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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. “Heaven won’t be heaven unless my pets are there to greet me.”

    For a lot of people, they learn to love through their first pets. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

    If you can not call your relationship with your pet a concept of love Father, perhaps you shouldn’t be fathering pets or people through life. God is love, and if we love our pets, the same as we love people, we are caring for something selflessly, without material or false value. Heaven is where we all look to God in awe, perhaps we are also looking at our pets, as they were made in the eyes of God.

    FATHER JOE: Loving your pets is an entirely different subject than the matter of eternal life. Men and women are made in the image of God, not animals. We share in God’s likeness through grace. Animals do not receive sacraments. The Church gives no definitive answer to the question of animals and an afterlife; the emphasis of the Gospel is redemption and new life for men and women who believe in Christ. Off course, not even all men will go to heaven. We find animals useful for companionship, for work and for food. Nothing is lost or forgotten in the Creator’s mind, but human immortality is also personal and self-conscious. It is regarded as on an entirely different order.

  2. I am going to take the child like stance on this——-if Heaven is perfect (WHICH IT IS) then our furry friends and other non-human friends will be there with us.

  3. Additional Comments to This Topic #2


    My half Great Dane / half Boxer died two weeks ago; his name was Jack.

    I believe all of us will be reunited with our pets in heaven when we die. Actually, the question should not be if we will see our pets in heaven, but if our pets will see us. I say this because humans are God’s only creation that sins.

    Here are a few citations from the Bible some of you may like to read:

    In Psalm 145:-9-10,13,15-21 – God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.

    Genesis 1:30 – To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the heavens and to every creeping thing on the earth, in which is a living soul.

    W. A. C.:

    Fr. John Hardon, writing in his answer column several years ago, cited the speculation of some early-modern theologians about this very question. The speculation went like this: Animals do not go to heaven for the usual Thomistic reasons. BUT, if the presence of animals in heaven would serve to further perfect the happiness of Paradise, then it is possible that God MAY put them there AFTER the consummation of the world, as it would be impossible for any bodily thing to be brought to heaven prior to the General Resurrection and Last Judgment (remember that the animal soul, lacking the qualities of the immortal soul, can neither be judged nor rewarded/punished).


    Deb, I hope you read this mail meant for you. My dog also has arthritis and she had a stem-cell transplant. Three days after, she was walking better and jumping onto the bed to sleep. The cost was $2,000. Yes a lot of money but my dog isn’t suffering. The stem-cell transplants have been going on for four years. The vets tried it on horses, and now on dogs and cats. They take fat from the dog, and then ship it overnight to California where the cells are taken. Then it is shipped back overnight to the vet. I banked the rest of the stem-cells in ca se she will need it. I think this will be used on humans some day. I for one, would try it now. I suffer so in pain. Good Luck! I hope your dog can benefit from the transplant. It works.


    Father Jenkins, maybe you should get a dog? Then get back to us in about 10 years and give us your personal opinion, not your theory.


    Maybe you should learn some manners? People have souls. People go to heaven or hell. If God should think the presence of animals in heaven should in any way enhance or complete the happiness of his children then he certainly has the power to place them there with us. If divine contemplation is sufficient, then it is enough that they continue to exist as exemplars in the mind of God. While there is something of personal opinion in this view, it is not an uneducated argument I offer. The Church does not teach that animals have immortal souls. Animal souls or substantial forms are not the same as human souls. As for having a dog, my ministry would cause me to neglect such an animal, and the poor things are rather needy for attention. However, my past family experience was filled with animals. We had dogs: Ceasar, Josephine, Orio, and a couple others. We had cats, dozens of them, and I own a cat right now… so mean that no one else will have her. As a little boy we had Molly, a sweet horse who used to take us in our cart to church and to the store. Now, there was an animal… but only an animal.


    Do you not salivate when you see a piece of meat that could satisfy your hunger? Who knows what Fido dreams about, but I’m sure it is less sinful than what most humans dream.


    There are good and bad dogs. But dogs cannot sin. Cats on the other hand….


    Dogs do have awareness like humans. They do feel emotions like humans. They feel pain the same way humans do. They are smarter than most humans, so why think that dogs do not have souls?


