Ferals Living at a Baltimore Church Find Out the Hard Way That Hatred of Cats Is Every Bit as Christian as Unleavened Bread and Cheap Wine
"Christian: One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely-inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin."
-- Ambrose Bierce, Devil's Dictionary
Northside Baptist Church in Baltimore advertises itself on its web site as a "church with an open heart and an open door." Whenever it comes to down-and-out cats from the neighborhood, however, both its heart and its doors are closed as tightly as the vault to Fort Knox.
Earlier this month, the church ordered that a feeding station that served about forty cats be dismantled and removed from its property. Ostensibly, it argued that the cats were besmirching its immaculate lawn with feces but the real reason behind their ouster was organized Christendom's long-standing hatred of the species.
Pastor Reginald Turner has all but admitted as much. "I've got members who are not cat fanciers, and we're trying to be as patient as possible," he told the Baltimore Sun on July 17th. (See "Cats Versus Churchgoers.") "Yet we're the bad guys in all of this." (See photo of him above.)
Even if there is a smidgen of truth in what he says, it is the job of a pastor to lead his flock and not to pander to either financial interests or cat-haters. In that light, it would be interesting to know what he would do if some members of his congregation objected to the presence of dogs, birds, the homeless, or drunkards?
It was church deacon McKinley Watson, however, who demonstrated the hollowness of Christian piety for all the world to see when he announced that he hoped that the cats would meet some untimely end. "We were told we would be feeding them for our lifetime (and) I'm like, 'That's a scary thought'," he screeched to the Sun in the article cited supra.
First of all, the care of the cats is not costing either Watson or Northside Baptist a solitary cent. That would be a logical impossibility anyway because no one ever has gotten much of anything other than hypocrisy and sottise out of Christians. (See Cat Defender post of December 1, 2005 entitled "Poverty Pimps at Salvation Army Pay Their Homeless Bell-Ringers Less Than $4 an Hour.")
They are in fact so greedy and stingy that about all they ever dole out to the poor are moth-eaten old clothes and stale food and even those items are donated by the public. Any halfway decent food and clothing that they receive is either siphoned off for their own personal use or resold for a profit with the proceeds winding up in their own pockets.
Occasionally their cheapness gets the better of them as happened in the case of a homeless man that they put to work sorting donated clothing at a Salvation Army warehouse for $1 a day. While rummaging through an old pair of shoes, he unexpectedly discovered $2,000 in cold, hard cash which he immediately pocketed before repairing to the nearest gin mill in order to give thanks if not necessarily to Jesus then at least to Dionysus for his deliverance.
If any of them were ever forced to part with some of their precious shekels they would have a conniption fit. Just because they are Christians does not mean that their fondness for fancy cars, expensive clothes, jewelry, opulent estates, good booze, and high-class whores as well as catamites is any less fervent than that of sinners.
Stinginess and exploitation of the poor is by no means confined to Protestants. "I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ," the so-called champion of the poor, Mother Teresa, no stranger to living high on the hog herself, once told a press conference in Washington. "I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people."
No one can argue with the soon-to-be Saint Teresa on that last remark. The capitalists and the bourgeoisie have been eating the poor's lunch ever since the dawn of civil society. (See Michael Parenti, "Mother Teresa, John Paul II, and the Fast-Track Saints," posted at Common Dreams on October 22, 2007.)
Of course, it is likely that some of Northside Baptist's wealthier parishioners did complain about the cats' presence and Turner and Watson, scared to death of losing their financial support, decided to evict the felines. Regardless of whatever rationales are put forward, most issues eventually come down to money.
By accepting the helm at Northside Baptist, Turner found himself in what Charles Dickens euphemistically might have called reduced circumstances. In his previous post as pastor of First Baptist in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, he inaugurated a cable television show, a newsletter, a web site, and Turn-A-Bout Ministries.
According to his current employer's web site, however, his only goal in Baltimore is to keep "the church doors open." That is quite a comedown for someone who perhaps at one time harbored ambitions of being either the next Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Bakker.
The heated dispute reached a crescendo when one of the cats' dedicated caretakers, chemical engineer Denise Farmer from the suburb of Parkville, decided that she was not going to give up without a fight. "It's heartbreaking," she told the Sun. "It's completely unbelievable how cruel these people are." (See photo above of her preparing to feed the cats.)
