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Catholic-Animals
THE ARK

A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals

 

Selections From The Ark Number 210 - Autumn 2008

Priests and Animals
by Abbé Jean Gautié

In my opinion, humanity falls into three categories: those who love animals; those who are indifferent towards them; those who do not love them.

I know a good number of fellow-priests who love animals, such as a canon of the Versailles diocese who owns four cats, and ‘Peter the Hermit’, Mgr Loutil, curé of St Francis of Sales, now 94 years old, who has one dog and a host of cats, or my old friend Mgr Calvet, former rector of the Catholic Institute, who showed himself terribly distressed at the death of his dog. I could cite plenty of others, such as the curé of St Michel at Trouville, the Abbé Chapron, who on Easter Monday last organised a special blessing for the dogs of his parish and hung a medal of St Roch on the neck of each one.

There are those who do not love animals. It is useless to try to convince them, for the love of animals is an instinct. One has got it, or one has not got it. That is true of very many of the clergy, as it is of people in the world. When one speaks to them of animals one comes up against a blank wall. It is not necessary for me to tell you that such good people, especially if they are particularly pious, as they sometimes are, exasperate me and even frighten me a little. In any case we rarely hit it off.

There are, finally, ecclesiastics who remain indifferent to animals. Don’t throw stones at them. They are often excusable. Having entered college quite young, been occupied from aged 18 to 25 by their studies at the major seminary, lived then in presbyteries and been busy and often overburdened in the discharge of their ministry, they have never had the opportunity, let us say the happiness, of approaching the so-called lower brethren, to watch them, to reach intimacy with them, to see the mystery, the tender melancholy, the affection that there can be in a dog’s look. Anyhow, one cannot love what one does not know, and one cannot understand this masterpiece of devotion which is an animal’s, if one has not known an animal through long companionship.

That is the case with most of my fellow-priests, who are indifferent to animals. And in addition, they have, by reason of their studies in theology, such a high idea of the human soul that they want to save and sanctify it, and they think they are wasting their time and even failing in their apostolic duty if they show a leaning towards animals.

You see that the whole question, apparently so simple, is more complex than it seems ... Abbé Jean Gautié

This piece first appeared in The Ark, number 61, August 1957.

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