Animal Padre's
Christians Against All Animal Abuse
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From the Autumn 2005 Issue

Excommunication? Well Not Quite The Same!

 Well, excommunication is hardly the term as I never embraced their brand of the faith; but it is with much sadness I discovered – and have since had confirmed – that my name has been removed from the list of patrons of what has recently become: Catholic Animal Concern. Indeed, under its previous title: Catholic Study Circle For Animal Welfare, both Doreen and myself enjoyed most wonderful times of fellowship. At a time when one felt that ours was a lone battle – and quite remarkably – after having denounced the Catholic practice of allowing church towers to be used for throwing out live goats in Spain! – I was warmly invited not only to partake, but later to be guest speaker on their week long spiritual retreats. In fact they were the best retreats of any I have been on. They involved trips out to visit animal related centres, terrific fellowship, and the opportunity to celebrate a daily Eucharist for Non Romans, as well as evening devotions for all.

Such a fellowship included all shades of churchmanship and attracted animal lovers from a broad spectrum. Yes, from Baptists to High Anglicans and Scottish Presbyterians to die cast traditional Romans. Indeed, our love for animals brought us all close together. And in those days not only did we have a chairman (with a devoted Wife) who fiercely slated cardinals such as Rattzzinger (now Pope Benedict); but this remarkable Study Circle also had a Presbyterian in charge of all holiday arrangements. Yes, one who’d actually prepared youngsters – when she was a non-catholic teacher – at a Catholic school. Here she was huddled against me, with some other senior stalwarts, back in 1995.


A few of the Ark group in 1995

Sacred shrines were visited as far away as Assisi, and as close as Walsingham; plus St Winefride’s here on our very door step! Indeed, animal sanctuaries were also a focal point of interest as were our annual church services of animal blessing. The earliest occurred in the prestigious St James’s Church of Piccadilly where I shared the officiation and blessing of the animals with the retired Dean of Westminster abbey. Then in following years – at my suggestion - we moved for our venue to that most prestigious Cathedral Of The Good Shepherd in Stamford Hill. Yes, a church of the Ancient Catholic denomination which, amongst its beautiful trappings, had a delightful side chapel dedicated to the animal kingdom. For, sadly, no Roman church at that period seemed willing to loan its premises for the blessing of our four legged friends; and as for the renowned Anglican church of St Martin In The Fields which overlooked Trafalgar Square, they were eager to invite us. But their charge for the day was astronomical!

Thankfully - and not before time - other cathedrals and prominent churches are now happy to be host to annual services for animal welfare. But what good are they when pets are excluded from entrance, and their fees are so ‘over the top’? Nevertheless, some things are beginning to change. But - as I personally view it - not all change is for the best. For example, with the older past stalwarts of the former ‘Catholic Study Circle For Animal Welfare’ either retiring gracefully, or ‘dying on their feet!’, the secretary ship of this renamed ‘Catholic Concern For Animals’ has past to a most zealous young lady with plenty of fire in her bones. Debra Jones. As a true convert from the Protestant world, is naturally anxious to promote further Roman involvement – who can blame her! -; and both Doreen and myself wish her all the luck in the world. But as one consequance, my patronage is now annulled..

Indeed, the last holiday, cum – retreat, that we had the privilege to partake in was at delightful Rhos-On-Sea. I’d recommended the venue, which, though it was one of many Christian Endeavour homes, bore a truly Catholic name: St Winefred’s. Yes, it appeared to be a most appropriate compromise! A sympathetic Catholic priest was invited to offer the daily Mass, while I led the daily Bible devotions relevant to the animal creation. Indeed, the fellowship was superb; and whereas I do not think the other guests and staff - being ‘born again’ Protestants - appreciated us returning from a local tavern, rather well refreshed, after 11.pm when (believe it or not!) all lights in the rooms were expected to be out by that time, what happened the next evening proved more hilarious still.

Our devout colleagues, who were mostly Catholic, were as loyal to their church as to the animal cause. Indeed, they were convinced that they alone were of the one true church; and more than once one had gently suggested that as she was a convert, I might care to consider the same! Indeed, this was a far cry from five years previous when it had been suggested that the name Catholic be dropped from their Study Circle and that Christian be put in its place. (Something that I, out of respect to the founder, had disapproved of). However, five years on and here I was, encircled by devout and caring Romans possibly feeling sorry for the likes of myself who hadn’t evolved towards embracing the one true church outside of which there was possibly no salvation.

However, that night a group of Protestant evangelicals came to our venue to conduct an open meeting who were as eager for getting converts as were any holy Romans. “It’s not confirmation but conversion!” was the gist of their spouting “It’s not accepting a dead creed but accepting a living Christ!”. And then, of course, the full force of an appeal followed at the end: “There is no salvation to any except in accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord: you must be born again! Who will accept Him tonight?” Well, appreciating both sides one was able to laugh at both dogmatic stands and think of a past ditty:

They drew round them a circle, that kept me out,
I was a heretic, a schismatic! A thing to flout!
Ah, but Christ’s love and I, had the grace to win
For, we drew our circle, which included them in!

And, let’s be quite frank, it’s no doubt due to my scepticism of this new Pope Benedict – plus many references in my latest book (Young Spiritual Tramp) to a post war brand of Catholicism I encountered - that retaining me as a patron of Catholic Concern For Animals has been considered inappropriate. Consequently, my name has been gently dropped; and for this I bear no bitterness towards those responsible. Rather, I wish them all the luck in the world!

The above is just the latest kind of price I’ve become accustomed to paying over the years, for either my own outspokenness or for possibly being an embarrassment to any cause that may not have been as void of diplomacy as myself. But then, in contrast to priests who went through daily motions of ritual and sacrifice; who amongst the prophets was ever diplomatic?


‘Catholic Concern For Animals’ at Rhos On Sea, summer 2000

Go on to The Approval Of This Wonderful God Is All That Counts
Return to Autumn 2005 Issue

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