written by Theresa Göttl Brightman ~ Akron, Ohio
My faith dictates much of who I am and what I believe. While I recognize that the Catholic Church’s mention stirs up much baggage, anger, frustration, and even hate in some people, I love my faith and understand that those who feel that way don’t see it as I do. It is a faith of life and love and light. The most central part of being a Catholic—to me—is a respect for life.
I also recognize that in 2015, politicians, many people on the street, and even many church leaders interpret respect for life as one, single, hot-button issue. But respecting life encompasses so much more. It is the protection of all human life, all animal life, all plant life, and ultimately the life of what St. Francis and his contemporary namesake Pope Francis referred to in his most recent encyclical as “Sister Earth”. As I worked and continue to work toward understanding and embracing a consistent life ethic, espousing the philosophy behind veganism simply made sense within the context of my faith.
Becoming vegan and incorporating that philosophy into my world view has brought about marked differences, and I believe, has made me a better Catholic in turn. Because it was easy to extend compassion to blameless creatures who suffer for the sake of humans, I’ve worked towards extending that same compassion to people, understanding that such compassion was at the core of Jesus’s teaching.
I’ll say right now, it’s hard. It’s hard to extend compassion to those who remain deliberately blind to the harm they cause. It’s hard to extend compassion to people who have been taught to value money over life, who have been taught—either by themselves or others—that money is life. It’s hard to extend compassion to those who refuse to see how their neighbors, human and non-human alike, suffer for their amenities of comfort. Sometimes it’s even hard to extend compassion to my vegan brothers and sisters who show so much love for God’s creation while simultaneously speaking words of violence about their fellow humans with whom they disagree.
Just as it will always be impossible to be 100% perfectly vegan, it will also always be impossible to be 100% perfectly Christian. But in both, it is the striving that matters, closing the gap between possible and perfect. We are getting closer. Shine your light.
Special thanks to Butterflies Katz for including this in her compelling essay collection highlighting diversity amongst vegans:
I’M A VEGAN: One Movement, Many Voices.