Funeral for… what?

No wonder the Church is struggling in Belgium.

From Tradition in Action and Amor de la Verdad:

Catholic funeral for a dog in Belgium

It happened on April 22, 2015 in the city of Sambreville, Belgium, in St. Victor Church of Auvelais. [D. Namur] The parish priest, Fr. Francis Lallemand, took the initiative of celebrating the first religious service for a dog that we know of. He opened his church for the burial religious and preached a homily during the ceremony, above.

A white crib placed in front of the altar had the cremated remains of a Chihuahua called “Miss Chiwa,” which had been a model for dog “clothes” in magazines and TV advertisements.

During the ceremony a woman identified as the “mother” of the dog – actually its owner – delivered a speech recalling the “great deeds” of the dog, as it were a human being. Fr. Lallemand was at her side to encourage her.


There are photos.  And video.

Good grief.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Ivan says:

    Parce eis, Domine.

  2. gramma10 says:

    Just have to say…in Belgium euthanasia is accepted for old and young alike.
    Yes, seems as if the people over there are being kinder to dead dogs rather than being kind to alive people!
    Insanity prevails and it seems no one cares. I believe that the denial in this world only perpetuates the craziness.
    The pink elephant in the living room is growing larger and is being less and less noticed.
    Dear Jesus, please help us!

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    When my parrot Earl Grey dies, I would like a traditional Latin sung funeral for him, but maybe at a park or something, because you cannot have a pet funeral at a church. And there doesn’t have to be a priest necessarily (maybe a deacon? jk). And it’s for a parrot so it’s not really a funeral, and although he possibly deserves to go to purgatory I don’t think they allow parrots so there is not a lot of point praying for his soul. But his species sometimes lives to be 60 years old, so he may have to arrange my funeral. Seriously, when people have companion animals for a long time this has a dimension of at least being a gift from God to be thankful for. Who would swoop in to chew notches in the cover of practically every paperback that passes through my apartment if not Earl Grey? Who would say “hey-lo” when I come home if not he? Who else would descend on my head like a dove, then bite me?

  4. pelerin says:

    I wondered when this item of news would reach the English speaking blogosphere! It shocked me when I read it and saw the video. Some of the congregation were even making the Sign of the Cross in front of the dog basket. The original report I read stated that the remains of the dog were not present, just his basket but then we all know that reports can differ depending on their source.

    Mentioning this to a dog-loving friend she could see nothing wrong with giving a dog a ‘funeral’ in a church and admitted that she actually ‘baptizes’ her own pets. And she is a devout practising Catholic.

  5. drohan says:

    What can we expect when we allow our liturgy to be made a spectacle. Prayers for the re-conversion of Europe.

    Although there are some glimmers of hope. I went to an FSSP parish near Paris last summer and there was a full church, and Father actually spoke on the Hard Identity things we’d all like to hear from our pastors. Most of the parishioners were under 30, probably 300 of them, and another mass started right after the first got over, with another full house.

    I think the secular humanists in a few years, maybe a decade or so, will be scratching their heads wanting attempting to understand what happened to the youth. The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways.

  6. kay says:

    Wait….before I make a decision on this, I’d like to know how exactly what the woman’s owner meant when it is said “recalling the “great deeds” of the dog, as it were a human being”.

    Did the dog do community service at the local hospital for children or the elderly at an old folks home on a weekly basis? Did the dog ever help the local police? These would be ‘good deeds’ and more than 80% of the populace do, so if St. Francis who went around talking to birds and small animals because they were the perfect product of a loving God, then there are certain times for a ceremony commemorating the animal’s life. Doesn’t have to be in the church, could be outside under God’s blue sky, but some service animals, IMO, can have a few words said in their behalf, if only for closure for the family and the remembrance of the purity of spirit that God made in the animal who helped humanity.

    On a totally different note: Anything that brings a person closer to God, I’m for, but to have it IN the church? Maybe the neighborhood is bad and there are no parks to say the words in the wild. I don’t know the full story. How long was this woman a parishioner of this church? That also plays a role I’d think in the request.

    Who am I to judge after all?

  7. Pingback: Canis Mortuus Est | Mundabor's Blog

  8. John Grammaticus says:

    reminds me of the doggy funerals from “A Fish Called Wanda”, Angus Dei and everything …

  9. VeritasVereVincet says:

    I have to wonder if this is the natural result of the common practice of getting a pet instead of having a child, and then treating it exactly as though it were a child. Bizarre.