Deprived of feeding the cats, she started protesting outside the church during Sunday services. Carrying signs that read "Northside Baptist Denies Food to Animals" and "Practice What You Preach: Compassion for All God's Creatures," she soon got Watson's goat.
"They're only here to feed the cats and protest. They don't care about this place," he snarled to the Sun. "What happened to love your neighbor as yourself?"
That is a very good question. It is just too bad that big shot Christians like Watson and Turner are too full of themselves to realize that the teachings of Jesus apply to themselves as well as to everyone else.
Ambrose Bierce certainly knew what he was talking about when in his Devil's Dictionary he defined a Christian as "one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely-inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor (but not himself)." Or, alternatively, as "one who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin."
It is a sure bet that if the cats were feeding the till instead of just lounging around on church property that Turner and Watson would be singing an entirely different tune. Since that is not the case, they were more than willing to forget all about the compassion that they as children of Christ owe to all living creatures and instead to indulge in the most blatant form of ailurophobia.
Racism sans doute also factored into the equation somewhere in that Turner and his colleagues certainly did not appreciate the fact that suburban whites had appropriated their property for the cats. They were not totally unjustified in feeling that way since all sorts of outsiders have been setting up shop in black neighborhoods for as long as anyone can remember with the sole intention of taking advantage of the locals.
Most prominent among these naked exploiters are white and oriental ghetto liquor store operators who make a packet peddling rotgut before retiring to their palatial estates in Miami Beach and the Cayman Islands. All that they ever leave behind in their wake are drunkards, desiccated livers, and broken lives.
Cats are not bigots, however, and even their fiercest enemies, such as the American Bird Conservancy and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, have yet to accuse them of that although given enough time they probably eventually will get around to doing so. More to the point, the cats came from the surrounding neighborhood and are therefore, at least in part, the church's responsibility.
Instead of looking at the cats' caretakers as interlopers and exploiters, Northside Baptist should appreciate their assistance in taking care of a problem that it and its parishioners have neglected for so long.
The battle raged on for at least two weeks while the cats were forced to go without food and water. Farmer picked up support along the way in her struggle as the church's inhumane and cruel treatment of the felines spread like wildfire via e-mail and Facebook.
Darlene Harris of the Baltimore City Animal Response Team was one of the first to come to the cats' defense. "These poor cats," she moaned to the Sun. "This is a church and we want to respect that, but we also want them to have some respect for animals."
Local resident Greg Eames, who has a feeding station located on his property, has nothing but kudos for the cats. "We don't have a mice problem anymore in the entire neighborhood," he testified to the Sun.
Farmer's spirited advocacy and the much-appreciated coverage given this story by the Baltimore Sun generated so much bad publicity for Northside Baptist that it ultimately was forced into accepting a compromise negotiated by Alley Cat Allies (ACA). Under this arrangement, a new feeding station has been erected in a more remote section of church property. (See photo above of the cats.)
ACA also has donated decorative stones and motion sensors that emit high-pitched noises in an effort to keep the cats from eliminating in the church's flower beds. It is unclear, however, how that is going to solve the feces problem.
Being extremely clean animals, cats always cover up their excrement if either sand or dirt are available. Whenever they are not, such as in cases where concrete and lawns predominate, is where there are problems.
It therefore is imperative that both ACA and Farmer be willing to pick up after the cats if this arrangement is going to work because the church has made it quite clear that it is not going to tolerate feces on its lawn.
ACA also is going to attempt to get area residents to sterilize their cats as a way of curtailing the dumping of additional cats on church property. Furthermore, it is attempting to recruit caretakers to help shoulder some of the load with Farmer.
If it somehow could be prevailed upon to stop demonizing cats and being a stick-in-the mud, Northside Baptist potentially could play a positive role in resolving this dispute. Turner, in particular, could use his office as a bully pulpit in order to preach not only compassion for homeless cats but responsible pet ownership as well. In doing so, he would not only be helping the cats but his church also.
"Obviously we all want what is best for the cats and this agreement will ensure their presence on the ground with volunteers being allowed to feed," ACA's Elizabeth Parowski told the Baltimore Sun on July 19th. (See "Church Relents on Cat-Feeding Ban.")
That is only partially true. The arrangement will not bear fruit unless all parties are committed to making it work and act in good faith.
