Animal Sacrifice |

TBC Staff

Animal Sacrifices in ChristianChurches [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, 

[TBC: Error begets error.]