Always topical, Saint Louis Catholic is here to set your mind at ease on one of the most contentious and current controversies facing Catholics in the American Midwest:  the morality of the Spanish corrida de toros, or bullfight.

I know, I know.  You were just discussing this very topic with your spouse at breakfast.  You already made an appointment with your spiritual director concerning it.  But, since I ran a story this week on the last bullfight in Catalonia, I thought this might be of use to anyone who likes, hates, or who wants to see, someday, a bullfight.

As usual, the Catholic Encyclopedia has good information.  And, unsurprisingly, the Popes have weighed in the morality of it.

The short answer to the question of whether it is morally licit to see, promote, or participate in a bullfight is this:  yes.

After an initial condemnation of the bullfighting by Pope St. Pius V in 1567, this condemnation was modified and later mostly lifted by subsequent Popes.  IN 1597, Pope Clement VIII reduced any prohibition to a mere common law and this prohibition was limited only to the clergy and on holidays.

Now, it is important to note that the modern bullfight was developed in the mid-eighteenth century, and thus all of the prohibitions, large and small, were directed against a different type of bullfight, the origins of which can be traced to Moorish Spain.  If you are interested in the history of the bullfight, click here to read the Catholic Encyclopedia entry.

As a moral issue, the consensus is that there is nothing immoral in the bullfight. From the CE entry: 

Moralists as a rule are of the opinion that bull-fighting as practised in Spain is not forbidden by the natural law, since the skill and dexterity of the athletes precludes immediate danger of death or of serious injury (cf. P.V, Casus conscientiae, Vromant, Brussels, 1895, 3d ed., I, 353, 354; Gury-Ferreres, Comp. Th. mor., Barcelona, 1906, I, n. 45). Even in Spain and Spanish America they have been forbidden to clergymen and religious, by Pius V, as well as by the Plenary Council for Spanish America (n. 650; cf. also C. prov., Vallisol., I, p. 5, tit. 1, n. 11). The Bishop of Ciudad Rodrigo received the same answer from the Penitentiaria (19 September, 1893). 

So, there you have it.  You may now train to be a matador.  Or at least see a bullfight with a clean conscience.  And as to the sensibilities of some, the Catholic Encyclopedia hits the nail with an observation I made the other day: 

It is worthy of note that foreigners who have been present at bull-fights are not so harsh in their judgments as those who have formed an opinion from what they have heard about them from the societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

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