Monday, February 15, 2010

Pets in Heaven?


A question that comes up frequently is whether people will see their pets in heaven. Now the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not directly address this question. But it does hold principles which lead us in the direction of an answer.

One principle is that all living things have a soul. Here soul is defined as what makes an organic body live. Now when any living thing dies, its soul is separated from its body. In the case of plants and animals the soul goes out of existence. But in the case of man, the soul remains in existence because it is a spiritual or immaterial thing. Consequently, it differs from the souls of animals in two important respects. First, it is the seat of intelligence or reason. For this reason a man is held responsible for his actions in a way that animals are not. Secondly, the soul is immortal. A thing which has no physical parts cannot fall apart or be poisoned or be crushed or be put out of existence. For this reason the souls of the saved will always be aware of themselves as enjoying the vision of God for all eternity. This enjoyment will be the result of having chosen to act on earth in such a way that one did the will of God rather than one's own will. And the souls of the damned will be aware of themselves as never attaining this vision of God because they have shown by their lives on earth that they did not wish this vision but instead preferred their own will.

In the light of this essential difference between human beings and animals, it would seem that we would not see the souls of our pets in heaven for the simple reason that they do not have immortal souls and are not responsible for their actions. They do not have the intelligence which allows them to choose either God's will or their own will. There is, then, an incomparable distance, say, between the soul of the sorriest human being who ever lived and the most noble brute animal that ever walked the earth.

Now a child might be heartbroken at the thought that he will never see his pet again. He cannot yet understand this explanation about the difference between the human and the animal soul. I suppose that one could tell the child that when he hopefully gets to heaven, he could ask God to see his old pets if he still wished to. There would be no harm in that. For we know that when a person finally sees God, he will not be concerned with seeing old pets or favorite places but rather will be captured in the complete fulfillment of the joy of which old pets and favorite places are but little signs. We adults know that, even if the child does not.

For more information on how the Church sees animals in the lives of human beings, check the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2415-2418. You will learn, for example, that the Church, while it condemns cruelty to animals as an offense against the dignity of man, allow experiments on animals if done in a reasonable way. Again, you will learn of the tremendous difference that the Church sees between the lowliest of human beings and the most noble of the animals. It will allow animals to be used for food or clothing, but will defend the right of an innocent human being to live against Kings and Nations. The Church will demand that animals be respected as part of creation while at the same time insisting that the dignity owed a human being should never be given to an animal.

Answered by Dr. Richard Geraghty, PhD

Photo: Orbis Catholicus


Rob said...

That's a very good explanation. When I have been asked (by children to young to understand the full reasoning), I have answered that if that is what makes us happy, then God will have our pets there for us.

Adoro said...

It is a very good explanation. It's one I have wanted to make on my blog (would not have done nearly so well, actually), but with many animal lovers following me, well....would turn into an explosion.

I love how he mentions that adults can understand this, and I agree, but there are all too many adults that when confronted with the love they have for their pets, instead choose NOT to acknowledge that animals do not have immortal souls.

I love the idea of animals in heaven, but knowing what I know about the theology of heaven, of that eternal union with God, well...I'm sure I wouldn't care a bit about the dog that God had placed into my life not to point to the dog herself or himself, but as a sign of God's love and mercy.

Anonymous said...

Dogs DO go to Heaven!!! Why would God make so many beautiful creatures--especially Stella--if not to share them with us forever?!

Pablo the Mexican said...

As a child, the traditional catechism taught us this (1950's).

In those days, a Priest taught catechism classes after Mass, just like the Traditionalists Priests do now.

If you want a good catechism, find a traditional Priest.

Dogs and cats are not meant to repopulate Heaven. We are. When the number of the Saints and the Elect reaches the number of Angels that were swept out of Heaven, then it will be the end of the world.

How many Angels are there? For every one man, there are 99 Angels. The Sheppard left His 99 sheep to save His one sheep. The one sheep is mankind.


Adoro said...

Pablo ~ Heaven isn't a place and has nothing to do with numbers. Back in my New Age days I actually started to read a book by some fortune teller who was trying to defend reincarnation. She used exactly your argument: space in heaven. Heaven would get crowded, etc etc etc.

Heaven is a STATE of blessed union with God. We enter the Divine Processions.

It is WE who, on earth, are bound to a PLACE, and may deal with crowding and numbers, but those things pass away when we enter into eternity.

And of course, as we know, animals don't have the ability to choose God. They can't choose to increase in virtue, and look to their final end as we humans do. And because heaven isn't a place...but a state...animals cannot be called to that state. It's not in God's plan.

Tara ~ I love my dogs, too, but they won't be in Heaven with me (if I even make it!) Hard teaching? Yes, but it's Truth.

Pablo the Mexican said...

Dear Miss Adoro,

From the Catechism of Holy Mother Church:

Paragraph 5. Heaven and Earth

325 The Apostles' Creed professes that God is "creator of heaven and earth". The Nicene Creed makes it explicit that this profession includes "all that is, seen and unseen".

326 The Scriptural expression "heaven and earth" means all that exists, creation in its entirety. It also indicates the bond, deep within creation, that both unites heaven and earth and distinguishes the one from the other: "the earth" is the world of men, while "heaven" or "the heavens" can designate both the firmament and God's own "place" - "our Father in heaven" and consequently the "heaven" too which is eschatological glory. Finally, "heaven" refers to the saints and the "place" of the spiritual creatures, the angels, who surround God.186

327 The profession of faith of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) affirms that God "from the beginning of time made at once (simul) out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly, and then the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body."187

339 Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the "six days" it is said: "And God saw that it was good." "By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws."208 Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.

344 There is a solidarity among all creatures arising from the fact that all have the same Creator and are all ordered to his glory:

412 But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, "Christ's inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon's envy had taken away."307 And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "There is nothing to prevent human nature's being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, 'Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more'; and the Exsultet sings, 'O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!'"308

Fortune Tellers, Soothsayers, Liberals, and Satanists always mix Truth in the hemlock of their heresy and wickedness.

Once drunk, the concoction prevents the victim from seeing clearly that they are in a trap; homosexuals burn for each other.

The antidote for this is poison is intercessory prayer and penance. It is always a good idea to pray for the Priests and Nuns, and Monks, and Faithful that prayed on our behalf.

I wanted to provide a little something about repopulating but this is not my blog.

May God our Lord in his infinite and supreme goodness be pleased to give us his abundant grace, that we may know his most holy will, and entirely fulfill it.


Todd said...

I have a little different spin on this. There is a difference between "will my pet be in heaven?" which equates to their experiencing the beatific vision and "will I see my pet when I am in heaven?" Once we are in heaven we, like God, are outside of time. The whole concept of "ceasing to exist" can only make sense if we are bound by time. God is in the eternal moment. How can anything that God creates, and therefore knows, in the "eternal moment" cease to be? Aquinas (unlike Bonaventure) admitted to the possibility of creation "from eternity." So the fact that animals, unlike humans, do not have immortal souls, does not necessarily imply that we, in heaven, will not be able to experience the accidental pleasure of their company. We can't even begin to understand what eternity will be like. St. Julian of Norwich learned that everything, no matter how small, continues to exist because God loves it. God is love, and God is eternal. Exactly how that unfolds in the after life is not revealed, but it is all we really need to know, and however it unfolds, we will praise him for his perfect goodness when we are there.