Ivory Poaching and Catholic Sacramentals

This investigative story from National Geographic covers how the religious art market is a source of demand in the ivory trade. This makes me sick.


The way the article describes how the Fillipino’s treat their ivory statues sounds a bit like idoltry. This needs to stop. We don’t need to shed endangered elephant blood in order to have something to bless.

Ivory poaching is wrong.

I would have thought that National Geographic could have made its point without citing - let alone leading off with - the Filipino practice it wrote about. Heaven knows there are enough animal ivory abuses out there. Not for the first time has Nat Geo taken a slant on something that comes across as critical of traditional religion. Of course earth worship / the whole “Gaia” thing, is just fine with them.

And the abuse accusation it just had to mention had what, exactly, to do with the ivory story?

No wonder that I don’t trust the article completely.

The problem of ivory poaching is due to unethical human inclination, not religiosity.

Maybe the Filipino Church should make a statement decrying this practice.

The Santo Niño de Cebú icon is almost 500 years old. What it has to do with current ivory smuggling is beyond me.

Most of us Filipinos that have Ivory Statues are actually art collectors. There are some Ivory Statues that have been in the church for the longest time (400 to 500 years old) and have been canonically crowned. We have lots of Ivory Saints here, but there are much more wooden, concrete or resin statues. Only the rich “collectors” can buy these ivory statues. I think it should stop, but the illegal trade keeps going on. But we cannot destroy or burn a 400 year old canonically crowned statue of our lady because it is ivory. But I guess the best thing to do is stop it now, and not support the illegal trade.

the ivory face and hands of Our Lady of the Rosary in the Philippines is a canonically crowned image and loved by filipinos since 1593 below.

I agree with you.
To do an iconoclasm in the name of environmentalism is insulting to say the least.
I swear, that news article had spawned anti-Catholicism on certain parts of FaceBook.

I myself am against Ivory Trade (not just with religious statues but any kind of Ivory art especially when the law has been passed to stop the use of ivory). The truth is there are also lots of non religious art that are made of Ivory, sadly, it was only magnified to the catholic statues that are made of it. But to destroy a 400 year old canonically crowned statue to show the seriousness of being anti ivory trade (or as you said, iconoclasm) is just absurd because in the end, it is not just only a canonically crowned sacramental. it is also part of the history of the Philippines. And i dont want a part of my history be destroyed :cool: We just need to learn from it, do our best to preserve the environment and stop the illegal ivory trade, and move on.

Same here, and agreed. :thumbsup:

My main issues with the article are thus:

  1. It feels more like an attack against Catholic practices than the illegal ivory trade.
  2. The article had problems linking Catholic practices with the illegal ivory trade.
  3. It had revived anti-Catholicism on certain parts of FaceBook here in Manila. And yes, it had sparked some to go off for iconoclasm as well as the destruction of artworks and history just because it had contained very old ivory.

Pinoy ka rin? nice to know that I have the same sentiments too with what’s happening :). Sadly, a catholic priest was involved. I was able to go to the Society of the Angel of Peace in Cebu a few years back (the congregation that the alleged Msgr. founded) and the truth is i was really in awe of all the statues they have in the congregation. But as you’ve said above, I agree 3 thumbs up! :thumbsup:

Oo, Pinoy ako. :slight_smile:

I swear, if they want to get rid of anything ivory, they should not be whiny about it at the very least. Why? The more they whine, the less people would listen.

I bought an old piano and had it restored. The restorer told me the keys were genuine ivory, and would I like it removed and replaced with plastic.

I said that since the elephant had been dead for over a hundred years already replacing the ivory wouldn’t stop poaching today. He agreed, but said many people were just so against ivory that they would rather see it trashed.

I think it would have been disrespectful to the elephant to trash the ivory.

There is certainly no problem with retaining the use of ivory that was used in antiques.

Now making use of something current would be immoral IMO.

Before you get your hackles up, let’s be clear:

  1. The author of the article is Catholic.
  2. The market in Catholic sacramentals made of ivory is a major driver of demand.
  3. No one is saying to destroy old ivory, just not harvest new ivory.
  4. There is no need for ivory in any sacramental.
  5. There is a difference between iconoclasm and concern about idolatry based on local custom.
  6. The Vatican has not signed the treaty against ivory when it has had the opportunity to to so.

One of the major contributions that Catholic social teaching can make to changing culture is to recognize that there’s a social cost to every commodity. Behind the commodity of ivory sacramentals is a pile of dead elephants. It’s Catholics who are helping push these creatures to extinction, and that is reprehensible.

I don’t think the ivory trade would be morally problematic if it wasn’t against the law to poach elephants, if there were plenty of elephants so that they weren’t in danger of extinction, and if the killing of the elephants was not done in a cruel manner. I might be wrong though.

It’s not so much me getting anything up, but those anti-Catholics on FaceBook who had used that incident to attack Catholicism. Then again, at least some of them are willing to believe anything as long as it demonizes Catholicism. And yes, they are willing to believe anti-Catholic hoaxes. O:

Agreed. No need to burn or destroy statues that are 500 years old. I also think burning or destroying antique fur doesn’t do any good. However, there shouldn’t be a market for ivory now w/ so few elephants in the world. The article also mentioned Buddhists also participating in purchasing as well as the Filipinos getting the ivory via Muslims. So the article isn’t “anit-Catholism”. Though they could’ve brought up Chinese medicine being another factor in the ivory trade. However, the article was mainly about religion’s active involvment in the trade.

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