    Emotions are a matter of chemistry. You are subjectively allowing sentiment to override your judgment about animal awareness. It is a matter of biology and pain receptors. Animals can know pain, but that assertion is a long way from saying that it is on the same level with humanity. Cows are smart and can feel pain– pigs are smarter than dogs– and while dogs are a delicacy in some places, we routinely eat cows and pigs. If animals were the same as us, you would have to become a vegetarian… are you?


    I don’t think comparing a dog to an ant has any relevence. I had a lab that recently passed away with liver cancer. I also have a small beagle mix that stayed by his side as he passed. My beagle often lays on his grave and shows depression, loss, and other human-like emotions for the loss of her partner. There has been scientific study on wolves and the loss of a fellow wolf in a pack. Wolves have shown the same type of grief, as a human does, for the loss of a mate for up to six months. Scientists have proven that animals do show emotion and share emotions just as humans do. I could speculate that primates are the same.


    Loss and grief are not entirely properties of the soul. But unless you can get into the head of an animal, you cannot prove that it is identical with the human experience. I suspect that you are reading human attributes into your animals.


    No one can be certain who goes to heaven or hell in the end. The Bible can be interpreted in many different ways. I think anyone can make speculations on who and what will go to heaven. I’m not going to be the one to judge and say yes or no, but I will say that anything so pure and kind, as most animals, would be a great addition to heaven. I’m not saying that you are wrong, but maybe you need a dog to realize what we are going through when we lose a friend. Then maybe you won’t be so cruel to assume that a dog is here on earth as just a being. I think maybe you ought to open up your heart and see that there is enough love for other forms of life. Maybe it is not the same love as we have for God? But God has given us the ability to love; why not spread it around? Why compare a man’s best friend to an ant? By the way, I wouldn’t eat or torture my best friend the way some people do.


    First, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, in concert with biblical exegetes and theologians can offer authentic interpretations of Scripture. Second, while we would not seek to judge the souls of men, the Church can make statements about Christian anthropology and creation. Third, animals are given to us for our use (not the other way around) and we should be good stewards. Dogs tend sheep and offer protection. Cats eat mice and other vermin… sorry Mickey Mouse! Horses provide transportation. But, just as Spot might eat the pet rabbits which belong to the little girl next door, animals are also for our eating. Is it only okay to eat those animals without human friends? That seems rather arbitrary. We learned quickly on the farm, never give your supper a name. Momma had a pet chicken that used to follow her around. She named him. One day Uncle Will chopped off his head and Grandma cooked him. No one could eat him… even though the HIM was an IT.


    My uncle (who was a priest) had a champion bulldog, who was a true buddy and companion in the 11 years before he entered a nursing home for reasons of health. I’ll never forget Easter Sunday morning when he called our house, and I answered the phone, only to hear him crying, “Patsy… my boy died!” Oh, it broke my heart to hear and share his grief on such a happy feast day! Then, I asked, “Father, what do YOU think, will Our Lord allow our dogs to be in Heaven with us someday?”

    My uncle often told me of the wonderful priest-teachers in the seminary he had, who really did a great job in his priestly formation. Such formation was evident in his response to me, which I’ll never forget.

    “Patsy, you could never imagine Heaven without flowers, could you?” To that, I could only say, “No, Father, after all, Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to Bernadette with golden roses on her feet. We have all heard of the “odor of sanctity.” There are even reports of an odor of perfume like flowers that emitted from holy people (and their spirits) like Padre Pio.”

    He wisely concluded, “Well, in the order of creation, God created animals above plants, so I believe BOTH will be in Heaven. Not only that, we’re told in the Book of Revelation that ‘The Lion shall lay down with the lamb.’” I couldn’t agree more!

    I can only hope my uncle “Father John” is now at home in Heaven with his beloved “Che” – and that someday I’ll have my flatcoat retriever Jiggs and three golden retrievers Erin, Shannon and Bridie, also with me. If not, I will leave all that to God, only to be grateful for the many years of joy and companionship (and a glimpse of the love of God) that God permitted in my life, a sign of his love for me!


    I think this question can be looked at from another perspective. How are we humans held in existence? Isn’t it through a constant emanation of God’s love. This is our route to immortality since we are drawn to the eternal source of that love unless we willfully choose to reject it. Assuming we accept God’s offer of love, we will end up in heaven. This is a relational philosophy of love. We in turn can establish a relationship of love with those we hold dear. This extends to the animals we have loved. We continue to love them after their death and as long as we exist. This locks them in a relationship of love and grants them a sort of indirect immortality. God values the love of all His creatures and understands that many people cannot be totally happy in eternity without the pets they have cherished in life. It is only logical, therefore, that He would permit the love He freely gives to humans to flow through them to their pets and maintain them in existence through all eternity.


