On 26 December 2008 we received an email from Joseph, a graduate student at Illinois State University, and who is a vegan and animal advocate. He wrote (in part):
I'd like to let you know about a church of which I was a part of during my undergraduate studies, which was often cultish, and is the main reason why I had a falling out with the Catholic Church. It is The St. Francis of Assisi Newman Center on the campus of Western Illinois University (www.newmanonfire.org). They advertise that they are trying to welcome all and bring Jesus to the campus; however, they have Sunday dinners which include meat products and bi-products, retreats where all the meals include meat or animal bi-products, and holiday meals which (surprise!) serve meat and animal bi-products. Moreover, the chaplain himself hunts and promotes hunting, flaunting his love for hunting in his online bio and holding a "Hunter's mass" at the start of every hunting season.
From Joseph's letter it was very obvious that this Catholic Church caused emotional pain and anguish to him by failing to minister to his compassionate soul, which is in direct opposition to their advertised mission. They fail to minister to those who care about non-human animals.
On 29 December 2008, we looked at the web site of The St. Francis of Assisi Newman Center, and found the following information about three of the nine listed ministry staff members:
Fr. Kenneth Hummel, Chaplain and Director: Head Chaplain and Director of the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Student Newman Center, Fr. Hummel has been serving the students of WIU since July 2002. Originally hailing from Middletown, Ohio, Father was ordained in May 1998. When he's not fulfilling his priestly duties, you might find him watching The Bourne Identity, playing ultimate frisbee or planning his next hunting trip.
Fr. Thomas Holloway, Assistant Chaplain: Assistant Chaplain of the Newman Center, Fr. Tom also serves as pastor of St. Bernard's in Bushnell and St. Augustine's in St. Augustine, IL. Ordained in 1999, Father has been at St. Francis since July 2007. A fan of the outdoors, his hobbies include gardening and hunting. Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Father is known around the Newman Center for his sharp humor and ability to tell it like it is.
Beka Miller, Missionary: Also in her second year as a FOCUS missionary, this is Beka's first year in Macomb. Originally from Lawton, North Dakota, Beka is a country music fan, preferring the "good old stuff" such as Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. She enjoys farming, soccer, hiking, hunting and horseback riding.
At the time of our site visit, there were no listed events or programs, but to us it was obvious that they only use St. Francis' name, but don't seem to follow his teachings.
Some may be asking why we take the whole Catholic Church to task when we are only referring to one church, and the answer is simple: For two of the three clergy members and a missionary of this ministry to be hunters, and take pleasure in killing animals, is a clear sign of the Catholic Church's failure to teach compassionate living as Jesus did.
As an example, Jesus describes the blessings from God that we receive when we act in accordance with His will (Matthew 5:3-11); and if we just look at a few of the things that bring these blessings, we see that they are incompatible with hunting: for hunters do not truly mourn the death of the animals they kill; nor is an act of killing gentle; nor is it merciful; and they cannot be pure in heart because they have to harden their hearts, and lose their God-given empathy for the animals, before they kill them. In addition, since they are making war against the animals, they are no longer the peacemaking children of God we are called to be.
Jesus also teaches us to pray for our Father's heavenly will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), and since there is no death in heaven, their violent acts of killing are going against this prayer.
Paul also teaches us that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is, among other things, love, peace, kindness, goodness, and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23); and hunters severely limit these or totally eliminate them.
Maybe in this case, we cannot refer to college students as little children but, hopefully, they still retain some of the innocence of their childhood; and in order to be able to hunt, a person's heart must be hardened to the point where they lose their empathy for the animals. Thus, anyone who promotes or teaches hunting is leading these youth astray, and as Jesus warns:
5 "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.
We all need to be very diligent concerning false, misleading, and hard of heart teachings that come from the church, and to speak out against them until they cease to be.