Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Comments on the Proposed Rite: At the Euthanizing of an Infirm Animal

While browsing through the Episcopal Blue Book the other day, my eyes happened upon an extensive series of proposed rites and prayers for animals. Here is the resolution,
Resolution A054 Authorize Rites and Prayers for the Care of Beloved Animals
Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 77th General Convention authorize for use in congregations or other church groups wishing to provide pastoral care for people caring for animals, liturgical materials found in the Blue Book report of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, entitled “Various Rites and Prayers for Animals.”
As an animal lover, and professional nit picker, I was intrigued and had to read on. I found the section called "Additional Readings and Resources for St. Francis Day," and found a reading from Meister Eckhart, and a reading from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Those must have been chosen to demonstrate how cool we Episcopalians really are.

Further on I found,
"Prayers Suitable for Use in Church or for Other Gatherings, at the Adoption, Illness, Loss, or Death of Companion, Service, or Other Beloved Animals"
Which contained the following,
"At the euthanizing of an infirm animal:
God, whose wisdom is over all your works: Be with us as we act to end the suffering of A., this creature of yours entrusted to our care. Our power to heal has reached its end, and so we put our trust in your mercy and love to gather into your sacred heart all that is lost and broken. We pray through the kindness of Christ and the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen."
I am troubled by the middle section and its, "Our power to heal has reached its end..." I was under the impression that all healing was thanks to the power of God.  Words that support a belief that we have the power to heal will support the all too human tendency that we wait to call upon God only after we have exhausted our attempts to heal. Thus, we see, "...and so we put our trust in your mercy and love to gather into your sacred heart all that is lost and broken."

While I do think that there is a pastoral need to help people through the difficult times when an animal is euthanized, I am not convinced that this prayer is ready for prime time.

A scary thought came to mind after preparing this post.

Could this prayer be adapted for use in cases of human euthanasia?


  1. Anonymous1:38 AM

    I think this prayer is a major improvement over the prayers said over the dying in a hospice situation. It doesn't seem that the wording in any way denies that healing is from God; it says we have done our best and it is clearly time to relinquish this animal to God's complete care. Nothing is said except in the title about forcible euthanasia. and if I didn't see the title, I would consider it a graceful way of saying to a PERSON, "we are relinquishing you to the Lord, keeping you as comfortable as possible." NOTHING in the wording of that prayer indicates a Jack Kevorkian like use of killing someone because the person asks.

    Of course all of these points are moot if you are the kind of person who thinks that hospice is a kind of euthanasia, as one of our right wing radio announcers apparently does...

  2. Sorry Anon, I still think this prayer needs to go back to the drawing board.