Domini canis

Domini canis

If there isn’t a law against it maybe there should be. Diane notes the story of a New Jersey Catholic college chaplain who brings his dogs to sit in the sanctuary while he celebrates Mass. 

Common sense says such a thing should not be allowed, but what does canon law say? Ed Peters says that canon law doesn’t explicitly forbid animals in the sanctuary during Mass, but that’s probably because there are an infinite number of things that shouldn’t happen in the sanctuary during Mass and you couldn’t possibly construct a law explicitly banning all of them. This is why Holy Mother Church relies on good sense and decorum. Unfortunately, those seem in short supply these days.

So, I guess we need a new law: No animals in the sanctuary, ever, and no animals (except certified assistance dogs) in a church. There, now I won’t be tempted to bring variously my two dogs, four parakeets, a cockatiel, salamander, newt, corn snake, or rabbit to church, and my fellow worshippers will just have to seek elsewhere for “the sense of calm and peace” I experience around my pets. Though I still think observing common sense would save us all a lot of trouble.

There’s another alternative as well: the chaplain’s bishop could tell him to stop being a maroon and stop bringing his dogs to Mass.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
10 comments
  • The Monday after I was ordained I came to my new parish (before I was due to report) to concelebrate daily Mass.  An older priest—not the pastor—was celebrating the Mass, and as I processed to the sanctuary with him, I almost tripped over a mangy old mutt who was walking with us.  The dog took up his position, sleeping in the sanctuary with his nose near the left rear of the altar and his tail trailing off toward the tabernacle.  I had to step over him when I came to the rear of the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer.

    It turns out the FORMER pastor had adopted him off the street and then left him when he moved on to a new parish.  The poor dog, by this time twelve years old, half-blind and incontinent, had pretty much ruined the rectory and was having his way with the Church.  The new pastor made it known that he wanted to give the dog “the boot” from residing there, but the parishioners didn’t want the mutt to go (they wouldn’t adopt him themselves, mind you—they just wanted the parish to keep him on!)

    We finally found a home for him, and then managed to steam-clean the rectory.

  • Maybe the Christian thing to do would be to tell the chaplain that the sanctuary isn’t the place for dogs and offer to take them for a walk while he says Mass. Of course if there is only one Mass or he says all the Masses then that could make things a little more difficult.

  • Why is it someone else’s responsibility to get Father to do the right thing? What about the lector? Should he carry his baby up to the ambo to read because no one else offered to care for the baby or perhaps should he arrange for child care before the Mass, knowing his responsibilities.

    Certainly, anyone who owns a dog knows you have to leave it alone sometimes. Does he take the dog into restaurants? Of course not, since that is banned by civil law.

  • I left out the part where you take the dogs to the pound while he’s saying Mass and then tell him they ran off. smile

    I agree with you Dom, the guy should know better and it shouldn’t be someone else’s responsibility to deal with his dogs. Apparently he doesn’t know better and I saw my suggestion as a subtle way to offer some gentle admonition while alleviating the immediate problem of having dogs in the sanctuary.

    After reading the story on Diane’s site though it looks like more than a “can’t find someone to look after my dogs” problem and more like a “chaplain and his parish gone to the dogs”.

    This line is telling:

    “The dogs make people feel at home, Scurti says. Churchgoers add that the dogs give them a sense of calm and peace.”

    If Church is suppposed to feel like home then why aren’t there La-Z-Boys instead of pews and a fridge full of beer instead of a tabernacle? I think these people are looking for the Temple of the Dog.

  • I agree common sense should prevail, and canon law can’t be expected to prohibit everything (it doesn’t say you can’t ride a bicycle into the sanctuary either); but I am pretty sure the GIRM specifies who does enter the sanctuary, and I guarantee it never mentions pets there.

    Not only wouldn’t I allow this, I wouldn’t allow pets in church, period. (Assistance dogs for the disabled are another matter.)

  • Now, at the big parish I used to go to in Texas, the pastor’s two dachshunds were always skittering around the rectory, which was a huge combo office/house monastic-looking building, so it was kind of nice because they made it kind of homey and were well-behaved . . . but I can’t evah imagine them appearing in the sanctuary! (or the sacristy, for that matter . . .) Father just wouldn’t allow that!

  • At Mt. St. Mary’s Abbey’s in Wrentham, a cat wanders through once in awhile, while Mass is proceeding.  The dog has thought about it, but is too reverent.  Not so the cat.

    Hmmmm. That sounds about right.

    – Meg, a dog person if ever there was one.

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