Torturing a Bull for Saint John
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Torturing a Bull for Saint John
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 Comments by Norm Phelps - 31 May 2007

Your “Church Silence Promotes Violence” is an outstanding presentation! Congratulations! You are doing such marvelous work and so much good for both animals and humanity.

There are two documents that I am sure you are already aware of that bear directly on the Catholic Church and bullfighting, fiestas populares, and similar torturing rituals.

1. On All Saints’ Day, 1567, Pope Saint Pius V issued a Papal Bull banning bullfights and the kinds of saints' day festivals that you talk about. Commonly referred to as De Salute Gregis Dominici (“On the Welfare of the Members of the Lord’s Flock”), it did not mince words:

"These cruel and degrading spectacles have nothing to do with Christian piety. They are the devil’s invention, not man’s. In order to save their souls – insofar as, with the help of God’s power, we are able – we forbid and prohibit, on pain of excommunication and anathema, every Christian ruler or other high official, whether ecclesiastical, civil, or imperial . . .from staging spectacles of this sort. . . . No one who is killed while fighting a bull may receive a Christian burial. . . . We also forbid priests, both regular and secular, from attending these spectacles, on pain of excommunication."

The full text used to be available in Latin and Spanish on the website of
Bienestar Animal www.bienestaranimal.org/archivos/toros.htm, but I have not been able to find it recently. (As I have never found a readable English translation, this is my own translation from the Latin. In making it, I consulted the Spanish translation on the Bienestar Animal website.)

The threat of excommunication has long been dropped, but the Church’s ban on bullfights and fiestas populares is still technically in force.

2. In 2001, a Belgian lay theologian in the Curia, Marie Hendrickx, who is known to be close to Pope Benedict XVI (she worked for him for years when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he headed the Office for the Doctrine of the Faith), published an article in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano condemning bullfights and animal cruelty in connection with Saints’ days. In English it was called "Causing Animals Needless Suffering is Contrary to Human Dignity," but in the original Italian it was titled "For a More Just Relationship with Animals." You can access the official English text at
http://catholicculture.net/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=3474.
Although so far as I know, Pope Benedict has never commented publicly on this article, we may presume that, since he was the head of the Office for the Doctrine of the Faith when it was published, it had his approval.

To the best of my knowledge, neither of these documents ever had a serious impact on actual practice in Spain.

Warmest regards,
Norm

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