Friday, December 12, 2014

Pope Francis, animals, and the afterlife

This Pomeranian was at a classic-car show in New Jersey in May 2011.

The press is having a field day with Pope Francis again: Dogs in heaven? Pope leaves pearly gates open. "Ha ha. Stupid church. Can't even get its story straight about dogs and cats, so ignore it when it challenges our selfish, murderous, unhygienic, societally destructive pet causes." Try again, New York Times. If our bad clergy haven't brought down the church in 2,000 years, what makes you think you have a chance? And if the church is so evidently foolish, why waste newsprint and bandwidth complaining about us (rather than, say, Mohammedan atrocities)?

Reminds me of Thomist ex-farmer Jeff Culbreath's unsentimental discussion on these matters.

My take: kindly Pope Francis was trying to comfort a good-hearted, grieving child like the nice ethnic-Italian parish priest he is; not news. Grownups grieve for pets too. And as far as I know, he didn't say anything wrong.
Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.
You see, not everything in Catholic theology is defined doctrine. In fact a lot of it isn't. Lots of room for speculation. All we have to believe is, like I think the Schoolmen illumined, our animals have sensitive souls so they share with us the experience of emotions (why dogs are charming) but not the spiritual souls we share with God and the angels.

Beyond that, just like with limbo for unbaptized babies (it's just a speculation: Pope Benedict the Great doesn't believe in it!), we don't know what happens to our animals after they die, other than, because they don't need sacraments because they have no sin, there is no hell for them.

So the worst that can happen to them is they just cease to be, like atheists think happens to us. No more suffering. Some orthodox Christians point to Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1 about a new heaven and a new earth to offer hope to grieving pet owners that there's a future for our animals. That's fine. One person I used to know said that to make you perfectly happy in heaven, God can bring back Fido and Fluffy to be with you (the rainbow bridge). No problem. Or since "space" doesn't exist in heaven so it's not a problem, why can't all our animals' spirits be there?

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