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“Ask a Priest: Could I Be Vegan and Catholic?”
Q: Is it possible to be Catholic and vegan? I’ve heard it’s not, but I think it is from some stuff I’ve read. I think the main question is, is it OK for me to think eating animals is immoral when God says it’s OK to do so. Is it OK to make that rule for myself (not others)? I am really confused about that. – C.B.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Your basic question comes down to what you should do if you have a difficulty in accepting a Church teaching.
For the record, it might be good to quote some numbers from the Catechism:
Respect for the integrity of creation
2415 The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation. …
2417 God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.
2418 It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons. [end quoted material]
So, the Church teaches that it’s OK to use animals for food, but we still need to show a certain respect for them. We can’t torture them, for instance.
If you don’t feel right eating animal-based items, you could certainly avoid doing so. But if you know God says that it’s OK to eat these products, you need to accept that.
Moreover, it is good that you don’t intend to make your preference a rule for others. It’s not advisable to go around accusing people of immorality for, say, eating hamburgers.
You might, however, want to go deeper into understanding Church teaching about animals and the natural world.
I recommend this because a distorted view about animals could lead to other problems down the line, for instance, a view that the “rights” of animals take precedence over those of humans.
For hefty reading, you might want to look at the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church online.
And remember, Luke 24:41-43 mentions Jesus eating fish after his resurrection. He was no vegan, even in his glorified body.
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