Hunt.
He was also a follower of the New Forest beagles which were used to track and kill hares whilst the hunters followed on foot. Anyway, on that particular Sunday, a large group of hunt saboteurs attended church with a few placards stating ‘only rotters hunt otters’.
They also pinned a ‘Hounds off our Wildlife’ note to the altercloth.
The police were called and the protesters were removed, but the message that hunting has no place in the lives of those who preach the Word of God was made loud and clear.
The following is an excerpt taken from the archives of (http://www.acigawis.org.uk/bloodsports/hunting-and-the-clergy)
On March 20th 1977 on the other side of England there was a protest by some 50 supporters of the HSA at the Mothering Sunday service conducted by 69-year-old Reverend Eric Wheeler at St. Mary's Church, Steeple Bumpstead in Essex.
This time the conservationists carried banners proclaiming: "There is nothing sicker than a hunting vicar" and "Hunting is a Clerical Error."
HSA Secretary, Dave Wetton, explained to journalists that his group felt that the Reverend Wheeler's sporting interests, in particular his lifelong passion for hunting and his membership of the local Puckeridge and Thurlow Foxhounds, were totally contrary to Christianity and to what the Church represents.
Before the demonstration the Reverend Wheeler defended blood sports saying: "Nature is a hard way to live. There has been an ancient order since the dawn of life and, though it may seem cruel, there are no geriatric hospitals out in the wild. I don't feel I have to justify anything. Christianity has nothing to do with wild animals”
A group of about 20 conservationists had joined the congregation for the service and had sat quietly for some 15 minutes.
However, when the Reverend Wheeler was about to read the first lesson the conservationists started to sing their own version of the well-known hymn "All things bright and beautiful". This was as follows: -
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
Your vicar kills them all
At this members of the congregation shouted at the conservationists and the Reverend Wheeler summoned two police officers to eject them from the church urging the police to "pinch the lot" and saying: "Out you go. I will not have anybody in my church interfering with divine worship."
He then explained to his congregation: "They have committed an act against the Lord", and the congregation chanted to the anti-hunting activists: "Out, out you dirty louts!".
After the service Reverend Wheeler was escorted from the church by police officers to the accompaniment of jeers from the conservationists and cheers from his parishioners. Reverend Wheeler later explained his views to journalists: "What happened today had no influence on me whatever. When they try and compare hunting and Christian teaching they are talking about two different worlds."
A local leader of the HSA, Tom Halliday from Cambridge said afterwards: "We can't see how a man can kill animals one day and next day preach about love and goodness. We hope the Church will put some pressure on this vicar."
Astounding as it may seem, hunting is alive and well among some of the clergy today, and whilst many priests do not follow hounds, quite a few are reluctant to ban hunting on church land, or deal with vicars who like to hunt.
One such reverend is Neil Patterson, who has been accused of lacking Christian values after a video of him riding to hounds with the South Herefordshire was shown prior to arrests for cruelty to foxes of ten hunt employees.
The hunt staff were videoed throwing this year’s fox cubs alive into a kennel full of snarling hounds.
A petition calling for Archdeacon Paddy Benson to sack the Reverend Patterson has so far fallen on deaf ears.
Reverend Paddy has not only failed to condemn hunting; he has also said he will not interfere with hunting on Church land.
Anyone who would like to sign the petition may do so here. https://www.change.org/p/the-diocese-for-the-church-to-sack-reverend-neil-patterson
Country lover, amateur naturalist and fox lover fighting to preserve the ban on hunting