Priests Starving Feral Cats in NYC

March 22, 2012 |

St James Church's feral cats are being starved

Pope Benedict XVI is a prominent cat lover who has lovingly tended to feral colonies in his day and has defended the care of feral cats on Vatican property.

He’d be appalled at what’s happening right now at St James Church in lower Manhattan.

Father Lino Gonsalves and Father Walter Tonelotto have locked out caretakers who have tended to the church’s feral cat colony for years in an effort to starve the cats off church property.

Every cat in the colony is neutered and vaccinated per Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) guidelines, the only proven effective and humane method for managing feral cat populations. The priests refuse to meet with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals to discuss any plans for the cats’ care even though caretakers have expressed their willingness to address concerns the priests may have for hygiene or security.

In recent weeks the incendiary situation has heated up, with one groundskeeper hinting that the cats would be poisoned and rescuers arrested for trespassing. The cats have gone more than two weeks without food.

According to the New York Daily News, Father Gonsalves denied the poisoning allegations, saying “The cats will not be poisoned, but we don’t want the people to feed them on church property.” The church owns all property in the vicinty.

St. James’ feral colony has been touted previously as “a model TNR project for which the church could be credited with humane leadership by example.” Starving the cats sets a cruel precedent for others pondering how to manage their own feral colonies.

Mike Phillips, Community Outreach Coordinator for the NYC Feral Cat Initiative of the Mayor’s Alliance, said, “The church is missing a fantastic teaching opportunity for compassion and kindheartedness. Parishioners in New York City and around the world are looking for a humane and effective way to address free-roaming cats on their property. The best service to the community would be to support TNR, which is proven to be effective, stops reproduction, controls nuisance behaviors and the spread of disease, but above all, is humane and compassionate.”

So it sounds like Frs. Lino Gonsalves and Walter Tonelotto need some remedial catechism courses. Paragraph 2416 of the Catholic Catechism states: Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence, they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St Francis of Assisi or St Philip Neri treated animals.

How to Save the St James Cats

Those who wish to comment directly to St. James Church officials can e-mail Father Lino Gonsalves at (The Archdiocese of New York and the Vatican will be copied on your e-mail.) You may also call Father Lino Gonsalves of St. James Church at (212) 267-8376 or Joseph Zwilling, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of New York, at (212) 371-1011 ×2997.


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About the Author ()

Karen Nichols is a Pet Industry Influencer, Publisher and Multimedia Designer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has over 15 years of experience in the Internet Industry as a User Experience Analyst and Interaction Design Consultant. She's blogged professionally for nine years, and is a respected expert in social media, web analytics, online branding and Wordpress design and development. She's a popular speaker at pet industry conferences. In 2013, she won the BlogPaws social media awards for Best Cat Blog and Best video. In 2012, Karen won the Best Blog Design award for She was one of seven finalists in the national Purina Cat Chow Correspondent search in 2010. She has been a spokesperson for Friskies and judge of the 2012 "The Friskies" video contest, and a juror for the Internet Cat Video Festival. Karen is a member of the Cat Writer's Association, Women in the Pet Industry, the IAABC, The Interactive Design Association and the North Bay Multimedia Association.

Comments (6)

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  1. NonnyMus says:

    Nothing the catholic church does surprises me any more. Appalls me, yes. Surprise me, no.

  2. Rhonda says:

    Emailed and called. Has the press been informed?

  3. skeezix says:

    Thanks, Rhonda. It’s gotten pretty good press. I called and left a message asking the priests for a video interview when I’m in NYC next week, although I don’t expect to hear from them.

  4. Lizzy says:

    This is so depressing. I have to agree with Nonny. Nothing suprises me anymore when it comes to the Catholic church. (*Sighs*) In then end, Im sure it’s all about money.

  5. Sark says:

    My email to them;

    I am saddened and greatly concerned to learn that you have denied cats the care and assistance they need to live. I have no understanding as to why you would be so cruel and heartless to these sweet ones. I do feel certain that your acts cause much sadness and absolutely do not reflect the teachings of the church.

    I am also greatly concerned because there is well-documented research showing that those who are cruel to animals will also be cruel to children and others. I hope you will look at the information provided in the link. It may be wise to seek help because this cruelty should stop. Indeed, it should never have happened.

    Many are greatly and rightly concerned for these wonderful members of creation because of the actions you have wrongly taken. I hope that you will immediately allow caring individuals to have access the cats so that their lives may be saved.

    I hope that you will take a long and careful look at your behavior and get help to make sure you never do anything like this again.


  6. Catherine says:

    Notify Alley Cat Allies.


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