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Thoughts on the Souls of Animals
Here's a question for any church historians among us, because I didn't write down what I heard until a while later -- and didn't really catch all the details. I was outside having a random conversation (not about animals) with a deacon who I've talked to at previous conventions. And someone else joined us, and brought up something I thought was very interesting. (I don't think he knew I was an animal person. I think he was just making a point that white male bishops who decide such things by voting, extending his point to other groups who they've made decisions about in recent/future days/years/centuries.) And I don't know where this came from, unless he got it from a workshop.
So this is what I remember, and would appreciate having someone correct me if I didn't get it right:
It was at the Council of Nicaea that a group of 12? (or was it 6?) swing-vote bishops etched the Church's position in stone that women have souls. By an equal swing vote, the position of the Church was etched in stone that animals do not have souls.
Whatever the numbers of the swing-vote bishops, I thought it was interesting that both topics came up for a vote, especially the animals. (It's amazing to me that they were even a topic of discussion.) It is also interesting that both votes were so close that they were decided by a small number of swing-votes.
Is this true? Does this make anyone feel better, or worse, about the prevailing Christian attitude that we've inherited toward animals.
My reaction (even though the animals "lost" their souls at Nicaea) was "Good!" It's just a vote, and therefore doesn't really carry any weight, other than political vote, by a group of men, half of whom didn't believe women had souls. So I hardly consider the outcome to be a theologically credible last word on the topic.
from Sue (of ENAW)