Whether cats may be ordained? An Article from the Summa Triviae

[I understand that young Dominicans, looking for humourous diversion, like putting together little exercises such as the following. I am not the author (I am not a Thomist and so am unfamiliar with the style), but the author has personally given his permission for me to post it. Quite a work of art, IMHO. – Schütz]

1. It would appear that cats may not be ordained. For some Japanese adherents of the false doctrine of the Buddha ordain dogs, which are pets, as cats also are; now, if cats could be ordained, so it would seem could dogs; and it cannot be that the Christian religion contain aught savouring of pagan superstition, therefore cats may not be ordained.

2. Though it is sometimes asserted that, if a rat steal a consecrated host from the altar (which God avert), then ought a cat, wearing a stole, be sent after it, this proves not that cats may be ordained; for even a Carthusian nun is vested in stole when receiving the consecration of virgins; rather, therefore, a cat may solely be constituted a deaconess, as such nuns are.

3. The present Pope, now gloriously reigning, loves cats, but as the Vicar of Christ he loves all who possess the common priesthood by their baptism. Therefore, cats are loved by him as potential possessors of at most the baptismal, not the ministerial priesthood.

4. Our Lord came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). Thus cats, who come not to serve but to be served, cannot fitly receive ordination, which is a special likeness to Christ.

5. Again, cats sometimes carry out works useful to men, as catching mice and the like, thereby guarding granaries. But the clergy are forbidden to accomplish useful (that is, servile) labours. Hence cats may not be ordained.

To the contrary, According to the epistle of Jeremiah the prophet: “Owls, and swallows, and other birds fly upon” idols’ “bodies, and upon their heads, and cats in like manner.” (Baruch 6:21)

I reply, It is manifest that it belongs to those ordained to the ministerial priesthood to trample down Satan under their feet (Romans 16:20) by the exercise of their sacred functions, especially at Mass wherein Christ’s sacred passion is represented, by which he triumphed over the Devil. Now according to the prophecy of Jeremiah, by owls, priests are signified, by swallows, deacons, and by other birds, subdeacons and lesser clerics; all of whom in their several offices fly down upon the heads and bodies of idols, that is, the devils; for as often as the sacred clergy assemble to offer the Eucharist, the Devil is confounded, as St Ignatius of Antioch avers (Epistle to the Ephesians 4:1). Therefore, when in the same passage he mentions cats, it would seem that according to the sense of the passage they too are able to be ordained.

1. Though dogs are pets as the slaves of men, cats permit themselves to be styled pets, though men be their slaves. Therefore there is no parity between dogs and cats, and so the forbidding the ordaining of dogs as savouring of heathen idolatry is not proportionally extended to cats.

2. There is no parallel between a consecrated virgin, deputed to read the Gospel at Matins in absence of a priest, and a cat, deputed to wrest the Sacrament from a malefactor; as is shown by the differing manner in which the stole is worn, by a nun diaconally, by a cat presbyterially. Furthermore, a (male) cat cannot be constituted a deaconess, for such would be ridiculous and an unnatural offence against the nobler sex.

3. The Holy Father loves cats with a love of special predilection, as evidenced by his humble service of them in feeding them, the which he does not for all Christians; now the ministerial and the common priesthood differ not merely in degree but in kind; it is in like wise he loves bishops, who are high priests, with a special love, as evidenced by his washing their feet on Holy Thursday, according to the ritual of the court of Rome. But he thus serves and cares for cats on many days, not just one; therefore he loves cats as potentially more deserving of hierarchical respect than bishops, which could not be, unless they too were capable of receiving the sacrament of holy orders.

4. The Pope is supreme over all Christians, subject only to Christ, as his Vicar; yet is he called the servant of the servants of God, as a priest. Now, the name Sylvester has been borne by holy Popes; and this name is borne by many cats; therefore cats too may be styled servants, though not in the literal sense.

5. Cats only benefit men through their actions per accidens, for to them the catching of mice is playful sport, as all men know. Hence there is no comparison between their activities and the sort of useful labour forbidden to clerics. Again, insofar as cats guard granaries, by this is mystically signified their watchful care over the Eucharist, as mentioned in the second objection; and this pertains to the clergy.

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