Recently, the Conference of Polish [Catholic] Bishops issued a statement in favor of protecting the right of the Jewish and Muslim communities to continue slaughtering large and small cattle in accordance with their religious traditions, without stunning the animals prior to slaughter. In this matter, they thus sided with the government, that the basic human right of free exercise of religion, including the right to eat in accordance to one’s moral-religious convictions, supersedes animal rights legislation when the two contradict each other.
This is a courageous and praiseworthy move, and it is not the first time that the Catholic Church has interceded on behalf of Jews’ right to practice shechita. As the letter below, which appears in the book Pius XII and the Jews, shows, when the Polish government in 1938 considered banning shechita, the then Secretary of State of the Vatican Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli undertook to lobby the Polish government to drop the proposed ban.
The identity of that secretary of state is particularly interesting, as the following year, on March 2nd, 1939, Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli was appointed pope and became known as Pius XII, the wartime pope who is generally taken to task for his silence during the Holocaust. Oh, people are not unidimensional.
The original letter, in Latin, is found at the end of this post. Its English translation below is from Pius XII and the Jews. I thank Rabbi Dr. Riccardo Di Seigni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, for bringing this letter to my attention.