    We are dependent upon God for our existence. I am not sure I would categorize that as an emanation of love. There was a similar teaching, that creation emanated or radiated from God the Creator in the same way as the rays of light proceeded from the sun. This theory was condemned as heretical. Such would imply that creation comes about through some necessity of the Creator’s being. This is false. God did not have to create us. He does so freely out of love, not through inner necessity. God did not have to save us or offer a re-creation in Christ, either. This also came about from God’s free decision to share his love. The divine mind fashions us. We are created from nothing. We are distinct from the Creator, not expressions or facets of the divine or necessary effects like the light that illuminates from the sun. Certainly, God loves us and he creates us to share in his life and to enter into the divine love.

    I cannot say if there are animals in heaven. It might simply be enough to love and gaze upon God directly. That should satisfy the soul. We were made for God, not for Scruffy or Kitty.


    When pondering this question of animals and heaven, I think about God’s eternal existence. It seems to me that all that has ever been and ever will be is always present to Him — since He is not limited by time.


    The paradigm or substantial form of animals exists from all eternity in the divine mind. Nothing is lost. Thus, while we have a distinct identity, that of animals is suitably found in the richness of God. We will not miss the animals because God will totally satisfy our longing. However, if God wanted animals to populate heaven with us, he could do so, even if unlikely. I just do not see any necessity for it. And I have a cat, so I know the value of pets. She is a bad cat. I would suspect termination with the grave is better for her than a cat hell, am I right? I also like hamburgers. But, I do not want to see my reconstituted supper mooing at me in paradise either.


    When we go to heaven and are united with God, sharing in His Divine Life, it seems to me that we too will possess this eternal vision (and through it be present in some way to our beloved pets).

    I know that God loves His creation far more than we could ever love it — including our little pets. The fact that these innocent animals have brought great joy and affection and even a type of love to His children seems to me to be God’s purpose for their existence. I do not understand why they would be excluded from being an “accidental” source of happiness in heaven.


    It is because we were made for God. The Church leaves the question open, but I suspect you are making heaven too earthly. Why should God want to distract us as a community from the beatific vision?


    I think the big problem arises when we assume that animals must have a soul like our own in order to be present in heaven. That can never be. They are not made in the image and likeness of God, and are not partakers of the Divine Life. But they do reflect the beauty and goodness of God. It seems odd to me that our loving Father would forever extinguish any life which came forth from His hands, with the final annihilation of an animal, or even a flower.


    Material creation is inherently limited, both spacially and temporally. We believe that God has made an exception with mankind because we have one leg in both worlds, the spiritual and the mortal.


    For me, there is also the problem of the great injustice done to animals, when they are not used as God intended, i.e., food, companionship, work, etc. Sadly, innumerable animals are tortured and abused in horrible ways by cruel and malicious persons. I sometimes wonder how God, in His perfect justice, will reconcile these crimes against innocent and helpless creatures.


    We do not judge animals as persons. We should not torment them. Those raised for food should be raised and dispatched with suitable respect and concern about pain. Even our Lord ate animals. They are closer to things or objects than to subjects like ourselves.


    It seems we can never know for sure the eternal fate of our beloved pets, until we ourselves get to heaven. But it seems to me that God would not be offended if we hope for everything from His Love.


    God might not be offended, unless we place created things above the Creator. That would be a real problem. We can believe what we want, that does not make it true.


    He understands our hearts, and knows how much comfort we find in pets and other animals He has created for us.

    Of one thing we can be sure, no matter what the truth about our pets turns out to be, our happiness in being united to the One Who is Love will lack nothing, and be beyond our wildest imaginings!


    Good response Father. If/when I get to Heaven, my first inclination probably won’t be to look for Rin Tin Tin, Mr Ed, Lassie, or even Jumbo the elephant.

    I don’t think that Heaven is going to look like the inside of Noah’s ark… nor smell like it.

    I think that it will be full of people looking for us.


    What about the Christmas animals?

    The holiday displays outside of churches suggest that Christians believe that a group of animals — a cow, a donkey, and two or three sheep — personally witnessed the birth of Jesus.

