I was fortunate to complete the final year of my B.A. at an alternative institution that opened up in my hometown of Reno, Nevada: Old College. It was headed up by a Jesuit priest, Father “Jack” Leary. I got to debate deep ideas like “Truth” with him and with a small pack of formerly-cloistered Carmelite nuns who were fellow students in the class. Jesuits have the most well-trained minds in the business. I learned more in that one year than I had in the previous six at that educational cafeteria known as the University of NV, and have ever after been sold on alternative education. This sort of real intellectual discourse; the community of scholars with whom to apprentice and wrangle ideas, was what I had always envisioned college would be.
As a pagan studying under a Jesuit, though, we did not always agree. (No surprise!) The biggest clash we had was over the Church’s notion that only humans had souls. I vehemently questioned that assumption. Father Leary just as vehemently defended it. But he really had no grounds to stand on, because after all, how the heck could we ever really know? I recall one moment when, in the heat of a thick argument, he invoked the powerful phrase, “God said, ‘I am that I am’…,” and I, rude iconoclast that I was in my 20s, steamed out, “Well, so did Popeye. What has that to do with this issue?” The nuns burst out laughing.
Seriously, the fact that such a deep thinker could not formulate an argument that flew strengthened my sense of wrongness about the Church’s philosophy regarding other animals.
In my final eval, Fr. Leary wrote that I had “the makings of quite a good philosopher.” His praise meant a great deal to me. That a man with whom I so strongly disagreed would still honor my showing guts in taking a stand, and furthermore, a Jesuit admiring the way in which I formulated my argument? His praise warms the cockles of my cranky little heart to this day, and I take strength from it. What an example of good mentoring.
Twenty years later, the Church remains stubbornly adamant about humans being on top. But there are sometimes signs of hope towards a more egalitarian species stance – including this.
A sign of changing times: a Catholic/Protestant duel involving animism!
These churches are said to be located across the street from one another.
I so hope this is real.
Yes!!! Either this Catholic church has woken up, or their leaders have a great sense of humor, or both – all good signs in my opinion.
These sign wars bring up a theological dilemma for me. If there are no dogs or rocks in heaven, I certainly don’t want to go there. So should I start acting badly to prevent the possibility? Please advise.
- To read more about spirituality involving dogs, see my essay All Sentient Beings.
- To read more about spirituality involving rocks, see my book chapter Kumu Pohaku (Stones as Teachers).
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings enjoy a belly laugh today.
Source: This funny photo series has been posted in numerous places without attribution, including Anathema, from whom I nabbed it. If the original photographer sees this, please contact me to be given proper credit.