  10. Justalurkingfool says:

    Doggone it!


  11. A.D. says:

    Elizabeth D,
    That was good! : – )

  12. Legisperitus says:

    I think someone has given that which is holy to dogs.

  13. Grumpy Beggar says:

    VeritasVereVincet says:

    “I have to wonder if this is the natural result of the common practice of getting a pet instead of having a child, and then treating it exactly as though it were a child. Bizarre”.

    I’m inclined to agree. I don’t say exclusively, although perhaps commonly: It’s like a void is being filled with the wrong type of being. I saw it happen with some relatives of mine – in their successive dogs. These relatives happened to be very loving people but had no children of their own (not their choice though – they were unable to have children). The excesses strike a familiar chord.

    Although the description under the French video claims Sylvana et Josse were so saddened by the death of their pooch that they decided to organize “. . .une véritable messe totalement surréaliste . . .” ( roughly ” a true, totally surrealistic Mass”) , there is no evidence in the video that any Mass was actually celebrated- no discernible activity around the altar at all. Neither could I see one clear image of a stole on the priest in the video. From what I could see, it looks as if he was most likely only wearing an alb.

    In case anyone didn’t (understandably) do too much more research , this dog was married in the first chihuahua marriage ever (Lord save us).

    Where I come from, “mother of a dog” has never been perceived as a compliment.

    The mentality of the people is something to be lamented though. The person filming the video solicited the opinion of an attendee outside the church who identified herself as a friend, and she basically said that they weren’t forcing anyone to go/attend and that (roughly paraphrased) “Churches are deserted today. We have to find ways to fill them without criticizing people. I’m not a believer but I’m here.”

    I’m not sure Tadition in Action got all the info right – they said

    “. . .He opened his church for the burial . . .”

    Whatever was in the basket, it wasn’t the remains of the dog.
    . . . The “mother of the dog” says that the remains of the pooch are going to be brought home and kept at home. . . after the taxidermist has finished with them in a few months. (I can’t watch the video anymore – once was already too many times , but here’s from a press clipping [who also claim “Ils lui organisaient, ce mercredi après-midi, une véritable messe dans l’église d’Auvelais. “- which appears to be a lie/error.- No Mass at all is apparent in the videos and photos]):

    « Ce sera une cérémonie de chiens. Son corps ne sera pas là, car il va être empaillé, mais nous porterons son petit lit blanc, avec une photo posée dessus. . .»

    Some animals make great pets and they can be quite therapeutic and Scripture says “the just man takes care of his beast”, but what we’re reading/seeing here is both excessive and abusive.

    On a lighter note:
    Given all the pretty little doggie outfits miss Chiwa was modelling , shame on all those irresponsible dog owners who haven’t bought one and who instead let their pooches run around totally naked on the end of their leash.

    They got the wrong dog guys. . . If any dog had ever deserved a funeral , I really think it should’ve been this one.

  14. Faith says:

    The dog must have left the parish a lot of money.

  15. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Early on in the magnificent novel A Confederacy of Dunces the protagonist leaves the Church because the priest refused a funeral for his dog. IIRC that book was set in 1961.

  16. Giuseppe says:

    Note to any pastors of churches named after St, Bernard: beware of similar requests.

  17. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I think someone has given that which is holy to dogs.”

    Aw, com’on…that was worth a gold star…or a golden bone.

    The Chicken

  18. amenamen says:

    Arnold Ziffel, beloved houseguest and dutiful servant of Fred and Doris Ziffel, has passed away after a long period of time when, neighbors recall, he had put on a lot of extra weight. There was a short viewing at the Hooterville Safeway. The funeral will be held in the Ziffels home. A metal coffin has been prepared with pineapples and a light glaze. The funeral will last for four hours at 350 degrees. A reception will follow.

  19. jltuttle says:

    I’m particularly ashamed for the men in those pictures. Can you image the men of old mourning a Chihuahua? Shameful.

  20. Matthias1 says:

    I shouldn’t but: A favorite joke of my uncle’s:

    A man’s dog died and he goes to the priest asking for a funeral for his dog. The priest refuses explaining that the sacrament are reserved for human beings. The man is persistent, but the priest still refuses. Finally, the man says, “that’s a real shame because I was going to make a $10,000 donation in the dog’s memory.” The priest replies: “O, you didn’t tell me the dog was Catholic!”

  21. FrAnt says:

    Why wouldn’t they have a funeral for a dog? Isn’t Belgium the same place where children can be euthanized?

