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Humanizing Animals and The Matrix Threat
Divinizing or Humanizing Animals?
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In response to your reader offering thoughts on the supposed Catholic view towards animals, I noted very alluring arguments which obscured Catholic truth. To clarify, I would like to point out a few errors that were obvious to me, and which Catholics should be on guard against:
1. Eco-terrorists, animal activists, and many vegetarians for that matter do not "divinize" animals as their tactic, as A.R. suggests, but humanize them. This humanizing of animals is what should strike a disharmonious chord with any Catholic. It is an offense, not directed at us, but at God. It aims to denigrate Our Lord by elevating non-human natures to the dignity that He, through His Incarnation, gives to ours alone. Not even the Angels enjoy such an honor, and this is inseparably linked to the fall of Lucifer and those who follow darkness. Lucifer would not honor God, whose human nature held a position lower than the Angels in the order of creation. Satan thus prowls the earth, seeking our ruin as his attempted proof to God that we are unworthy of the honor of His Incarnation. Asking the help of St. Michael, we should defend the dignity of Our Lord's human nature against the slightest hint of confusion present in the reader's comments.
2. A.R. refers to religious orders as "high aspiring" if they have vegetarianism as a rule. This clearly misses the Catholic point of such ascetic living, which is penance and the taming of the passions. It makes no statement on the treatment of animals. As A.R. makes mention of an Eastern Doctor of the Church, St. Basil the Great, perhaps he or she is not aware that the Eastern Catholic liturgical calendar has days specified where the fasting and abstinence for the Faithful are strictly forbidden. This, of course, is to combat such false Pharisaical notions that Catholics believe sin is attached to eating or partaking of foods which are specifically given to us by God for sustenance and pleasure.
Further on this point, I wish to mention Our Lord's example for those who aspire to a truly higher Catholic vocation: Our Lord abstained from marriage, not meat-eating, as the example to follow to perfect ourselves. Virgins, widows/widowers who do not remarry, those married who agree to continence, and Religious who do so follow Him, rely primarily on the Sacraments and prayer, but also use dietary and other mortifications as a way to help subdue the flesh and maintain such vows. The goal is a more perfect, undivided, service to God. To be clear, dietary abstinence is the means, not the end.
3. A.R. states, "Any disproportionate suffering we create in their [animals'] lives is sinful". Disproportionate to what? It is not stated. This statement is false, betrays an erroneous notion of sin, and is easily able to corrupt deficiently or falsely catechized Catholics.
As Our Lord teaches us, all the law hangs on the two great commandments of the Gospel: love God, and love they neighbor as thyself (for the sake of our love of God). This summary of the Decalogue and precepts of the Church, admits no discussion of sinning against "creation" apart from ourselves and our human neighbor. Damage done to animals or other property belonging to our neighbor violates the 7th Commandment. If it were ever to have been considered as violation of the 5th Commandment, then surely we would have a 2,000 year history of confessing our dinners as the sin of murder. We eat animals, we euthanize animals, we sterilize animals, and we force them to work for us. All of these are sins only if committed against humans. Concerning animals, they are not sins according to Catholic teaching.
"Heartless exploiters" who sin by causing animals to suffer? Should we really think we are being admonished by someone concerned for our immortal souls? I think I'll listen to Our Lady instead, who told us most souls in Hell are there for sins of the flesh, in which "green" Catholics today freely engage: immodesty, impurity, fornication, sodomy, divorce, adultery, and murder. And this is not to mention false worship, which swallows up the majority of souls on earth. No, we should listen to what Our Lord said while he was walking on and with all of His creation:
"I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me: because they are thine"
Dr. Pamela Dettman
The Matrix Threat
I read with great appreciation your review of the three Matrix movies.
I saw the films myself, hoping to be familiar with them so that I could better discuss them with co-workers (I work in the computer/Internet industry). I think my money might have been better spent elsewhere; anyway, I thought your comments were right on target. A few additional thoughts occurred to me.
Recall the encounter between Neo and the Indian "family" of computer programs in the in-between subway station. The Indian husband gave a warm-and-fuzzy reason for denying reality, saying that such-and-such notions were "just words" (i.e. another assault on the objective). The same character, curiously, went on to talk about honoring his daughter/program, whom he wanted to see continue her/its existence – but then, what is "honor" but a mere word? The contradiction was not acknowledged; one wonders if the authors were aware of it (or cared).
I focused on that scene because a co-worker was talking about how the movie sympathetically tackled the notion of Artificial Intelligence. Because the moderns want to reduce the rational soul to nothing but material parts, it's only reasonable that they would want to make computer programs (or whatever construct you like) into the equivalent of human beings. It's Frankenstein's monster all over again.
Then there is the religious parallel of Neo's sidekick being called Trinity.
Another minor point that I wondered about: the Architect told Neo that he was the 6th incarnation of The One. If I remember my college literature courses correctly, in medieval numbers represented different notions or concepts – e.g. 3 = the Trinity, 5 = the wounds of Christ, 7 = the days of creation. Curiously, the number 6 represented imperfection. I would not be surprised if The Matrix authors were aware of this significance of the number 6, and meant to use it to reinforce the idea that imperfection and chaos, not law and order, are the salvation of mankind.
Remember, too, the final battle between Neo and Smith: Smith is having the better of it, and hounds Neo with the question, "Why do you fight?" Neo's answer: "Because I will it" (or words to that effect). It is the myth about removing everything in reality except the naked will: all perceptions and thoughts are arbitrary (and meaningless); the only thing left is what you choose, what you decide. There's no mind there, no activity of the intellect – the mind has already been discredited; all that is left is the pulsing, throbbing will, which does not stop (and in the movie, has no limits). There's not even Camus' absurd thirst for meaning in a meaningless universe; no inarticulate, banshee wail of a Luther affirming some kind of grace. Neo is the Nietzschean poor man's superman.
I'm sure there are other ideas to be explored and exploded; I'll leave them for others to investigate. Thank you for getting the conversation started.
Related Topics of Interest
Are Ducks Animals or Divinities?
Compassion for Ducks
Heated Reactions on Animals
Questions on Ecology
What America Eats
The Matrix Series
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