    Are the original Christmas animals preserved in the afterlife, or have they been consigned to oblivion with all the other animals?

    [Reader Note: Madalene is an atheist.]


    Madalene, Madalene, you’re just teasing us poor crazy people. And anyway, you forgot the holy spider of Loretto.


    Father Jenkins, I enjoyed your insights very much. No reconstituted hamburgers in heaven? I suppose no chickens scratching streets of gold with formerly fried drumsticks either?

    Hmm, it does get a little complex when you think about it that way. You really made me laugh.

    I’m just such a softy about animals. In fact, I love thinking about the joy God must have felt (okay, I know He doesn’t have emotions, but you know what I mean) when He created all the many species of animals.

    I’m very grateful for my sweet and affectionate cat who is funny and playful and lots of company when no one else is around.

    As for your cat, have you tried holy water? Pet purgatory could be a whole new topic here.

    Like Michael, I won’t be looking for Mr. Ed, etc., but I haven’t completely ruled out Lassie.

    I think it’s interesting and fun to speculate about what heaven will really be like, as long as it doesn’t violate Church teaching.

    Here on earth I find heaven in our Adoration Chapel, where there are no animals, or even flowers. Yet sometimes I think if I could stay there forever, it would be paradise enough.

    God bless you Father Jenkins I’ll be praying for you during this awesome Year of the Priest.


    Holy water… hum, the cat leaves water of its own in various spots, just for spite. She even bit the pet psychologist on the nose.


    Michael, don’t rule out Noah’s Ark yet. I don’t think they’ve found it down here. Could be fun!


    Father Jenkins, my dog died three days ago and I loved him. I will always love him and I will never forget him. Do you think we will meet in heaven?

    FATHER JENKINS: I don’t know. Are you sure you are going to heaven?


    Please tell me what you really think. Please answer also this question: do you go to heaven when you die if they burn your body?


    Cremation has no effect whatsoever on our status in the afterlife. Given sufficient time and exposure, all that was earthly returns to the basic material elements.

    “We commit his/her body to the earth, for we are dust and unto dust we shall return.”–funeral rites

    My emphasis and concern is about human beings going to heaven. That is a complex question all by itself.

    As a believer within the community of the Church, I place my faith in Jesus Christ and seek to reflect his love in holy obedience. I trust in his promise for a share in eternal life. I am not sure what provision God has made for animals outside his human creation.

    Those who are dubious about a human afterlife might find arguments for animals as fodder for easy mockery. Will we be outnumbered by mosquitoes and roaches? Will every hamburger and hotdog be pointing an accusing finger at us? If PETA operates heaven, I would think a lot of us are going to find ourselves locked outside the gates.

    Further, if animals can enter heaven then would bad ones likewise go to hell? Recently, a neighbor of my mother’s had two pit bulls jump the fence and maul some people in another yard. Both animals had to be shot. Their owner had raised them to be vicious, but does that entirely mitigate their guilt, if animals can be guilty?

    Some might contend that God is selective about the animals he allows into heaven. Dogs, doves and butterflies might populate heaven while hell is filled to overflowing with cats, bats and ticks. Okay, now I am being funny, but it is all to say that we just do not know. Might God include only the animals we love? I cannot say.

    Again, I am preoccupied enough with my own salvation, and trying to help a few “human” friends to come along with me.


    What is that like — being preoccupied with your salvation?


    Emotionally I seek to surrender any anxiety to God. But I still often wonder if I love others as I should? Am I the priest that our Lord intended me to be for his people? Facing certain health concerns can also force a deeper appreciation of our mortality and a personal introspection about beliefs and hopes.


    Reading the comments, I feel compelled to say something to Father Jenkins. You are a real jerk!

    People are hurting about their lost pets and you tell them that it is too bad and that they will never see them again.

    How could you? Where is your compassion?


    You are just too much!

    You joke about eating animals and encountering them in heaven. However, you Catholics seem to take seriously that women who have had abortions will encounter dead children (if they were really children) in the afterlife.

    You cannot have it both ways.

    A loyal pet like a dog has more personality than a fetus or embryo and yet you would deny eternal life to the former but argue it for the latter.

    That is contradictory. Bigotry against animals is a type of racism or prejudice.

    Cows, pigs, birds, you name it probably have souls. They answer when you call. They grieve when they are separated from family. They suffer pain and alienation.

