“Ask a Priest: What If My Husband Is Crazy About Hunting?”

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Q: I adore animals and cannot imagine bringing any harm to them, whether that means killing them for food, or especially sport, which is exactly what my husband does. When he isn’t hunting them, he’s watching hunting shows on TV, going to gun shows, and hanging out with the guys at the hunting camp. It’s a huge part of his life, much more so than his faith or his family. As a result, I don’t think very highly of him, and although I love him as a child of God, I don’t respect him or find him lovable in any other way. Please tell me what I can do about this. -T.L.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: For the record, the Church allows the killing of animals for sustenance. Two numbers in the Catechism are worth noting here:

No. 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.

No. 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 text]

So, while you might prefer to abstain from meat, it isn’t inherently wrong for other people to eat meat or to hunt for game.

From what you describe, though, the real issue probably goes beyond vegetarianism vs. hunting.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for you to work through the current situation in order to get to a deeper level of intimacy with your husband.

It is important to remember that God allowed you and your husband to come together for a reason. Your marriage is your sacrament, and God has promised to work through his sacrament.

Right now, you see your husband’s dedication to hunting as something both distasteful and exaggerated. But have you really made an effort to understand why he enjoys it so much, why he spends so much time with it, what he finds in it that draws him toward it? Perhaps making an effort in that direction, trying to understand this pastime of his more deeply, will open a door for him to make similar gestures toward you — trying to understand you better, what you like, what matters to you, etc.

Try to see this situation is an opportunity for growth in your marriage. Start to do some reading about how to live your marriage more deeply (Gregory Popcak’s books could be a good place to start). Another helpful resource might be the “Three Hearts” Retreat Guide.

Keep praying for your husband and asking God to guide you and inspire you as to how you can continue to find and fulfill the Lord’s dream for you in this marriage.

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