The stakes are high in this game in that if things do not work out it could be curtains for the cats. If the authorities are called in, the cats will be trapped and taken to shelters where nearly one-hundred per cent of all feral arrivals are immediately killed.
Relocating the cats is not only expensive but difficult. Besides finding a suitable location, the cats usually need to be confined in cages for up to at least a month before being released so as to dissuade them from attempting to return to their old haunt.
Finally, ACA needs to remain vigilant in order to ensure that neither Northside Baptist nor any of its cohorts decide to take the law into their own hands and do away with the cats by nefarious means. After all, Baptists have a history of not only sneaky, underhanded dealings but of killing cats as well.
For example, while their students were away on Christmas break in 2006, administrators at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, rounded up an unspecified number of feral cats and gave them to the Delaware County SPCA to exterminate. (See Cat Defender post of February 12, 2007 entitled "God-Fearing Baptists at Eastern University Kill Off Their Feral Cats on the Sly while Students Are Away on Christmas Break.")
"Keeping the cats on campus would be irresponsible and inhumane," Bettie Ann Brigham, vice president of Student Development, said at the time. "Our primary concern is student safety."
Such twisted morality in support of cold-blooded murder bears out the wisdom of Dr. Lawrence J. Peter when he once opined that "going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car." Or, as Thomas Jefferson once volunteered, "Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man."
As morally abhorrent as the Baptists in both Baltimore and St. Davids have behaved, it actually was Catholics who wrote the book on demonizing, abusing, and killing cats. In 1233, Pope Gregory IX denounced black cats as satanic in a papal bull and in doing so gave birth to a prejudice that still persists to this very day.
Later in the fifteenth century, Pope Innocent VIII issued his infamous witch bull wherein he declared that all cat-worshipers and, by implication all felines, should be disposed of via the auto-da-fe.
As the result of the Catholics' lies, untold numbers of cats were summarily executed during the Middle Ages and this left the rodent population free to multiply unchecked. This in turn led to periodic outbreaks of bubonic plague which was spread by fleas carried by mice. All totaled, it is estimated that one-quarter of all Europeans perished because of this deadly disease.
The centuries-old ritual of tossing cats from the bell tower of historic Cloth Hall in Ieper, Belgium, during the triennial celebration of Kattenstoet is a permanent monument to just how horrible cats were treated by Medievals. The major difference between today and yesterday is that between the fourteenth century and 1817 the cats tossed from Cloth Hall were live ones whereas today they are stuffed replicas. (See Cat Defender post of May 22, 2006 entitled "Belgian Ritual of Tossing Stuffed Cats from Belfry Makes Jest of Hideous Crimes of Capitalists and Catholics.")
Even though the Vatican has moderated his views on cats somewhat, many Catholics still harbor a passionate hatred for the species in their malignant bosoms. For example, St. Jude Catholic Church in affluent Tequesta, Florida, thirty-one kilometers north of Palm Beach on United States Highway 1, hired a trapper back in 2007 to remove twenty-five or so strays from its property. (See photo directly above.)
The cats had lived on three and one-half acres of vacant church property along Village Boulevard for years without any problems. Parishioners fed, watered, sheltered, vaccinated, and sterilized them. They even were able to find homes for some of them.
The good times came to an abrupt end in early 2007 when a cat-hating snowbird living next door at a condominium called Lighthouse Cove complained to Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control (PBCACC). Unwilling to leave the dispute to the proper authorities to mediate, he additionally took matters into his own hands by physically confronting the cats' caretakers and erecting signs urging citizens to copy down their license plate numbers so he could report them to the police.
Whether or not church officials had been lying in wait like vipers in the grass for just such an opportunity in order to give the cats the heave-ho or simply bowed to the snowbird's strong-arm tactics is unclear. The important thing is that they not only knuckled under but bought into his outlandish slanders as well.
"Because of the diseases that feral cats may carry, St. Jude's is in the process of acquiring a professional trapper to transport the feral cats that exist to a safe environment where they will not be health hazard or a nuisance to individuals in the parish," Alexis Walkenstein of the Palm Beach Diocese told the Palm Beach Post on October 19, 2007. (See "Cat Feeders Hiss at Church's Barricade.")
As a prelude to their eventual eviction, St. Jude's erected a six-foot-high chain-link fence around its property in September of 2007 in order to bar the cats' caretakers from encroaching upon church property. It even successfully inveigled the Tequesta Police into enforcing its edict.