    We torture and murder animals. We eat them, which is the ultimate denial of their intrinsic personhood and value.

    For your respondents, you cannot posit your dog or cat in heaven unless you are also going to make provision for other animals. Yes, I think that creatures like cows, pigs, dolphins, whales, seals, elephants, tigers, chickens, and yes even your much maligned cat will be there in paradise.

    Indeed, the animals may outnumber us because they are innocent.

    Even the most vicious dog is only so because human beings have wrongly abused and trained him.

    May I make a suggestion?

    You have everything backwards. There is a heaven. But, it is an animal heaven. They might allow a few humans inside the gates, but probably most meat-lovers and mean-spirited people like you go to hell.

    Yes, you got me right. Heaven is for animals. Hell is for humans.

    There, I have said my piece.


    PeeWee, you are a real jerk… people are hurting about their lost spouses, friends, children… and you say they go to hell!

    What do you say about the doggy soul of a dog that killed a child?

    What about the soul of the chicken whose bone choked grandma to death?

    Finally, I would just like to bring to your attention that I’ve never met a malicious vegetable of any kind. Why would you want to leave (or is it leaf?) out plants from heaven?


    If a dog kills anyone, it is the fault of humans who have abused it and trained it to be a killer.

    Some of us feel that the eating of animals is a form of cannibalism. Animals are our brothers and sisters. You don’t want to accept this because you like to eat meat. If I served you the roasted flesh of a man, not telling you the source, you would mistake it for pork.

    Anti-abortion proponents often claim there can be no exceptions. If the embryo or fetus is a human person then I could respect their reasoning. But I believe that animals have personal identity, too. They are conscious and express emotions. They can dream. They might not be able to speak our languages or have opposable thumbs, but they can communicate with their own and have abilities we do not possess. You cannot plead for a cat or dog without protecting the rights of all creatures.

    Americans get upset when they travel to Asia and get served the so-called delicacy of dog or go to Latin America and find a big rat on their plate. It is monstrous, but no more so than you eating a ham sandwich or your chicken fingers!

    Animals go to heaven or there is no justice!


    No one said that animals don’t go to heaven, but human beings are created with immortal souls.

    Humans were made for God and animals were made for humans. I understand that people are closely attached to their pets and there is nothing wrong with that. It is too bad that people don’t give as much attention to the neglected elderly and to the infants (born and unborn) as they do to their pets.

    If God loves man the most, and He does, then why shouldn’t we put each other above the animals? Aren’t we worth more than the birds of the air? He says that we are.

    Think of poor Terri Schindler Schiavo who was murdered.

    Didn’t she have a God-given right to live and to be fed and hydrated even though she was ill? If anyone starves an animal to death they would surely end up in jail wouldn’t they? Where’s the priority?

    To be honest, I really could not care less about whether or not my deceased pets are occupying heaven. I am more concerned about making it there myself so that I can spend my eternity with God and my relatives who went before me.


    Do you not see your inconsistency?

    Many anti-abortion proponents in the Catholic Church became angry years ago with the late Cardinal Bernardine. He argued for a consistent ethic of life which he called “the seamless garment.” What this meant was one was not truly “prolife” if one was against abortion but for the death penalty, or euthanasia, or opposed welfare reform and health care, or discriminated against the rights of migrant workers, believed in pre-emptive war, etc. He argued that life had to be protected on all fronts. However, and this is where he got into trouble; groups used his idea to create a checklist to rate politicians and others. Thus, a person like Senator Kennedy might be pro-choice, but he rated high on other indicators like the needs of the poor and healthcare. Measured by such an analysis, Kennedy, Kerry, Clinton and now Obama would be some of the most prolife people around. This was recently recognized by Kathleen Townsend Kennedy in a NEWSWEEK article where she claims Obama is more Catholic and in sync with American Catholics than the Pope.

    I am not saying any of this is right. I am just trying to draw your attention to something you don’t want to see. You can say that you are prolife, but by killing and eating animals, you are really part of the problem. The culture of death is not something new but goes back to the most ancient of days. If you believe in progressive revelation as in the case of slavery and its eradication; then you should see something for the PETA case in favor of the rest of the animal kingdom, of which we are a part. We do not stand over the animals of creation. We are part of this family.

    It is time for Christians, Jews and others to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. If you think your dog or cat will join you in heaven, you have no choice about this. Eating animals is a betrayal of the trust you have with them.