  22. Imrahil says:

    John Grammaticus, exactly my thought. “Canis mortuus est.”

    There were times you could joke about absurdities because you could expect your audience to recognize them as absurd.

    (Just as, on a different topic, Billy Wilder could coin the dialogue:

    D: We can’t marry.
    O: Why not?
    D: Because I can’t have children.
    O: We’ll adopt some.
    D: Ah, hang it all (takes off his periwig): I am a man.
    O: Nobody is perfect.

    Happy the time when this was still a matter for laughing and jesting.)

  23. Bosco says:

    And yet St. Francis of Assisi preached to the birds and addressed animals as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’.
    I may be mistaken, but there is a ‘Blessing of the Animals’ imparted in a liturgical or quasi-liturgical context.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think the funeral for a dog is over the top, but animals were in Paradise before the Fall of Adam when, and only when, death entered the world.

  24. Bosco says:

    Here is some perspective offered by the noted theologian, Father John Hardon, S.J.:

    Ask Father Hardon
    Catholic Faith
    Vol. 5 – #3, May / June 1999
    by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

    “Q. Is it correct to say that pets do not go to Heaven after death because animals do not have immortal souls? Are religious medals for pets wrong? Do they lead to misunderstanding about animals, souls, and Heaven? —I.R., Michigan

    A. Pets, as pets, do not go to Heaven. But animals and such like beings may be said to be brought to Heaven because, after the last day, they can serve as part of the joys of Heaven. In other words, animals and such like creatures may be said to be brought to Heaven to serve as part of our Heavenly joys. Clearly, we do not need pets to provide happiness in Heaven. But pets and such like creatures will be brought to Heaven to become part of our creaturely happiness in the Heavenly kingdom. Consequently, we may say that animals and such like creatures may be brought to Heaven by God to enable us to enjoy them as part of our creaturely happiness in Heavenly beatitude.

    Absolutely speaking, medals and such like religious articles may be part of Heavenly beatitude. Certainly, they do not serve the same purpose as other creatures do in Heaven. However, while they do not serve the purpose which medals do on earth, they may nevertheless be part of God’s mysterious providence in our Heavenly beatitude.

    Religious medals for pets are not wrong. The whole question is whether an object, like a religious medal, is used for an appropriate purpose. There is nothing per se wrong with having a religious object on an animal. Clearly, a religious object is not necessary for animals. But there is nothing inherently wrong with having a religious object on or near an irrational being.

    Certainly a religious medal attached to or associated with an irrational animal can be misunderstood. We cannot say that a religious object helps an animal because somehow the animal is spiritually inspired by the religious object. But there is nothing wrong with having a religious object on or near an animal. The benefit would always come through the mind of some intelligent being who is inspired by the religious object.”

  25. Supertradmum says:

    God will NOT be mocked…..

  26. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Grumpy Beggar,

    My French isn’t up to much: what do we know about the woman presided at Miss Chiwa’s wedding? Is she considered a ‘womynpriest’? It’s clearly not Fr. Francis, unless ‘he’ (?) has undergone a lot of plastic surgery since then.

  27. kimberley jean says:

    I suppose I should be shocked and appalled by this but I can’t muster up the energy. This is our Church today. As far as I can see, anything and everything no matter how ridiculous is permitted in the name of being pastoral except reverence, the pursuit of holiness and Tradition. Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.

  28. mysticalrose says:

    Well, I’ll trot out the reductio ad FI: seriously, the FI’s are under suspicion and this sort of thing gets a pass?? I can’t joke about it. I’m praying to St. Michael.

  29. Charles E Flynn says:

    Do we take off additional points for the eulogy?

  30. kiwiinamerica says:

    I always thought Evelyn Waugh’s “The Loved One” was the last word on the exaggerated, morbid humanizing of pets but at least that was fiction……

    Was “Miss Chiwa” buried at “The Happier Hunting Ground”?

    “Your little ………(insert name)………is wagging her tail in heaven tonight, thinking of you.”

    Life imitating art.

