Known originally as ‘The Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare’, CCA’s first meeting was held in November 1929 and was reported on in February 1937 in the very first edition of The Ark by the Editor, Dom Ambrose Agius, O.S.B. (above) in which he writes the following:
ORIGINS AND PROGRESS OF THE STUDY CIRCLE
The movement began with a little group of Catholics, who had been concerned in the problem of animal suffering and the various efforts to mitigate and relieve it, and who felt the need of a deepened attention to this matter among the Catholics of Great Britain.
The first meeting of any kind was held at 6 Southwick Crescent, WE2, in November 1929, with the Revd WN Roche, Rector of the Church of the Holy Rosary, Marylebone, in the Chair. About fifteen persons were present. The Meeting was concerned chiefly with the possibility of a Catholic Society for kindness to animals.
Accordingly a second meeting was held on December 17th, 1929, another on February 28th 1930, when a provisional committee was appointed from those present, as follows: Chairman, The Rev WN Roche; Organising Secretary, Mrs Dixon Davies; General Secretary, Miss Cutbill; and Treasurer, Miss Carlyle: all these positions being honorary. The object of the proposed Society was declared to be: ‘To bring our relations with the creatures of God into harmony with His will and purpose for them and us. To try to learn from the Holy Scriptures, the example of the Saints, the rules and customs of the Church how God would have us think of His creatures and treat them’.
Father Roche without delay took up the question of ecclesiastical sanction for the Society, and approached the late Bishop Bidwell on the occasion of a Confirmation at the Rosary Church. His Lordship was very sympathetic. He said he had wished himself to do something of the kind, and he undertook to bring the matter before Cardinal Bourne. Just before the opportunity for doing this occurred, Bishop Bidwell passed away suddenly. Later on, when Father Roche wrote to the Cardinal on the matter, he received a kind message in reply, but to the effect that the Cardinal did not think a Society was necessary, and commending the RSPCA to the larger support of Catholics.
In pursuance of this, Prior Kuypers of Ealing was co-opted to the Executive Council of the RSPCA and after three years’ service was elected to it.
Catholic co-operation was very cordially welcomed and a special branch or department was mooted for it, but this did not prove feasible.
Archbishop Downey’s excellent speech at the Liverpool Jubilee of the RSPCA was printed and distributed gratis by the RSPCA, with a quotation from Cardinal Bourne’s sermon to the children of the Diocese on Good Shepherd Sunday in the Cathedral.
Meanwhile there had been a good deal of activity during 1931. Nearly a thousand priests, monks, nuns and teachers had been approached, and many offers of help and promises of prayers had been received. Eight thousand copies of Kindness to Animals for Children and Great Saints and Little Animals by Mrs Armel O’Connor had been distributed, as well as 1,000 copies of Mr Armel O’Connor’s lecture, 2,500 leaflets, 2,000 prayer-cards, and 3,000 Christmas cards. This was done at a cost of £144 17s.6d., of which all but £14 9s. 4d. had been subscribed already.
After the reply from Cardinal Bourne, on the suggestion of the Rev Desmond Chute of Rapallo, it was decided to concentrate on a Study Circle to gain knowledge and experience; and a number of well known priests, regular and secular, kindly helped with advice and criticism, especially Fr Keating, SJ. The Suggestions, in their first draft, read as follows:
All members of the Study Circle shall be Catholics; but non-Catholics in sympathy with its general trend shall not be excluded from its debates.
There shall be no officials other than an Organising Secretary.
Meetings shall be presided over by an ad hoc Chairman.
To study the nature and the ethical consequences of man’s relation to the animal world according to the traditional and authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church.
(a) Collation of all available teaching on this subject by approved Catholic writers of all ages and of all nations.
(b) Collection of all appropriate information regarding the sub-human, and in particular, the animal world.
(c) Examination of such data in the light of Catholic teaching.
The peculiar aim of this group is knowledge rather than action: whereas there exist many humane societies for the amelioration of animal conditions, there is still need of one which will apply itself to basing such action on Christian principles.
Therefore this group shall confine itself to the quest of knowledge, with the desire to proceed from information through reasoned knowledge to wisdom. It shall discuss not only the basic philosophical questions of our relationship to the animal world, but also such contemporary practices as in any way affect it (e.g., in the interest of amusement, blood sports, cinema, circuses, and other such spectacles; in the interests of commerce: fur and feather trades, and the various cruelties connected with the food trade; in the interest of science: vivisection and similar practices, etc., and on the other hand, measures for the prevention of cruelty, etc.) in the hope of clearing up obscure issues and of fitting the members to act with well informed consciences and reasoned decision. They shall not, however, take any public action as members of the Circle, nor shall any corporate action be undertaken by the group itself. Individual members shall continue to work if they so desire through undenominational societies.
The Study Circle as such is not opposed a priori to any practice, but it is prepared to follow the truth wherever it may lead.
The studies shall be conducted with humility, patience, docility to authority, charity to all. The Circle will embark upon no polemics; rather it should prove a school of courtesy for such members as may individually be called upon to attack error or to defend truth.
All members shall envisage these problems from the Catholic standpoint, and therefore not as an isolated proposition affecting animals only, but as one ultimately bound up with the welfare, spiritual and material, of man, and with his duties to Almighty God.
All members shall strive to study, uphold, and propagate the traditional teaching of the Church.
All members shall pray daily for the further illumination of the Christian conscience in these and kindred matters.
There shall be no annual subscription—ways of meeting expenses shall be considered as they arise.