Pope Leo XIII, on becoming patron in 1870 of the French Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA):
‘As always the Church has placed herself, through the voice of her pontiff, at the head of this movement. It is for her to direct it wherever she can make herself heard.’
Pope Benedict XV in 1915 to the head of the Italian SPCA:
‘His Holiness rejoices to know that the object of your Society is in perfect accord with the doctrine which the Church has always taught and the Saints have always followed, leaving us innumerable beautiful examples of compassion and tenderness.
The fact that the Nations have not always followed the precepts of the Church and the example of the Saints moves the Sovereign Pontiff all the more to favour all that tends (while reserving supreme honour to the King of Creation) to foster respect for these other creatures of God, which Providence forbids us to exploit without concern and enjoins us to show wisdom in our use of them …
Therefore the August Pontiff trusts that you will find faithful and efficient fellow-workers in the priests of God, since it is their duty to conform to the teaching of the Church and the example of the Saints.
It is for them nobly to train souls in sentiments of enlightened gentleness and fostering care and guidance, so that they may offer to the animals refuge from every suspicion of roughness, cruelty or barbarism, and lead men to understand from the beauty of creation something of the infinite perfection of the Creator.’
Pope Pius X wrote an autograph blessing ‘for all who protect from abuse and cruelty the dumb servants given to us by God’, and wished ‘prosperity and success to all workers in this field.’ Of Pius X, his secretary, Cardinal Merry del Val wrote:
‘His Holiness is pleased at being called upon, as head of the Church, for his support in so noble an undertaking, which has the lofty object of caring for the lives and treatment of animals and which at the same time endeavours to eradicate from the hearts of men barbarous and cruel tendencies.’
Pope Puis XI, in his Letter on St Francis of Assisi, wrote:
‘St Francis was led to love all things which he knew had the same origin as he, and in which he recognised the goodness of God. For he followed his Well-Beloved everywhere and in every trace of Him to be founbd in His creatures, he made of all things a ladder to reach His throne.’
A Selection of Brief Quotations
The animal world is even more of a mystery than the world of angels.
The animal world, as all creation, is a manifestation of God’s power, His wisdom, and His goodness, and as such deserves our respect and our consideration.
Man must never hurt animals, must never ill-treat them nor torture them physically because they are sensitive creatures. If anyone told me that to achieve my purpose it would be sufficient to kill an ant, I would not do it.
All creatures are created from the same paternal heartbeat of God. Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop here is a complete misapprehension of the intentions of providence. We have a higher mission. God wishes that we should succour them when they require it.
The Franciscan spirit is the Catholic spirit.
They (the animals) have very positive rights because they are God’s creatures. If we have to speak with absolute accuracy we must say that God has the right to have all His creatures treated with proper respect. Nobody should therefore carelessly repeat the old saying that animals have no rights. This could easily lead to wanton cruelty … The difficulty is that many people do not realise the extent to which cruelty to animals is practised as a matter of business … The best and most experienced teachers … talk of kindness to animals. Christians have a duty not only to refrain from doing harm but also to do positive good.
Our obligation and our moral duty is to Him who made (the animals) … And in giving dominion over creatures to man, He gave it subject to the condition that they should be used in conformity with His own perfections … and among those perfections, one is, most profoundly, that of eternal mercy.