How to deal with church discipline of felines

March 9th, 2016

In response to my previous diffusion of wisdom, "7 things cats do to sabotage church," Laodocean Luke writes:

Aww man this is truth in its rarest form. Our church cat has sabotaged the church so often by sitting on people's laps. Talk about awkward. And bulletins. It's like the cat has an extreme hatred for them and often paws and knocks them out of folks hands while at the same time purring. We're not sure how to approach the situation though. Should we have an individual first go talk with said feline? Then a group? Then bring it before the church?

To which we now reply:

Dear Laodocean Luke,

Thank you for your encouraging and sensitive question, which reveals you to be a person of taste, doubtless endowed with a wide and itself fecund dispensation of the Spirit's gifts and fruits. If my previous missive was "truth in its rarest form," the steaks you have grilled from it are correspondingly rare and delicious, and plainly seasoned to our mutual delight. "The spiritual man judgeth all things."

You rightly point to two issues, which I have often heard about in cases where cats are suffered during worship — whether from sin or ignorance, I will not presume to imagine. First, cats sitting in laps. And, second, the cat likes to bat bulletins out of worshippers' hands while emitting some manner of extravagant purring noise.

Regarding the propensity of many cats to sit in laps during worship, this is, as you have pointed out, as awkward as it is absolutely inappropriate. What a liability nightmare for the paid church staff. I find myself at a momentary loss to offer an adequate characterization of the ordeal. Shall we appeal to cats' perpetual adolescence? To cats' intellective dullness and indiscriminate imitation, oft on Sunday mornings, of behaviors observed at the youth meeting on Sunday nights? Or shall we appeal to cats' brute and indisputable sociopathy, wont to offer caresses while enthralling you with the imperialism of their pheromones, and wont to sit in your lap during worship both before and after biting or scratching you savagely.

Regarding cats' swatting at bulletins, and the terrible noises they make, I again confirm how perceptive you are. You employ the phrase "extreme hatred", and that gets it exactly. Cats hate our freedom. Theologically, this is due to the fact that your literacy — your understanding of many written words and your correspondingly greater participation in the divine Word — entails a greater similitude to the infinite, incomprehensible and utterly unconstrained majesty of divine omnipotence, which is unlimited everywhere and divided nowhere. Cats, pathetic vis-à-vis both literacy and power, are pathetically if understandably resentful. At the liturgy, while others are glorifying the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit by both their being and their willing, cats glorify the Holy Trinity with their being or existence only — and certainly unwillingly. Cats, as near as I can tell, labor tirelessly to attract to themselves the glory that rightly belongs to the Lord. Their pathos is their utter lack of even false humility. They are fittingly compared to black holes by many spiritual people, and justly likened to Lucifer by the truly wise.

At this point in your question you admirably confess, "We're not sure how to approach the situation though. Should we have an individual first go talk with said feline? Then a group? Then bring it before the church?"

Absolutely. Matthew 18:15-20 is the way to go in these situations, as we are there taught by our incarnate Lord the righteous manner of binding and loosing all erring mammals. Verses 21-22, in contrast, evidently depict our Lord considering humans rather than cats, while verses 23-35 depict vividly, through the figure of a wicked servant, how things would be if cats were in charge.

Exercise discernment when deciding who should first go and speak to the cat. In these situations, one often feels conflicted between being welcoming and confidently enforcing proper boundaries and appropriate behavior in church. That is entirely understandable. It may be tempting to just conclude that the unenviable task falls somewhere within the always shifting, ever amorphous, and finally utterly ambiguous purview of the Senior Pastor's job description. But consider: Your Senior Pastor could swiftly lose face in the humiliating condescension of addressing a cat in a matter of church discipline. After all, the cat's intelligent communication skills are nil, even compared to your Senior Pastor's. And if your Senior Pastor is unsuccessful, many will rightly wonder: "Has United Methodist church order broken down entirely?" On the other hand, your Youth Pastor, if your church is fortunate enough to be able to afford one of these (and what church can't afford to pay someone practically nothing?), is in all likelihood the way to go. If cats don't qualify as youth for discipline purposes, I don't know who should.

Even so, let us be candid: Is your Youth Pastor a bit weak? I can only say that I have never known a church that did not have at least one member of the Trustees or Finance Committee — as often as not the same person — capable of erring decisively on the side of enforcing appropriate standards of behavior. Problem solved.

Or, almost always. Yet if it turns out that you are faced with one of those discomfiting circumstances where the cat inexplicably persists in lap-sitting or bulletin-swatting, a stronger form of binding and loosing may be warranted. I tell you this in a bated whisper, in the proverbial dead of night, and with many and strong reservations. But tell you I do. Bind the cat with duct tape, and loose it in the Gulf of Mexico. There is a nice place in Corpus Christi, down a bit from the American Banking Center, N. Shoreline Blvd. Of course, I personally find this resolution repulsive. I am, after all, mostly vegetarian.

Thank you again for your excellent question Laodocean Luke. I must break off and go pray Vespers.

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