  31. anachy says:

    Dogs don’t NEED Masses said for them because, unlike people, they don’t need our prayers once deceased. From reading the various comments, it would seem that this chihuahua didn’t actually have a funeral Mass said for her after all. Even so, for those who think funerals of any sort for dogs are absurd, you might want to take it up with the police. Google “funeral for K-9” or “police dog funeral” and see what you turn up. In short order, you’ll pull up stories and videos of funerals for K-9s Rocco, Sultan, Koko, Ben, and Kye, among many, many others. Over 1,000 people turned out in Pittsburgh for Rocco’s funeral, streets were closed for police motorcades, and there was all the usual fanfare that accompanies police funerals. Ditto for other K-9 funerals. I hardly think, either, that these K-9s are “child substitutes,” or that they are honored in this way simply because of their utility. Heck, they don’t even have to die in the line of duty to have funerals. Police dogs that have died from cancer, or been euthanized because of old age and infirmity have also had the elaborate funerals. So, if people who have funerals for their pets are crazy, what does that say about the police?

  32. Grumpy Beggar says:

    There is a longer video HERE in which we can clearly see that there was no Mass, and that the priest is wearing no stole.

    Around 10:40 of this video , the reporter (from TV Wallonie who is encouraging/lauding/promoting [whatever]) asks l’Abbé François Lallemand a few fairly useless questions – which elicit some rather ambiguous replies.

    Venerator Sti Lot says:
    Grumpy Beggar,

    My French isn’t up to much: what do we know about the woman presided at Miss Chiwa’s wedding? Is she considered a ‘womynpriest’? It’s clearly not Fr. Francis, unless ‘he’ (?) has undergone a lot of plastic surgery since then.

    @ Venerator Sti Lot
    The only other person I saw at the ambo apart from Fr. Francis and the “mother of the dog” , was Patricia Goukens – owner of a doggy boutique chien chic. Do you think that rather than referring to her as a co-celebrant, the more apt term here might be co-consprator?

    @ The Masked Chicken: LOL
    Personally ,I’m thinking that a “golden bone” might be a little far-fetched (I’m doing my utmost to avoid posting anything even remotely related to ” roll over and play dead”.. . . [Dohh!] ). But how about a lifetime supply of Kibbles & Bits ?

    @ amenamen : LOL

    Thanks for the smiles everybody, we need a dose of that from time to time to help keep us going in this crazy spiritual war raging around us . . . In other words , “Life’s a * * * *.”

  33. John Nolan says:

    Cue for a song (Cesar Franck, himself a Belgian): ‘Canis angelicus … ‘

  34. Grumpy Beggar says:

    @ kiwiinamerica
    The owner (“mother of the dog”) said her dog’s remains (which weren’t even in the church during the service) are currently at the taxidermist and will be brought home when he’s done with them. That is to say, she’s having the dead dog stuffed and/or mounted basically, after which time it will sit (who knows where) in her home. – No burial – not in the least . . . doesn’t even appear that a bone might be buried.

    That final stagecould perhaps be better seen as art imitating life rather than life imitating art.

  35. Imrahil: There were times you could joke about absurdities because you could expect your audience to recognize them as absurd.

    This is becoming a serious problem for me too. The only way left to be funny these days is to set one’s own strict limits and make fun of oneself by testing them very cautiously and perhaps even increasing their strictness. It is getting harder and harder to laugh these days. I was going to write a funny article for my web site the other night but after I reviewed the subject matter, it might not be all that obviously absurd any more.

  36. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It is appropriate to honor beloved animals at their death, and it is particularly suitable for cities to honor K-9’s that have served them. It helps people to move on.

    However, it’s a lot more suitable to do such things at home (if it’s a private person’s dog), or at the place where the animal is going to be buried (if it’s a public service dog). You definitely don’t do a church funeral.

    Singing a psalm about how nature praises God would probably be appropriate, or a psalm about how we thank God for His wonderful Creation. Or you could read appropriate bits from Tobit. But you shouldn’t be doing it in church.

  37. pelerin says:

    Grumpy beggar’s link to the Belgian report showed an interview with a chap who said that animals are more human than humans in general. And I thought it was only us English who were potty about animals!

    The comment from the Priest about following Pope Francis out to the peripheries was interesting – he explained that this was his way of reaching out to the peripheries and bringing into the church building those who were not regular worshipers. He mentioned his own dog and said that he would be sad when it died but probably would not do anything like this ceremony for it.

    I think the quote about the ‘veritable messe’ from one report should obviously be understood a bit like the use of the word ‘literally’ in English today when someone says ‘he literally fell to pieces.’

  38. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Imrahil: There were times you could joke about absurdities because you could expect your audience to recognize them as absurd.”

