From the Sunday Express
, January 8th, 1989:
A storm erupted yesterday over an Archbishop's claim that cruelty to
dogs was acceptable - because they do not have souls.
In a remark sure to outrage animal lovers everywhere, Archbishop
Alfredo Battisti declared that animals, "did not count".
"They are not people and therefore have no soul," he said. "To beat
up a dog or leave it to die of starvation is not a sin. For a dog is not
a person and therefore has no soul. So no sin is committed."
The Archbishop made the controversial statement to a shocked crowd in
the Italian town of Udine.
Within hours his home telephone was buzzing with complaints from
thousands of animal lovers demanding a retraction.
In Britain, leading Catholics and animal welfare groups were furious.
An RSPCA spokesman said: "It's absolutely outrageous. How can a man
of God advocate cruelty to another living creature?"
"This is the sort of remark which encourages maniacs who enjoy seeing
Father Patrick Browne, private secretary to Britain's leading Roman
Catholic Cardinal Basil Hume, said: "I am appalled."
"It is accurate to say that as far as Roman Catholics are concerned,
dogs do not have souls. But any form of cruelty for its own sake is
morally wrong and sinful.
"Human life is sacred, but so is animal life. We have only to
remember St Francis of Assisi".
Monsignor Michael Smith, who assists the Roman Catholic Archbishop of
Southwark said: "Of course there is a difference between killing or
hurting a dog and killing or hurting a person, because a dog does not
have a soul, but it is still morally wrong to hurt any animal."
Archbishop Battisti made his comments during a speech against
abortion. He said people who were cruel to animals went to prison, while
those who carried out abortions went free.
As a result of the barrage of criticism in Italy he may be forced to
explain to the Pope.
A spokesman for the Vatican said: "The Pope has recently made clear
his ideas on preserving nature and animals, that they all make up the
balance of this world that God created for man."
The MP for Udine - on the border with Yugoslavia - called for the
Archbishop's resignation, as did the city fathers.
Gianfranco Gambassini said: "The man is obviously of very bad taste
and a fool."
Bruno Fillipin, said the Archbishop had given people "a licence to
treat animals badly."
NB Archbishop Battisti issued a press statement in response to the
media backlash in Italy against his homily: No justification for
those who are violent to animals.
See The Ark, April 1989.