    Wake up!

    You could not care less?

    There is the sting of it, and the first truth you have spoken.


    There is a scene in the old movie “The Fly” that comes to mind when the fly with a man’s head is caught in a spider web. If all creatures have rights, then would that include bugs? PETA has made a laughing stock of itself by decrying President Obama’s killing a pesty house fly.


    If animals have souls and go to heaven, are they tempted by little animal devils? Do doggy devils look like cats? Can animal souls get into heaven without baptism? Also, what about unicellular creatures? At what point in cell division would the new individual become ensouled?

    Since I have bacteria and parasites in my body, is my body a kind of heaven already?

  4. Additional Comments to This Topic #1


    The Church teaches nothing definitive about it, so (I suppose) you are free to believe whatever you wish about the disposition of animals. I have a right to my opinion, just as you do. We will find out one day which position is genuine. My view is not based upon sentiment but rather upon a view that distinguishes between the souls of men and the substantial forms or souls of animals. Our happiness in heaven is not dependent upon whether our dog or cat makes it to heaven; indeed, there is no guarantee that your son or spouse or parent will share eternity with you. However, even if someone we know rejects Christ and saving grace, damning themselves to hell; our happiness is not dependent upon a love of creatures but rather upon the Creator. All the substantial forms of animals are present in the divine mind. Nothing is lost. Those who possess the beatific vision will know sublime joy in just being in the presence of God.


    We can choose to believe in anything that we want to, but we must also use some common sense. Animals don’t possess immortal souls like we do and God didn’t intend to make them heaven bound like us. Animals were made for man and man was made for God.

    Once we’ve seen God and our relatives, we will care less about the pets that we had while on earth.

    I know that people get very upset when their pets die. My wife’s dog died and the house was flipped upside down for a long time. She promised herself that she would never get another dog so long as she lives. The death of that dog was too painful for her.


    Look at Psalm 36:6, “…all living creatures you sustain, LORD.”


    This simply means that God is the giver of all life. It does not mean that animals have an individualistic or “personal” afterlife. Would we claim that every blade of grass has an existence that extends into perpetuity? The hallmark of material creation is MAN with his immortal soul. The substantial form for other creatures is sustained as a pattern in the infinite divine mind; if particular creatures other than human beings should be restored, I suspect it will only be because they are so much a part of us. However, our true longing and love will find utter satisfaction in the beatific vision. Neither the absence of the damned nor that of pets should cause us any sorrow whatsoever. Our whole being will be filled by the light of God’s presence and we will know joy.


    My dog is 13 and has bad arthritis. I know his days are numbered and the pain I feel now, will not be close to the pain I will feel when he is gone. He has been a great dog, a great companion and always full of love. I can’t see going through this again.

    I like Fr. Groeschel’s comment on dogs and heaven. He said, if needed, God will give you your pet, if it will increase your joy in heaven. I can’t see why he wouldn’t; but if your joy would be complete without him/her, then you wouldn’t want them. But to see your dead relatives, friends and then your trusted dog, might be in his will. OUR will doesn’t say yes or no at all. If animals will be in heaven, why not yours?


    Maybe, I just do not know. I am hesitant to allow sentiment and emotions to dictate eschatological and soteriological theology.


    I find comfort in Isaiah where God says, “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD” (Isaiah 65: 25).

    In 1990, His Holiness proclaimed that “the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.” He went on to say that all animals are “fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect” and that they are “as near to God as men are.” Animal lovers everywhere were overjoyed!


    Catholicism would frown upon the mistreatment of animals. We are called to proper stewardship. While I would not want to cause despair upon this question about animals and an afterlife; Pope John Paul II was probably making reference to “soul” in the philosophical sense. The word soul becomes interchangeable with “substantial form.” Unlike the human soul which is particularized and not just a generic humanity, the vegetative and animal souls would exist as eternal paradigms in the divine mind.


    The Holy Father reminded people that all living beings, including animals, came into being because of the “breath” of God. Animals possess the divine spark of life–the living quality that is the soul–and they are not inferior beings, as factory farmers, fur farmers, and others who exploit animals for profit would have us believe.


    You make a leap here not substantiated by the papal text. Compared to human beings, they are indeed inferior beings. There is papal garb that uses animal fur and meat is frequently on his menu in the Vatican. Certain Catholics connect the PETA agenda to the Church’s pro-life stance; but such is not universally so.


