One area of Catholic theology that seems underdeveloped is a clear explanation of our moral obligations towards animals.
Certainly, it is not inappropriate for this subject to be underdeveloped. The Church's thinkers have explored theology according to a heirarchy of importance. The nature of Christ and his sacrifice came first, as the various Christological heresies (Arianism, Monophysitism, etc.) were rejected. Then the nature of the Trinity was explored. Next came the rejection of the various Protestant heresies and explanations of many of the sacraments. In modern times, the sacrament of marriage and the issues surrounding the beginning of life have been explored by John Paul the Great in his Theology of the Body.
This very crude overview leaves out a great deal, but it makes the point that the field of theology has started with the most important things and proceeded to subjects of lesser and lesser importance.
Humanity's moral obligations toward animals, and the nature of the relationship between God and animals — in short, a theology of animals — is near the bottom of the ladder of importance. I believe that the need to develop this area is becoming more pressing because of the increasing prominence of several heresies regarding animals — for example, the vegan heresy that animals are the moral equivalents of human beings — and an increasing general cultural concern for the welfare of animals.
I want to explore the Church's present teachings on animals. Over the next few weeks, I plan to make a series of posts on the theology available to us lay people so far. I am eager for comments on this series! Please "leave a light on" for this and other posts in this series.
"Animals and Catholics" image adapted from "dog & cat" by Yukari. (CC) Some rights reserved.