Opinion / Kerry Dougherty

Thank God! PETA has finallymet its match.
The Virginian-Pilot
June 23, 2001

It's finally happened. After hassling Burger King, McDonald's, Vogue Magazine and cancer-stricken New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, PETA has met its match.

When the militant bunny-huggers launched a broadside against a Beach church for a goldfish giveaway at a fair this spring, they may have thought they were taking on a country curate. A reticent reverend. A turn-the-other-cheek Christian chump.

Instead, they crossed swords with the outspoken, chain-smoking Rev. Tom Quinlan -- just call him TQ -- pastor of the Church of the Holy Family in Virginia Beach.

In response to PETA's attack on the goldfish prizes, Quinlan anointed himself "Cruelty Caseworker to the Human Race'' and unleashed a blistering counter-attack filled with something missing from PETA's barrage: logic, and compassion -- for people.

"I had never thought much about PETA before,'' Quinlan confessed when I called him this week after a proud parishioner delivered a copy of his letter to my house. "But I could hardly believe the level of their arrogance."

It began on May 21 with a typical PETA screed sent to the carnival chairman of Quinlan's church. In it, Amy Rhodes, PETA "Cruelty Caseworker,'' claimed that the animal rights group had received "calls of concern'' about the welfare of goldfish that were given away at the Holy Family church fair.

Rhodes fired off the usual sanctimonious PETA-prattle, accusing others of a casual attitude toward "sentient'' animals and scolding the church for distributing the little fish. The inane epistle brought a whole new meaning to the word "carping.''

She closed the letter with a cursory "May we hear from you?"

Be careful what you ask for, Ms. Rhodes.

TQ immediately went on the offensive, penning a brilliant response replete with theology, deontology, ichthyology -- and even a curse.

Dear Ms. Rhodes, I waited until after our parish fair was over before responding to your calumnious, judgmental, inane and arrogant letter.

Calumnious -- it doesn't get much better than that.

TQ then vivisected PETA's high-handed letter bit by bit.

You write: "Sadly operators of these booths view the animals as expendable commodities.'' How could you possibly know that? That is a sin of calumny againt human animals. You are totally out of ethical order.

You go, Father.

In response to PETA's assertion that a "casual attitude about the disposability of animals'' abounds at church carnivals, Quinlan demanded that Rhodes "prove it'' before letting loose with a searing attack on PETA's callous attitude toward humans.

In the near future I plan to picket your cavalier attitude about children by having a few starving young-uns standing in every dog food, cat food, pooper-scooper and litter box aisle in all the local grocery stores, drawing attention to their plight and asking folks not to purchase these costly consumer products thus allowing these creatures of God to die a natural and happy death.

(And the good reverend probably didn't even know that PETA has been waging a relentless campaign against the March of Dimes, trying to pressure corporations to stop supporting the charity that works tirelessly to stamp out birth defects. PETA is outraged because sometimes saving children from a lifetime of misery involves animal research.)

Quinlan pointed out that before lecturing church folks about goldfish, PETA might want to study Catholic teachings that direct the faithful to be compassionate, concerned and nurturing towards all of God's creation.

He saved the best for last, of course:

Finally, I hereby cast a curse upon PETA: May the Gush Emunim succeed in rebuilding the Third Temple in Jerusalem so that there will be the daily slaughtering of thousands of lambs, bullocks, and goats in worship.

Quinlan postulated that such an animal holocaust would force PETA to uproot from Norfolk and move to Israel.

"That part was tongue-in-cheek, of course,'' Quinlan told me of his good wishes toward the Israeli fundamendalists.

So far, the silence from 501 Front St. in Norfolk has been deafening.

"What can they possibly say?'' Quinlan asked, laughing. "I'm right.''

Score one for the Cruelty Caseworker for the Human Race.

Reach Kerry at 446-2306 or at kerry.dougherty@att.net

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