Dom (via Irish Elk, via a very old Saintly Salmagundi post) gives space to a rant by George Rutler against vegetarianism (responding to a letter in Crisis by Daniel Paden of the Catholic Vegetarian Society).
Vegetarianism, says Rutler, “contradict(s) the order of grace”; it is “Manichaean,” he says.
“Man was made to eat flesh (Genesis 1: 26-31; 9: 1-6), with the exception of human flesh,” he claims.
And the various posters take Rutler’s rant at face value.
But Rutler is wrong. Man was not made to eat flesh. Genesis 1:26-31 does not say man was made to eat flesh–in fact, it says the opposite.
God also said: “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.” And so it happened.
That could not be more plain. All living beings were created vegetarian; man was specifically given seed bearing plants and seed-bearing fruit. How could it be otherwise, as there was no death in Eden?
It is only after the flood (Genesis 9) that God gives man permission to eat flesh, “only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.”
In Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 restrictions are placed upon which meats may be eaten. When Daniel and his companions were taken captive to Babylon, they refused the rich meat and wine of the king’s table and asked to be served only water and vegetables, “after ten days they looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate from the royal table.”
And in Acts 15, the apostles said to the Gentiles that it was their decision and that of the Holy Spirit that they should, among other things, abstain “from blood [and], from meats of strangled animals.”
There will be no death in the kingdom of heaven, and man shall then return to the Edenic diet.
Vegetarianism is not unknown in Catholic tradition; it is the norm of the Trappists, who cite the Rule of St. Benedict.
Vegetarianism can be seen as a sign of penance, choosing to abstain from something that one has freedom to use; it can also be seen as a sign of man’s original state and of eternal destiny (celibacy is observed by folks like Rutler in keeping with the latter, is it not?). Catholics also place a value on reason, so why not do the same here? On that basis vegetarianism can be advocated today for health reasons (it is better), for reasons of compassion for all living things, and for reasons of global well-being (you can feed more people on a vegetarian diet). And if these are not reasons enough, rent and watch Fast Food Nation.