Like any other hunter would be, Sister John Paul Bauer was elated after harvesting a 10-point, 200-pound buck during hunting season in Pennsylvania. According to CNS News, the 60-year-old Benedictine nun from St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania had only harvested two other deer in her life, but she was quick to share the meat from her buck with other families in the Erie Diocese. Understandably proud of her achievement, the nun put a photo of the deer on Facebook, which was then shared by the Erie Diocese page.
They could not have expected the backlash that came with it.
“The pic of Sister with a buck she just killed for the needy is typical of the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and why I left this religion years ago,” wrote one commenter on the diocese’s Facebook page.
“Shame on you. She killed one of Gods [sic] creations. Has Pope Francis seen this? I think he should,” wrote another.
The reception was initially positive when the photo was first uploaded, with fellow hunters congratulating Bauer on her harvest. After the post went viral with over a million shares, however, animal rights groups started targeting the diocese’s page.
“We recognize that social media needs to be a two-way conversation, but unfortunately, many of those who oppose hunting posted vulgar comments, using profanity and even an obscene photograph,” Anne-Marie Welsh, a spokesman for the Erie Diocese, told the Associated Press. “After careful consideration, we decided to delete the post due to its inflammatory nature.”
Why the vitriol? It may have to do with Bauer’s status as a nun, and perhaps even her gender. Many observers have noted that women who post pictures from their hunts can be criticized more than men.
Earlier this year, American huntress Rebecca Francis found herself the target of international outrage after animal rights activists shared a picture she took five years ago. Even English comedian Ricky Gervais singled her out for ridicule. The incident started a curious debate over whether woman hunters receive more mockery than their male counterparts, especially since hunting has been a traditionally male activity.
In St. Mary’s, however, Bauer says hunting is popular with everyone.
“In St. Marys, this is what you do. You go hunting. Everybody goes hunting,” she said.
“It’s a conservation effort,” she explained to the Erie Diocese’s website. “If you don’t kill the deer, they will starve. You have to maintain the population that can be fed naturally off the land. If you get an overabundance, then the deer starve. Likewise, if you overkill, then that’s not good either. So there’s a balance. You don’t just hunt for the sake of killing. You are part of nature. You’re part of a cycle. You’re part of creation.”
Bauer, a former Navy nurse and theology teacher at Elk County Catholic High School, says she prays in her treestand before every hunt.
The Erie Diocese has since removed the picture from their Facebook, but plenty of other pages have shared it and responded positively.
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Image from Facebook