Do Animals Go to Heaven?



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  • Do Animals Go to Heaven?

    On December 11th, 2014, during a weekly general audience at the Vatican last month, Pope Francis, speaking of the afterlife, appeared to suggest that animals could go to heaven, asserting, “Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.”

    Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, analyzing the pope’s remarks, concluded he believed animals have a place in the afterlife. It drew an analogy to comforting words that Pope Paul VI was said to have once told a distraught boy whose dog had died: “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

    The news accounts of Francis’ remarks were welcomed by groups like the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who saw them as a repudiation of conservative Roman Catholic theology that says animals cannot go to heaven because they have no souls.

    Charles Camosy, an author and professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University, said it was difficult to know precisely what Francis meant, since he spoke “in pastoral language that is not really meant to be dissected by academics.” But asked whether the remarks had caused a new debate on whether animals have souls, suffer and go to heaven, Mr. Camosy said, “In a word: absolutely.”

    In his remarks, as reported by Vatican Radio, Francis said of paradise: “It’s lovely to think of this, to think we will find ourselves up there. All of us in heaven. It’s good, it gives strength to our soul. “At the same time, the Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us, and that came out of the thought and the heart of God.” Theologians cautioned that Francis had spoken casually, not made a doctrinal statement.

    The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America, the Catholic magazine, said he believed that Francis was at least asserting that “God loves and Christ redeems all of creation,” even though conservative theologians have said paradise is not for animals.

    The question of whether animals go to heaven has been debated for much of the church’s history. Pope Pius IX, who led the church from 1846 to 1878, longer than any other pope, strongly supported the doctrine that dogs and other animals have no consciousness.

    The spirit and soul are two different components. The soul is where the will and emotions reside; the spirit is the divine element that is infinite, that seeks out its Creator, no matter how obscure it may be to each person. Since the Canon of Scripture is the source of reference for religious leaders of the Christian faith, and does not give any explicit teaching on whether animals have “souls” or whether animals will be in heaven, no teacher or leader can say unequivocally that animals in fact will realize an afterlife. If they do, it is personal opinion only.

    However, in reference to the Canon, it does state that both man (Genesis 2:7) and animals (Genesis 1:30; 6:17; 7:15, 22) have the “breath of life.” The "Breath" is the point in which it is said that the spirit of life enters the human, where up until that second, the fetus is biological matter with a functioning body and soul.

    Humans are found uniquely "spiritual beings" capable of spirituality, all who purposefully or innately seek its purpose and reason for being. Animals operate wholly by instinct and emotion, without a bent toward spirituality or self-awareness as to deliberate its origin or purpose. Additionally, salvation and all manner of the redemption methods are directed at the human being alone.

    No one can know about the animal, we can only speculate.

  • #2
    Thank you. I have been aware of the concept of three separate aspects to our being, the carnal or physical, the soul, and our spirit each having unique roles in each of our lives.

    The question of animals spirituality has stirred controversy. It has always been interesting to me that I seem to learn more practical lessons from my animals than I do from most other humans. This has led me to the thought that they have been put in my life by God for that purpose, the purpose being to teach me things that humans do not seem to be capable of or that I simply have a mental block to listening to.

    Having responsibility for end of life care for a devoted pet has shown me that there are great similarities between how the pet responds to such care and the way that humans once they are relieved of their stubbornness, have a similar acceptance, dependence, appreciation, and unconditional love. To me, the unconditional love from an animal demonstrates an element of spirituality a capability of all humans as well but seldom witnessed by me, maybe blocked by the soul?

    While humans may be the only beings capable of spirituality in a practical sense, I have seen more unconditional love from animals than from people.


    • #3
      Yes.. those are all interesting points. Since the animal is not subject to "original sin" therefore they lack the pride-rebellion elements innate in all humans. We are ultimately self-serving, even our sacrifice has a degree of self-service. Animals too are self-serving for survival, but beyond that, dogs can indeed show unconditional love unrivaled by any human. But then some people love cats exclusively, but a cat doesn't love, they could care less about human beings, its existence is wholly about them

      Using this contrast as an example, and other species, it is difficult to conclude because a dog loves unconditional, and a cat does not, then we can't empirically be conclusive that an animal has a eternal spirit. I realize you are not implying this either. Love is an component of the soul, where the emotions reside. The spirit (pneuma) is about being self-aware.

      Then can we measure the ant over a dog? Why is one life form more cherished and enriching than another? Because of what that life form means to us, we discriminate, naturally. As a young boy, I use to cry at other boys who would stomp on ant hills. I loved ants and would watch them for hours. The Buddhist has it right to observe all life as equally divine, where even a single cell amoeba is a miracle. But because it doesn't represent a valued relationship to our experience, we do not read discussions about it having an afterlife

      As I understand it, no life ceases, but is coiled back into the origin like a gentle whisper (not meaning reincarnation). However, the Spirit is part of the divine and has a unique destiny. How the animal fits this framework, I could never venture to say.


      • #4
        True enough. I consider all to be creatures of God. How he instills them with virtue is beyond the level of human comprehension and understanding as with much of his work in our lives. I am still interested to see how the Pope may respond to all of this if he chooses to. It certainly has brought about controversy.


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