In 1567 Pope Saint Pius V banned ‘exhibitions where bulls and wild beasts are baited’ in his De Salute Gregis. He said that ‘these bloody and disreputable exhibitions of devils rather than men’ were ‘contrary to Christian duty and charity’ and should be abolished. Furthermore, anyone who meets their death whilst partaking of such spectacles should be deprived of a Christian burial.
In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis says ‘Clearly the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism, unconcerned for other creatures’ (LS:68), that ‘every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”’ (LS: 92) and that ‘we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures’ (LS: 67).
So why do so many bull fights and other activities involving the torture of bulls still continue in many Catholic countries today, including Spain, Portugal and in South America? Many argue that it is about tradition and culture, but surely this is not a tradition or a culture to be proud of? Whether Pope Saint Pius V and Pope Francis were more concerned about saving human souls, rather than saving individual bulls, does not change the fact that such activities were banned for Catholics in 1567 and should not be taking place today.
Bullfighting has been banned in at least 100 towns in Spain and in the whole region of Catalonia. In Mexico, the states of Coahuila, Guerrero and Sonora have imposed bans, joining Argentina, Cuba, Canada, Denmark, Italy and the UK. (Source Peta). However, thousands of bulls are still tortured each year around the world in bullfights and bull runs and other animals are often involved such as horses or condors, as in the picture bottom left. In Spain bull torture is protected as ‘cultural heritage’ and subsidised.
Pope Saint Pius V was born on 17th January 1504 as Antonio Ghisleri in Bosco, Lombardy, Italy where he became a shepherd boy and was trained by a Dominican friar in piety and holiness. He joined the Dominican order in 1518, was ordained in 1528, was consecrated Bishop in 1556 and created Cardinal in 1557. He was chosen as the 225th Pope in 1566. He died in Rome on 1 May 1572 and is buried in the chapel of San Andrea in St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. He was beatified on 1 May 1672 by Pope Clement X and canonised on 22 May 1712 by Pope Clement XI.
Pius spent much time working personally with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor.
The clergy enjoying themselves at a bullfight.
Bullfight in Peru where a condor is tied to the back of a bull. It’s claws sink into the bull.
Call on Pope Francis to Ban Bull Torture
Because many Spanish authorities are ignoring any call from the public for a ban, despite petitions with huge numbers of signatures, many people are calling on Pope Francis to demand a ban. At the time of writing, Steven Eke’s petition on Change.org to ask Pope Francis to ban bull burning festivals in Spain has reached 101,000 signatures. I urge readers to sign and share it.
In her letter, published on page 44 of the spring 2018 edition of The Ark, CCA member, Virginia Bell urged readers to write to the Apostolic Nuncios around the world, asking them to write to Pope Francis to condemn the bullfight, their email addresses being listed at www.embassypages.com/holysee.
De Salute Gregis of Pope Saint Pius V
Pius, Bishop, Servant of the servants of God, for the continual recollection of the matter Concerning the Safety of the Flock of our Lord, entrusted by divine superintendence to our care:
… We, therefore, regarding these exhibitions where bulls and wild beasts are baited in the circus or Forum as being contrary to Christian duty and charity, and desiring that these bloody and disreputable exhibitions of devils rather than of men should be abolished, and that we should take measures for the saving of souls, as far as we can, under God’s help, to all and individual Christian Princes who are honoured with any rank, whether ecclesiastical, civil, or even Imperial, Royal, or any other, by whatever name they are called, as well as to all people and states (desiring that these injunctions should be established by our decree for ever under the threat of excommunication and anathema, on incurring the penalty), prohibit and forbid to allow in their provinces, states, lands or towns and other places, exhibitions of this kind where there is baiting of bulls and other wild beasts.
We forbid soldiers and all other persons, whether on foot or horseback, to dare to contend with bulls or other beasts in the aforementioned exhibitions. And if any one of them meets his death there he shall be deprived of Christian burial.
We likewise forbid the Clergy, whether regular or secular, who hold office in the Church, or who are in Holy Orders, to be present at such exhibitions under the penalty of excommunication. And all debts, obligations and bets by whoever persons contracted, whether from universities or colleges, with reference to bull-baitings of this kind, even supposing they themselves wrongly imagine them to be held in honour of the Saints, or of any ecclesiastical anniversaries or festivals, which ought to be celebrated and honoured with godly praise, spiritual joy, and words of piety, all such, whether contracted in the past, present, or future, we altogether prohibit and annul, and we decree and declare in perpetuity that they are to be held void and of none effect.
From: The Church and Kindness to Animals, London: Burns & Oates, 1906.