    After he became Pope John Paul II, His Holiness went to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, and spoke of the saint’s love for animals. He declared, “We, too, are called to a similar attitude.”

    “Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God, thy judgments are like the great deep; man and beast thou savest, O LORD” (Psalm 36:6).


    While something of Christ’s redemptive work brings salvation to the world, this does not mean that animals are “saved” as human beings hope to be. A better translation is the revised New American: “Your justice is like the highest mountains; your judgments, like the mighty deep; all living creatures you sustain, LORD.” God is affirmed as the Creator of all things, keeping them in existence. When this mortal world passes, nothing will be lost. We will be called to eternal friendship with God. And, all the things of nature from birds to trees to dogs and cats to worms and ants will exist as perfect forms in the eternal mind that never forgets.

    That is my view and the most that is definitively taught. If God should want a few individual manifestations of his substantial forms to exist among us in the life to come, that would be his prerogative. I am not convinced that such is the case. What is a dog without grass in which to run and rabbits to chase?


    I agree with Father Jenkins that when we experience the beatific vision it will be so beautiful and our joy will be so overwhelming that we will not give a second thought to our pets or even our loved ones here on earth who do not make it into heaven.

    On the other hand, who knows if God will not multiply tenfold for each one of us individually all our earthly joys as well? That to me would include the love and compansionhip of a beloved pet.

    It is up to God and we have no idea what awaits each of us in heaven. As Scripture tells us, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

    It is up to him alone who goes to heaven— how each will be judged and how each will also be rewarded.

    We on earth can only speculate based on Scripture; but I think we can all agree it will be a place of unending and perfect joy.

    Michael, if it gives great comfort to those who believe they will see their pets again, why do you try so hard to convince them otherwise? Let them be to grieve the loss of their pets in whatever way they wish.


    I would just say that as an animal lover, if my fellow pet lovers get comfort from the fact that their pets will be reunited with them in heaven, so be it. It is okay to think that way. There is nothing bad about it. So far no one has proven that animals are absolutely not in heaven. None of us have been to heaven, and no one knows the exact answer. God made animals, loves them, and no animal is capable of sin; so why would God not want them in his eternal plan and with the people who loved them so much down on earth. I choose to believe until someone can prove to me otherwise.


    Billy, I understand your pain, having just lost my German Shepherd. Yes, you cry like a baby when people never expect you to cry. As far as not believing dogs have souls, I highly disagree with that theory. They teach us humans things about life that only something with a soul could teach us. They teach us passion, humility, trust, loyalty and love, even when we think we are incapable of these things ourselves. I don’t care what anyone says, God gave us souls and most of us never achieve these qualities. Nevertheless, these animals teach us these things. I guess in theory, we can say trees, bees, and flowers are all living things and therefore, cannot have souls; but, they also don’t possess emotions like animals. God could not be so cruel as to not let us have our pets as our final reward, along with seeing Him, of course. About this I have absolutely no doubt. And that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

    As for Arko, I’m also sorry about your partner that you recently lost. Just remember, your partner was a gift from God that you cherished and loved. I know it’s hard to think about another dog at this time like other people suggested and maybe you won’t get another dog. Another dog does not replace your friend; but, another dog is a way of honoring your partner and friend. Some people can go right out and get another dog. I’m one of those people but I never search for them, they find me. My Casey was one that sought me out when I thought I couldn’t face getting another dog after my Molly died. He appeared in my life, abused and needing a home desperately as he was being put down that day by the Animal Shelter (only three days after my Molly died). Of course, I reluctantly took him only to realize that he had a window to my soul for the next 10 years. He taught me so much, he touched so many lives and was truly a gift from God that I will love to the day I die. So, I guess what I’m saying here is, never say never.


    OF COURSE dogs go to heaven; cats too! How do I know? I have it on good authority that if I somehow make it, I’ll be responsible for cleaning the litter boxes!


    Janet, I miss my pets too, but when we get to heaven I can assure you that seeing Pookey or Spot won’t be first on our lists.


    Michael, are you sure you can assure? I didn’t realize you had a sneak peek! Heck, at least if they made it to 250th on the list… that would be nice.


    Janet, we don’t need to be mystics to see. If we obey the ten commandments then the answer should be simple. The first commandment is to love the Lord our God with everything that we have. To want to be with the one who loves us more than anyone else should put our dearly beloved deceased pets last on the list. It stands to reason does it not?