    You have no idea how frustrating this is to a humor theorist. Concepts can mutate, over time, but the lightening swift change time of modern moral concepts is unprecedented in history. I’m using Bayesian statistics to model expectations in language. How likely is roof to be associated with house – one can measure a probability distribution for a given population of language speakers. Similarly, how likely are homosexual activities to be linked to sin? The probability distribution has a median and a mode and a centroid, which one can use (or the actual distribution, but the math gets more complicated) as a proxy measure for the a priori probability in the Bayesian model.

    Long story short – the probability that people in Western cultures link homosexual activities with sin, for instance, has, probably (I haven’t done the experiment – maybe Pew polling has), been decreasing at an ever-increasing rate.

    If someone were to do a longitudinal probability assessment of moral terms, I imagine it would dramatically show the moral slide of associations away from associating deviancy with sin.

    These probabilities affect the creation of humor, since you need low probabilities to create humor and if the probabilities approach 50%, humor goes away. In other words, if a proposition has a 50/50 chance of being absurd, then humor is not possible in a closed system, at least as current theory understands the process. I’m supposed to be delivering a paper on this, this summer, at an international conference (if I can scrounge up the money and if my department chair lets me go) as well as a really cool (but very difficult) way to convert the logic of humor into topology – literally, geometrizing humor. We shall see.

    The Chicken

  39. Imrahil says:

    Dear Chicken,

    thanks for the detailed and scientific answer! That sounds fascinating to me.

    As for your paper (which I’d actually like to read), given that it links humor with analysis… well, with topology… not far off at least…

    I suggest the beginning: “Let epsilon be smaller than zero. Just kidding.”

  40. Suburbanbanshee says:

    pelerin said: “The comment from the Priest about following Pope Francis out to the peripheries was interesting – he explained that this was his way of reaching out to the peripheries and bringing into the church building those who were not regular worshipers.”

    The problem is that it was bringing non-church goers (and their dogs, sheesh) into church under false pretenses. This wasn’t a matter of feeding the newbies milk until they can eat meat; it’s creating an illusion that the Church does funerals for dogs.

    You don’t convert people to worshipping the Way, the Truth, the Life, and the Light of the World by feeding them horse manure and keeping them in the dark.

  41. slainewe says:

    I could write a book on this topic but the bottom line is that if one is serious about union with God in this life, do not give to animals what belongs to God, the angels, and men. Animals DO NOT have personality. They have been programmed by God to react to men in certain ways that resembles personality to a fantasy-loving child, but adults should know better. Projecting personality on an animal and then loving that personality is pure self-love and is anathema to the spiritual life.

    Pets are for children under 12 and the elderly with reduced mental capacity. Just 50 years ago, this was the mainstream understanding. I remember as a teenager talking to the family cat like it was a person and my parents giving me “the look.“ (Back in the day when all parents had to do was give “the look.”) I realized then and there that I was behaving in a childish manner.

    After sufficient brainwashing by the world, I bought a pet as an adult. When I received my first spiritual director, it suddenly sickened and died. I wanted to replace it but my director forbade it. He said I had to make up my mind whether I wanted to talk with angels or animals, because I could not do both. And he was right. And it really is interesting how it changed my reaction to animals. I used to look in a dogs eyes and think it “saw” me. Now I just see emptiness. It was all imagination!

    RE: the quote above from Father Harden:

    I like to think it was a weak moment for him, like that experienced by many priests when the spiritually immature ask about pets in Heaven. These priests probably figure that when these people actually see what is Heaven they will see the silliness of their desire (like the Muslims and their 72 virgins). I don’t agree but, then again, I think priests should challenge us to Heaven, not to Purgatory.

    @The Chicken

    I often think about how mutating concepts change humor reactions when I watch old movies. For instance, a movie like Dr. Doolittle that was fun for fantasy loving children was also hilarious in its absurdity for adults. But now that adults do not see the absurdity of talking to animals, it must have lost much of its humor. Much like seeing men dress up like women used to be hilariously funny and is now ho-hum.

  42. Maxiemom says:

    Let me start by prefacing that this is a true story. I’m not making this up, though it may seem like it.

    The pastor at our former parish (who disliked Vatican II and has since passed away) had a dog. When it passed away, he contacted the local funeral home, the one that all the Catholic used, who came over with a small casket for the dog. They dug a hole in the back yard of the rectory and buried the dog for him. The dog was dressed in Msgr.’s clerical shirt and collar. The burial was done in the same manner as the rites at the cemetery. While I did not witness this, I was told this by several people who did.

