Jul 26 2005
Animal Sacrifices in Christian Churches [Excerpts]
A coalition of [South African Catholic] priests claims that the hesitancy of Catholic leaders to give their blessing to animal sacrifices is simply another instance of the white colonial mentality that refuses to give proper respect to native practices. These priests are supported in their demand for sacrifices by Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Bloemfontein who asserts that "Animal sacrifice has a special place in the scheme of things and is celebrated in almost all African families. We have kept it out of God's Church for too long."
But faced with recalcitrant parish priests like Father Kevin Reynolds, who argues that animal sacrifice is "foreign to traditional Catholic theology regarding the Mass," the archbishop has offered a compromise. Although Catholic theology does say that since the sacrificial death of Jesus 2,000 years ago, there is no longer any need to offer animal sacrifices to God, the killing can still be carried out. But instead of offering the blood of the victims to God, it can be offered in honor of the African ancestors of participating Catholics. (Ancestor worship is seen by the archbishop, and others, as the native equivalent of the Catholic practice of honoring its canonized saints.) Archbishop Buti proposes that the blood of the slain animal--be it goat, chicken, sheep or cow--can be presented during the Mass as "a gift to the ancestors, not to God."
And what does the "Euro-centric" hierarchy in South Africa think about the sacrifice of animals in Catholic churches? Well, Archbishop George Daniel, head of the Pretoria archdiocese for the past 25 years, doesn't seem to be overly concerned about it. He allows that it could become a problem at some future date--if the tenor of the debate escalates--but says "we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it."
For him, killing animals in the churches is not sacrilegious, it is just another facet of the "incultration process." This process takes place when the Roman Church and Catholics in a given country try to find a suitable accommodation between church requirements and traditional practices of the native culture. The incorporation of African music is presented as another example of incultration. There were dissenters who fought against having native instruments and hymns as the background to their church services, but eventually people on both sides of the debate were accommodated. (Hyland, HUMANE RELIGION, 2000, http://www.all-creatures.org/hr/hra.htm).
[TBC: Error begets error.]