Animals in Catholic Thought: A New Sensitivity?
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In this paper, I shall briefly outline some of the negative influences within the Christian tradition that have some bearing on the moral status of animals. These are principally that animals have no mind or reason, no immortal soul, sentiency, or moral status. These influences have given rise to notions of “instrumentalism” and “humanism” within the Catholic tradition that have eclipsed the moral status of animals. However, countervailing forces are at work weakening the grip of Thomism, and issuing in a general moral sensitivity to animals, as witnessed by the Catholic Catechism, the statements of Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI. Most especially Pope Francis’ insistence that humans should “protect” not only creation, but also individual creatures is probably the most progressive papal statement on animals to date.
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