Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Protection for God’s creatures includes animals and people

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published May 2, 2018  | En Español

Several weeks ago, a charming young lady who was about to make her first holy Communion and first reconciliation asked me for an appointment to do an interview for a school project. I was delighted to accommodate her request. Her mother brought her into my office for the meeting. She came well prepared with a notepad and her written questions.

After asking all of her prepared questions, she began to improvise. She asked me if I had any pets. I told her that I did not because I don’t have the time to care properly for a pet—but that I liked animals and was a dog lover. She seemed quite pleased with my answer but somewhat disappointed that I did not have a pet.

A couple of weeks later, I received some homemade cookies and two “pet rocks” to thank me for the interview, which she told me had gained her a very fine grade. I kept one of the pet rocks in my office—the one she decorated with an outrageous electric pink wig—and I took the other one home. Pets are important to most people and the mistreatment of animals often garners a very nasty response whenever it is discovered. Even Pope Francis admonishes us to respect God’s design of animals as part of his creative goodness (Laudato Si’ 92).

People are rightfully offended and scandalized when someone abuses an animal. Occasionally that outrage is publicly codified into laws. There is, however, an inconsistency that sometimes may be displayed in this regard. Animal abuse is rightfully acknowledged as inhumane, but some of the same people who rage against such behavior also continue to consider the destruction of human life within the womb as a mere right or a choice. Some folks who lament the abuse of an animal also strongly advocate for the imposition of capital punishment on people, many of whom have personal histories of brute reality. A few of the folks who rail against abusing an animal do not see why immigrant peoples should not be returned to countries where they have only briefly lived as a child and now have few, if any, connections.

I agree that we must care for animals with a deep sense of respect that reflects our own human dignity, but we must also care for people—even those just waiting to be born—with the same sense of reverence. Prisoners, immigrants and the poor are often just as vulnerable to exploitation as the beasts whose abuse causes many people to stand up in unmitigated indignation. Saving endangered species from extinction or pets and farm animals from mistreatment and cruelty must not be practices limited to the animal world.

The young lady who gave me the “pet rocks” was a sweetheart to think that even the Archbishop would benefit from having a pet. What she reminded me was that our love for all of God’s creatures must include even the people whom some folks might consider inconvenient, expendable and bothersome.

As this youngster prepares to receive the Eucharist for the first time, I pray that her union with Christ will continue to shape and form her young heart with the grace to respect all of God’s creation—beginning with each one of those who are fashioned in his own image and likeness for his glory. That’s why I love spending time with our kids—they always seem to help me to recall God’s goodness!