The School of Compassion: a Roman Catholic theology of animals
By Deborah M Jones
Leominister: Gracewing, 2009, ISBN 9780852447314, 2009, £14.95.
"In The School of Compassion, Deborah M Jones engages with the Roman Catholic Church’s contemporary attitude towards animals. This is the fullest sustained study of the subject in that faith tradition. In the First Part, the book explores the history of the Church’s ideas about animals. These were drawn largely from significant readings of Old and New Testament passages and inherited elements of classical philosophies. Themes emerge, such as the renewal of creation in the apocryphal legends, in the Desert Fathers, and in Celtic monasticism. The spirituality of St Francis of Assisi, the legal status of animals, and liturgies of the Eastern Catholic Churches are also looked at for the light they shed on the Church’s thinking. The British Catholic tradition – which is relatively favourable to animals – is considered in some detail. The Second Part forensically examines the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s four paragraphs which relate particularly to animals. In the Third Part, major contemporary issues are raised, such as stewardship, anthropocentrism, and gender. These are considered, as are certain leading ethical theories. Some of the teachings of Aquinas are revisited, as are ideas such as that of human beings created in the ‘image of God’, and, with a nod to the Orthodox Tradition, as the ‘priests of creation’. They help to build up a consistent and authentically Roman Catholic theology which can be viewed as a school of compassion towards animals. From the Foreword, by Andrew Linzey: “The joy of this book is that it helps Catholic Christians to re-engage with the issue of animals by utilising the riches from within their own tradition. Its author does not minimise the dominant negative voices, or pretend that all is well in the way Catholic authorities have sometimes formulated official positions, but it is the work of a faithful Catholic theologian opening up the tradition to an issue of increasing moral sensitivity. Tradition has been defined as the “seedbed of creativity”. For Catholics this should always mean searching and developing the tradition so that the fullness of truth can be apprehended. And what Dr Deborah Jones has discovered is a remarkably more complex, infinitely richer, and considerably more animal-friendly Catholic tradition than might be supposed by the usual caricatures. This book is the fullest systematic treatment of the moral status of animals within the Roman Catholic tradition. It is the result of painstaking scholarship, wide reading, and, most of all, insightful theological exploration. It builds on the work of others, like myself, and provides a stream of fresh perspectives on our lives with God’s other creatures. It is a deeply Catholic work, and I pray that it strikes a deep chord within the Catholic community here and overseas.”
(The Rev Professor Andrew Linzey DD is the Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and author of over 20 books on animal theology.)
Concern for Animals: from a Catholic perspective
By Deborah M Jones
London: Catholic Truth Society (publishers to the Holy See) (CTS Explanations series of booklets), (www.cts-online.org.uk) ISBN 9781860826368, 2010, £1.95.
Do animals have souls? Do they go to heaven? Do they have rights? Should Catholics really eat meat or wear fur? This booklet explores these questions through Scripture and the stories of many Saints whose lives are remembered also for their care towards our fellow creatures. The teachings of the Popes and of the Catechism lead us to a renewed appreciation of God’s creation and our privileged but accountable place within it.
(CTS Explanations is a series explaining in everyday language Catholic teaching on a range of current pressing moral and ethical issues.)