What the new Catechism really says about animals
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1994:
DENVER, Colorado––“The Catholic church has
declared that humans should not love animals or spend
money on them when it could otherwise be spent on human
beings,” the World Society for the Protection of Animals’
magazine Animals International reported last fall, claiming,
“The announcement is included in the newly published edi-
tion of the Catholic Catechism, the 800-page book which
states the church’s position on all aspects of life.” A similar
report appeared several months later in the American Anti-
Vivisection Society magazine AV, and was then amplified by
activist newsletters and computer networks until it reached
Marshall Massey of the Environmental Projects Center, who
“I contacted Francis X. Maeir, Secretary of the
Department of Communications at the Catholic Archdiocese
of Denver,” Massey told network monitors on March 9. “I
immediately learned that there is not yet any English-lan-
guage edition of the current Catechism. Only French,
Italian, and Latin versions are available.”
However, to set the record straight, Maeir provid-
ed an unofficial translation from the Italian edition––which
contains passages closely resembling the versions cited by
WSPA and AV, but in a significantly different context:
2 4 1 5 – The Seventh Commandment demands a
respect for the integrity of Creation. Animals, as with plants
and inanimate beings, are naturally destined toward the com-
mon good of humanity, past, present and future (see Genesis
1:28-31). The use of mineral, plant and animal resources of
the universe cannot be separated from respect for moral
demands. The dominion conceded to man by the Creator
over inanimate beings and living beings is not absolute; it is
regulated by the care of the quality of life of the neighbor
including that of future generations; it demands a religious
respect for the integrity of Creation (cf CA 37-38).
2416 – Animals are creatures of God, and he sur-
rounds them with his providential care (Matthew 6:16). By
their simple existence, they give praise and glory to him
(Daniel 3:57-58). Also men appreciate them. It ought to be
remembered with what delicacy St. Francis of Assisi or St.
Philip Neri [treated] animals.
2417 – God entrusted animals to the management of
him whom he created in his image (Genesis 2:19-20, 9:1-4).
Therefore, it is legitimate that animals serve as food and
clothes. They can be domesticated to help man in his work
and his leisure. Medical and scientific experiments on ani-
mals, if maintained within reasonable limits, are practices
morally acceptable [when they] contribute to guard and save
2418 – It is contrary to human dignity to subject ani-
mals to useless suffering or to sacrifice them without consid-
eration of their lives. It is also unworthy to invest in them
sums that would [be better used to ease] the misery of man.
One may love animals; but one may not direct toward them
affection which is proper only to human beings.
Passage 2417 in the Maeir translation could be read
as a statement of opposition to the use of animals in much
“basic research,” which often does not have any direct appli-
cation to medicine.