    He was a priest whom I lost respect for when he would gossip to me about church members (fortunately I didn’t know them and let him know I didn’t want to hear these things) and insisted on hanging on when he clearly was not physically or mentally able to function as a priest. It was because of a phone call by my husband, that he was finally involuntary retired. But not until he created lots of ill will within the parish.

  43. Grumpy Beggar says:

    pelerin says:
    “. . . I think the quote about the ‘veritable messe’ from one report should obviously be understood a bit like the use of the word ‘literally’ in English today when someone says ‘he literally fell to pieces.’”

    That makes sense. Perhaps it would’ve been better then to keep the word “surréaliste” in the ceremony’s description in the same way it appears in the caption below the shorter video linked by Tradition in Action link : “. . . une véritable messe totalement surréaliste . . .” ; given that the surrealism movement put down its original roots in France and all.

    It’s interesting to note that l’Abbé François volunteered his motivation in relation to the Encyclical by Pope Francis and going to the peripheries, directly following this question from the reporter :”En votre âme et conscience ,pensez-vous qu’il puisse exister un paradis pour les animaux”? (roughly :”Do you, in good conscience, think that there could be a Heaven for animals ?”) , to which he immediately responded “I can’t answer that. . . But what I can say, is that, deep within myself, I have the words of the Pope Francis who in his Encyclical invited that the Church go to the periphery to meet people who are not necessarily of the Church , and when I saw Josh and Sylvana in their grief . . .”

    I believe suburbanbanshee’s point is well-taken and merits further reflection:

    “The problem is that it was bringing non-church goers (and their dogs, sheesh) into church under false pretenses. . .”

    I would place an emphasis on the “sheesh” , because behind all this luvvy-duvvy – pet-my-pooch – cuddly-duddly sentiment , another precedent is being set ; one which says it’s okay to bring your dog (and your goat, and your goldfish, and your cat , and your cow, and your elephant and your rabbit and your ant collection and your horse) into a Catholic church. What pray tell is going to happen when one of these animals has to, um, go [relieve themselves] ?

    Doggonit , I am soooo reminded of John 2:14-17 [NAB]

    He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

  44. Bosco says:


    You dismiss but don’t refute Father Hardon thus:

    “I like to think it was a weak moment for him, like that experienced by many priests when the spiritually immature ask about pets in Heaven.”

    And what of St. Francis preaching to the birds and blessings that have been bestowed on animals at liturgical and quasi-liturgical ceremonies for centuries?

    “Are not sparrows sold two for a penny? And yet it is impossible for one of them to fall to the ground without your heavenly Father’s will.” Matthew 10:29

  45. slainewe says:


    Saints may preach to irrational animals but the beasts receive no benefit from it, so it must be a sign for us. Perhaps as an indictment that we are not listening, or to show that the saint shares the Lord’s power over nature? And my understanding of Saint Francis is that he appreciated animals in the beauty of their creation, along with the sun, moon, sky, and all of nature. I never heard of him enslaving animals as pets to serve his ego as does modern man.

    Priests bless many things for our benefit: vehicles, animals, tools, food, etc. The blessing is not for the benefit of the car, chicken, plow, or smoked sausage; it’s for us.

    As for Matthew 10:29: I don’t see this as the Lord raising sparrows to some higher dignity, but His poetically emphasizing that if He is in control of even the lives of the irrational beasts, how much more He cares for Man made in His Image and Likeness. He mentions flowers too, but I don’t think this means we should be attributing personality to lilies.

  46. Bosco says:


    “Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…” Matthew 6:28-29

    I suppose in the end it’s a function of one’s capacity to distinguish the beauty and glory of God’s creation from utilitarianism.

    Please God we meet in heaven one day and if we do be sure to ask me “Does your dog bark?”.

  47. Imrahil says:

    Dear slainewe,

    forgive me, but what you describe (and especially what your parents seem to have considered worthy of punishment by “the look”) sounds, to me, more like Cartesian “animal automata” theory than classical Catholic philosophy.

    Of course animals don’t have personalities (as in, you know, real personalities). But somehow I don’t read “talking to non-personalities” among the list of sins present in the usual Catechisms. And, in fact, what is this “personality” supposed to mean anyway? Sticking to classical terminology, animals do have souls, and even sensitive souls (as opposed to merely vegetative ones). What they don’t have is souls intellectual or immortal. That’s the actual state of affairs, and I can’t but speculate that it also quite captures the feeling we usually are going to get when dealing with them. (Apart, of course, from the “immortal and not immortal” distinction which is quite out of natural experience.)