Malheureusement, it has been impossible to determine what happened to the cats. If the knackers at PBCACC got their blood-drenched hands on them they most likely were immediately killed because of the one-thousand-three-hundred-sixty-three cats that it took in during September of 2007 it extirpated one-thousand-one-hundred-twelve of them.
As an advocate for scrub jays, PBCACC's David Walesky firmly believes that all stray and feral cats should be killed. "There are worse things than humane euthanasia for wild cats," he declared to the Palm Beach Post in the article cited supra.
First of all, there is nothing more morally reprehensible than murdering perfectly healthy cats or any animal for that matter. Second of all, murder and euthanasia are two entirely different matters and Walesky is aware of that distinction as well as everyone else.
Thirdly, the cats at St. Jude's were strays, not ferals, that had been cruelly abandoned most likely by local residents. Accordingly, both the church and Tequesta had a moral responsibility to take care of them.
Fourthly, the argument that cats carry diseases and are a nuisance is totally bogus. Besides, what St. Jude's does on its own property is none of the business of a part-time condo owner from up north.
St. Jude's unchristian treatment of the cats left Lori Layton so disillusioned that she quit the church. "Because it's on church property, we're dealing with a moral issue; we're Catholic," she told the Palm Beach Post. "It really makes me embarrassed that I'm Catholic. I'm so disgusted with these people."
Bill Green, one of the cats' caretakers, put is succinctly when he told the Post, "I thought it was my obligation to do something."
St. Francis of Assisi would have wholeheartedly concurred. "God requires that we assist the animals when they need our help," he once wrote. "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."
Being that he is such a huge fan of the species, it would be interesting to know what the current pontiff, Joseph Ratzinger, thinks of St. Jude's inhumane treatment of its cats. Not only does he regularly feed the Vatican's strays but when he was still a cardinal he used to take care of the hungry felines that congregated outside his summer home in Panting, Bayern.
Back in 2007, Jeanne Perego authored a biography about the pope entitled Joseph and Chico. The story of the pontiff's life is told through the eyes of a nine-year-old cat named Chico that lives next door to him in Panting. (See photo above.)
"The pope of course loves cats and all animals because they are creatures of God and often, like Chico, they have lessons for us that are worth learning," Father Georg Ganswein, the pope's private secretary, told the Daily Telegraph on October 3, 2007. (See "Chico the Cat Pens Pope's Biography.")
To give the ailurophobes their due, all the derision, righteous moral indignation, and charges of hypocrisy leveled against Northside Baptist, St. Jude's, and Christianity in general may be unfair because the Bible is largely antagonistic to animals. (See John W. Loftus, "The Bible and the Treatment of Animals," posted July 13th at Debunking Christianity.")
Most notably, the Dominion Mandate contained in Genesis I:26 and 28 as well as God's directive to Peter in Acts 10:10-13 to kill and eat animals, reptiles, and birds have been interpreted by Christians, Jews, and nonbelievers alike down through the centuries as implying that animals do not have any rights whatsoever. Consequently, they can be exploited, abused, and killed at will and such treatment would be in keeping with the explicit word of God.
Cats, for instance, are only mentioned once in the Bible and that is in the Apocrypha. In verse twenty-two of the Letter of Jeremiah an oblique reference is made to them as sitting on top of statues of the Egyptian gods.
Perhaps it is therefore time that people stopped looking at Christianity as a moral force in this world and instead viewed it as just another power-hungry, money-making enterprise. Its record on the environment, poverty, war and peace, democracy and equality, as well as its atrocious treatment of animals, certainly does ne casse pas trois pattes a un canard.
As long ago as 1968 Father Phil Berrigan spilled the beans on organized religion. Following a draft card burning protest in Catonsville, Maryland, he and a group of Catholics issued the following statement: "We confront the Roman Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes. We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war, and is hostile to the poor."
Or maybe being a Christian is such tough row to hoe that no one can make the grade. "Im Grunde gab es nur einen Christ und er starb am Kreuz," is how Friedrich Nietzsche summed up the dilemma in his book, Der Antichrist.
Photos: Northside Baptist Church (Turner), Gene Sweeney Jr. of the Baltimore Sun (Farmer and Northside Baptist's cats), Lannis Waters of the Palm Beach Post (cats at St. Jude's), and Amazon (book jacket from Joseph and Chico).