Catholic Candle note: Catholic Candle normally examines particular issues thoroughly, at length, using the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and the other Doctors of the Church. By contrast, our feature CC in brief, gives an extremely short answer to a reader’s question. We invite readers to submit their own questions.
CC in brief
Q. There are various groups, e.g., PETA (which stands for “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals”) that seem to condemn as wrong the killing of animals. Can we sin by being cruel to animals?
A. We can only sin against a person, not directly against property. Animals (i.e., brute beasts) are property, usually belonging to a particular person. We can no more sin against an animal than we could sin against other kinds of property, viz., a plant or a non-living body. However, if we mistreat any kind of property this can be a sin against its owner. For example, if we cut down the tree in our neighbor’s yard, this can be a sin against him.
Further, any harm we do to any kind of property can be a sin against God, the Creator, in two ways:
1. It can be a sin of wasting the good gifts of God, if we unreasonably destroy them.
2. If we needlessly cause an animal (even a pest) to suffer, not for the purpose of killing it, but purely for the sake of causing that animal to suffer, e.g., to torture a housefly simply because we want it to suffer, that is a sin of showing contempt for their Creator and is a sin against God.