    And while the need of having some pet to direct an overflow of loving emotion to it may be strange, excessive, and certainly rather an innovation – our forefathers who did farming the traditional way, who, so to speak, kept their animals for rational reasons, they were not sentimentalists. But they did call their cows, and their sows, and the dog who kept watch, and the cat who kept the mice at bay, with given-names.

    Anyway: St. Thomas, S. th. I 96 I, ad 2: “[Animals] would not, however, on this account [which St. Thomas is here replying to] have been excepted from the mastership of man: as neither at present are they for that reason excepted from the mastership of God, Whose Providence has ordained all this. Of this Providence man would have been the executor, as appears even now in regard to domestic animals, since fowls are given by men as food to the trained falcon.” [Note that I doubt falconery was ever practiced out of actual need for food. It was a sport.]

    ibid ad 4: “All animals by their natural instinct have a certain participation of prudence and reason: which accounts for the fact that cranes follow their leader, and bees obey their queen. So all animals would have obeyed man of their own accord, as [even] in the present state some domestic animals [actually do] obey him.”

    Keeping pets seems rather in accord with God’s plan for mankind, after this.

  48. Elizabeth D says:

    St John Paul II, a great figure of Christian philosophy of the person and relationships between persons, did not hesitate to speak of friendship between humans and animals. While there is danger in not understanding the order of things and how animals differ from persons, and that only persons are an end in themselves, some Catholics need to be clued in on how disturbing and cold (and how far from people’s experience of animals) a rigid reductionism in regards to animals seems to others, and how this can create some danger of being unfeeling toward animals, which do think in their limited way, and can know us and learn to share our lives cooperatively, and certainly do feel. If they were robots they would not give us so much happiness.

    This is part of God’s plan. In fact it helps us to grasp a little how it is possible that God, who is so far above us in intellect and in everything, could desire to have and could have friendship with humans. He is a lot higher above us than we are above the animals, who are fellow creatures with us.

  49. pelerin says:

    Grumpy beggar wonders what happens when animals present in a church ‘have to go.’ Dogs and cats are presumably house-trained but I remember reading last year about a camel which was led into a church in Paris for an annual benediction ceremony of animals. The item was in one of those freebie newspapers which are given out in the Metro and I was intrigued as it mentioned the Archbishop of the church and said he was Catholic but the name was unknown to me.

    When I returned home I looked up details and discovered the church was Gallican which I had never heard of. They celebrate Mass in Latin but appear to be separate from the Roman Catholic Church. I understand that the annual benediction for animals has ceased to exist as the church, St Rita, is due to close and be demolished shortly and may even have been demolished by now.

  50. slainewe says:


    I guess I described my parents reaction poorly because their intent was simply to challenge me to put childish ways aside. My mother, who never talked to animals like they had reason, was the first one to give the lectures on the dignity of God’s creatures to the neighborhood boys whenever it crossed their minds to torture cats, or kill frogs and turtles for the fun of it.

    I would describe adults “talking to non-personalities” as imperfection rather than sin. But I side with the saints who tell us that all imperfection is sin; that is, something that must be purged before we can enter union with God. But, like I said, 50 years ago it was considered something only children did. The movies would even use the cliché of a woman doting over a lap dog to show her selfishness; or the megalomaniac stroking a cat to emphasize his misanthropy.

    It is practical to label certain animals by a particular vocal noise so we can call them to service. Names are just easier for us to remember. The cat doesn’t care whether you call it Fluffy or De-con. So calling a pet by a name does not mean the owner thinks it has personality. Although not naming them is no guarantee one will not fall into an imaginary relationship with them. (I had a friend that kept chickens who realized she cared too much for some of them. She just sold the ones she cared about; that is, those upon which she was projecting personalities. The others were no obstacle to her spiritual life.)

    I agree that keeping ANIMALS (as opposed to pets) is in accord with God’s plan for mankind. I do not think He meant us to make them into our image and likeness (which is what we do when we project an imaginary personality on them) and pretend they are something they are not. Making an animal out to be a person (“fur baby” complex) is as unjust as making a person out to be an animal (“pet parent” complex). Both are lies.

    (Is being called “son of a dog” even recognizable as an insult any more?)

