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Do Animals Go to Heaven?

I suppose most Thomists would say that animals do not go to heaven, given that they do not possess immortal souls. This somewhat harsh response is often softened with the assertion that they are not entirely gone in that other animals (like dogs) share their substantial form. Others would say that an animal, like your favorite dog, continues to exist as an idea in the mind of God.

C.S. Lewis remarked that canine loyalty and affection oftentimes put human fidelity and friendship to shame. Because of this he thought that maybe dogs would be allowed to join their masters in heaven. Critics contend that this is just another instance of over-blown English sentimentality.

Why would a priest waste his time talking to people about the fate of dead animals? Well, to be honest, it immediately leads to their views about life after death in general. That is more properly my concern. Animals are often the first reminders to us, usually as children when we have lost a pet, that everything that lives in this world will eventually die. We are mortal. We share our physicality with the other earthly creatures around us. Some, like dogs (and maybe cats), give us great comfort and companionship. They matter to us and so the question arises, is this all there is? Will we see them again? Can we find solace in knowing that all we cherish as good in creation will be reflected back to us in the beatific vision of the Creator?

This post is in response to inquiries about people’s pet dogs and the question as to whether they would be given entry into heaven.  I would move the gravity to stress human immortality and our hope for heaven. Animal substantial forms would continue to exist as paradigms in the divine mind. Anything more would be up to God’s mysterious providence and I would not presume to give an answer where the Church has not. Others are free to speculate, but we will not know anything more for sure until or if we find ourselves among the saints.

It is possible that my view would make some angry with me but I am not mean-spirited. Others come down on the side of continued existence of animals because these creatures are a part of our affection and shared existence in this world and thus, the argument goes, they would add to our happiness in the next.

Certain animal apologists cite Scripture and argue for a literal new earth. Some ridicule the whole notion of an afterlife, for anyone or anything. Others agree with me that the stress has to be upon the beatific vision and how we (people) are made for God.

I would not worry much about the fate of animals after they die. If we love animals we should do what we can now to protect them from abuse and suffering. We live in a world where many species are rapidly becoming extinct.

Further, some may err by the sin of presumption about their own salvation. Are you sure that you are going to heaven? Speaking for myself, I have faith in Christ and try to be a faithful disciple in the Church. I worship God and seek to serve him through my charity and sacrifices for others. However, if people forget God, discount obedience to the commandments, and hate their fellow man… well, they may be in for a terrible surprise!

In any case, there is a growing concensus that the outer circle of hell is patroled by cats.  (Yes, that is a joke!)

31 Responses

  1. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you
    relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre
    talking about, why throw away your intelligence
    on just posting videos to your site when you could
    be giving us something informative to read?

    Look at the tons of comments. It was a reposting.

  2. I believe 1 Corinthians 13 has it right. It’s all about Love. Knowledge,
    wisdom, the way we see the world, all of them are imperfect and far less true than Love is.. gifts of prophecy, knowledge of mysteries, even Faith to move mountains is to be NOTHING without Love.
    Jesus said not one sparrow would fall to the ground without the Father knowing. He said a good shepherd would save his sheep from falling into the pit, if it happened on the Sabbath day.. the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.. so much for some “rules” (and theological mumbo-jumbo!)
    “Ask, and ye shall receive”.. R.I.P. Bootsie, I will always love you and ask of God that we are with one another again in His Presence,
    and yes, that we know who we are when it happens, because what were we but Love ? Nothing. Nothing, but LOVE. When I prayed beside the bed with you, you seemed especially knowing, and happy that I was praying for you. Now you lay in rest, after dying in my arms, upon waking.
    “Thou shalt see thyself that all manner of thing shall be well.” was revealed to the mystic Blessed Julian of Norwich, who lived with no companion as an anchoress, but a single cat.

  3. Why be good? Why be charitable? Because there are immediate social repercussions for most people who are not good, while there is social reward for those who are charitable. We are a social species. Cooperation is the name of the game.

    FATHER JOE: It is true that society might shun and place penalties upon the bad and greedy, but honestly, some people do not care. There are criminal gangs which become their own society within a society, ruling with intimidation. Similarly, those addicted to power and money often do not want to associate with those outside their class. Their resources become a buffer between them and the cares of others in society. Cooperation is where we should go, but frequently what we see is MANIPULATION. People might also give a pretence of charity and caring while secretly they are deeply self-possessed or preoccupied. A materialistic society might place the emphasis upon profits before the actual needs of persons.

  4. Dear Fr Joe,

    It is just so sad that we can not get as fired up about the starvation and cruelty of fellow humans in Africa as we do about animals.

    It was my struggle with uncertainty about the impending death of my beloved dog that brought me to this site several months ago, and I was very angry to begin with. I was having to make the decision just when to have the most loving and softest dog in all of creation euthanised and it was hurting like hell.

    Your pragmatic truth and overwhelming compassion certainly helped and even though I loved Henry my Old English Sheepdog very much and was absolutely heart broken when I had to lay his liflelss body in the cold wet ground of the grave that I had just dug, I still love my creator more.

    I do not know if Henry, or Heppy before him, and half a dozen other dogs that I have owned and more than a dozen cats, will be in their physicality when and if I am called to be with my Creator in Heaven and I would think the overwhelming presence of His Majesty will more than compensate for all of my heartache here on earth when I am in the eternity that will be my home. I try not to allow myself to become so utterly attached to my pets that I loose the correct understanding of the reason why God created me. I do have the responsibility of stewardship over all of God’s created animals and the relationship that exists between man and dog can be the closest thing to true unconditional love that some of us experience, but that does not imply that things will be the same or even similar after death.

    I was truely overwhelmed by grief for a while after the death of my last dog, and as I am now in my sixties and not in good health I have decided not to get a replacement (note the word!) as I might die first. Not only that I felt I had to fully get over his death and come out the other side rather than abort that awful precess by getting another.

    Jesus called Himself ‘The Good Shepherd’ and told Peter to feed His flock, so, obviously, animals, even sheep and I’ve raised more than a few for meat over the years, are precious in His eyes. He tells us that His father clothes the birds of the air and yet we are even more valuable than those. The bottom line is simply that ‘we do not know’ and that is how it has to be. There is no need for anger or even a dogmatic bizarre denial that I seem to hear from those who say: “If my Fido isn’t in Heaven then I don’t want to be there” That’s just wierd!

    All I do know is that I loved my dog and my dog loved me and for his short 9 years here on Earth he was part of my life part of that time and a tremendous gift from God. I thank God for that percious gift and surrender the thought of Henry to Him in greatful appreciation of His extrordinary generosity and trust that all will be well in the Kingdom yet to come.

  5. Doesn’t it say that unless you receive heaven like a little child, you won’t enter within? Would a child be more or less likely to believe that an animal would join him in heaven? I think you should go and read Mark Twain’s “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” and give your professional opinion as well. That might be a good post too follow the commentary.

  6. Father, you have a Dominicat: black and white. I love it!

    (Although, “Dominican” can also be a pun on Domini canes, “God’s dog,” per the vision Bl. Juana de Aza had of her son, St. Dominic, as a dog running throughout the world, lighting it on fire with a torch in its mouth. That canine, at any rate, is certainly in heaven.)

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