    But I find this topic difficult to discuss with most people because they have already personified animals. It’s part of our very culture now. And once someone enters an emotional relationship with an animal; thinks an animal can love them like a person does, a certain blindness overcomes them that is immune to logic. As much as they know from Church teaching that the animal cannot love them in any way that a Christian should care about, they continue to waste emotions on them that belong to God, the angels, the saints, and our fellow pilgrims. We KNOW that what we do for man, we do for God. There is no such promise associated with animals, yet we have millions of adults substituting service to animals for service to mankind. We are perverting the blessing of our social nature; satisfying it with animals when God intended it to help us serve one another.


    St John Paul may have talked about what some english translator called “friendship” between men and animals, but I would have to know what he actually meant. He knew animals have no reason or grace and that Christian friendship exists primarily on a rational and spiritual level. So I don’t know what kind of “friendship” he is talking about.

    Also, I am not sure what you mean by “being unfeeling toward animals.” You seem to imply that we should have the same feelings for them as we do for men (which would make it rather difficult for us to chop them up for dinner every day.) I appreciate the gift of animals from the Hand of God. I respect them as His creatures and try to use them for His service. But yes, (outside the human weakness I strive to conquer with grace) I have no more “feelings” for animals then they have for me. I think those feelings belong to the Creator Who made them and Man who is in God’s Image and Likeness. (If they did belong to animals, it would belong to the chicken in the freezer who died for me, before a lap dog that satisfies my imperfect need for attention.)

    God has friendship with us because he has truly adopted us as sons and married us as brides. By His will, we have infinitely more in common with Our Father and Our Bridegroom than animals have with us. God LIVES in us! No dog can say, “Man lives in me.”

  51. robtbrown says:

    Two years ago I was at mass in the capelinha at Fatima. It is a small “building”, with the front entirely open and part of the sides. A dog , about the size of a Lab, walked in, and I assumed that the doggy duty would be done–walking around, sniffing the worshipers and asking to be petted. Instead,the pooch just sat by a bench and looked at the altar the entire mass. It was remarkable.

    Meanwhile, a few days ago a lifelong friend told me that his beloved dog, who is seven, has a bad hip. This week the dog will see a specialist at the veterinary hospital to see whether he needs hip replacement surgery. This hospital has valet parking as well as bereavement counselors. The little dog, btw, is a rescue dog–one who obviously won the lottery.

  52. Imrahil says:

    Dear slainewe,

    I would describe adults “talking to non-personalities” as imperfection rather than sin.

    In which sense? It is something actually defective from something good? If it leads us to not converse with God or with men, then there’s an objective defect (not necessarily a sin, for it isn’t obligatory to positively converse with God or with men at all times, but an objective defect, yes). But can that be assumed, in general? – In any case, while we might argue that it is also an imperfection to not behave according to the concept agreed-upon about what constitutes a perfect man, imperfections on that line only, apart from an objective standard of good and defects from good, will certainly be floatingly defined.

    But I side with the saints who tell us that all imperfection is sin

    For information, which saint actually said that? It is certainly not the image I get from St. Francis Salesius (who treats mortal sins, venial sins and imperfections neatly distinct), nor from St. Thomas. (Personal note: I cannot say I’m very fond of the habituation of some pious persons that effectually turns “Be ye perfect” into a catch-all clause for acts and attitudes they prefer but cannot find elsewhere prescribed. Whereas St. James (who cannot be said to be lax), “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, i. e. perfect, is this: To visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world, i. e. not to sin on the one hand and do good actions on the other.)

    That is, something that must be purged before we can enter union with God.

    Not even venial sin, not even, in fact, attachment to venial sin needs to be purged before we can enter union with God. The latter needs to be purged for a complete indulgence – but you can commit venial sins constantly and even be attached to them and, yet, receive Holy Communion daily and be filled with sanctifying grace – which is just what union with God is. It’s not an ideal state of affairs, but it is, already, union with God.

    But, like I said, 50 years ago it was considered something only children did.

    But in the last 50 years, not the cultural imprint of Faith on society suffered. That suffered, yes, but the old-style enlightenment theories suffered likewise. So – was this cultural attitude something of Christianity, or was it something of Descartes?

    At any rate, I can’t see it reported in stories from back then that it was considered childish to keep pets. It was, yes, considered childish (as it is) to whine when the pet (say, a rabbit) would be slaughtered and eaten* – but not, as far as I see, the keeping of the pet before.

    [*Though I just recall that right in the 1950s, the German ban on eating dog meat was justified by a quite grown-up politician who said, in a really 1950s dogmatic “this is not to be questioned” style, with something along the line of “The dog is a friend of man and not something for the table”.]

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