    If someone loves a creature more than they do God then they are violating the first commandment. Man was created in the image and likeness of God for God. Animals were made for the benefit of man.

    Jesus told Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29). We can see through the eyes of faith. Scripture tells us that without faith we cannot please God.

    The first thing that I want to see when I die is the merciful face of Jesus and hear Him say to me, “Enter into my Father’s house.”


    Michael, I don’t see anyone here is suggesting that they love an animal more than God almighty. All they are hoping is that perhaps they would see their pets again; if that gives them comfort in this world let it be with them. We don’t know nor it is clearly shown in Scripture that we won’t. It remains to be seen. Who knows what God has in store for each of us?

    I have had pets die as well and frankly I don’t dwell on their passing for any inordinate amount of time. I cried and felt bad for awhile. It would be nice to see them in heaven; but is not at the top of my list – far from it.

    But maybe others take it much harder? We can’t begrudge them their feelings. Yes, there would be something terribly wrong in a person’s priorities if they put a beloved pet at the top of the list as the first thing to see in heaven. I agree we should first and foremost be waiting and enthralled to see our Lord’s glorious face welcoming us.

    Bob, I disagree with your comment about the litter boxes!

    Heaven should be a place of joy – let the kitties clean up after themselves if they make it there! As a cat owner, we have done our penance here on earth plenty of times over.


    Cats can replace cats and dogs can replace dogs but no one can replace God or other human beings.

    People have the tendency to put pets before other people. I know of someone who loved her dog sooo much that when it died she couldn’t handle it. Instead of trying to have a baby she was preoccupied with her dog for 11 long years. Now she is trying to get pregnant for the first time and is having a hard time. She’s in her late 30’s.

    All that I’m saying is that I would rather see God in Heaven then my deceased dog.

    I also hope that there aren’t any cats in heaven. Not that I don’t like cats, but I’m allergic to cat dander. I like all animals, especially the Whitetail deer. I know a lot about them because I’ve been studying them for many years.

    The television ads talk about animals needing love right? What about the old folks in nursing homes who get no visitors? Aren’t they more important? I think that it is wise to adopt the sentiments and the thoughts of our Creator. I know that God loves all of His creation, which includes His animal world. I also think that He loves man the most because He sent Jesus to save the souls of immortal man. Jesus didn’t come to save animals from spiritual death. He came for mankind.

    I’m not a callous or crass person. I didn’t like it when my pets died either; but I decided never to become attached again for my own benefit and peace of mind.


    Michael, does that work? In my experience, when it comes to love and attachment, grief and loss — there seems to be no ducking these things. It’s like William Blake said in The Auguries of Innocence:

    It is right it should be so;
    Man was made for joy and woe;
    And when this we rightly know,
    Thro’ the world we safely go.

    Joy and woe are woven fine,
    A clothing for the soul divine.
    Under every grief and pine
    Runs a joy with silken twine.

    So, joy and woe are necessary and inseparable. To the extent that you can avoid woe, you forfeit joy along with it, and maybe even a part of your own self.

    (Of course, whether you have pets is up to you. I’m not second guessing your decision, just more generally wondering about the extent to which grief is avoidable in life, and the cost of that.)


    Madalen, both joy and woe continue after this life. It is up to us.

    I feel that I would be doing my emotions a disservice by having another pet after one dies. That is why we do not have a a live dog. I do have a dog named Scotty though. He’s great! He looks like a real Scottish terrier. He’s black and fluffy and sits by my TV all of the time. I never have to walk him, feed him, or take him to the vet. He never barks, but he does get a little dusty once in a while. I never have to worry about him dying on us or about my father-in-law feeding him trays of chicken and Italian food.


    I lost my beloved dog Taffy last week very suddenly and unexpectedly. We had her for 13 years. It is very hard. I don’t know exactly what to say to my kids about dogs going to heaven. I explained that animals don’t have souls like people, but they hear people saying things like dogs go to heaven.

    It would be nice to have Taffy in eternal life, but I don’t know how that would work out without the dog having an immortal soul.

    How do I explain to the kids (and me!) that even though we love the dog very much, that we won’t have her in heaven?


    Everything good and noble in the dog lives on in God. Nothing is lost. Nothing is forgotten.


    I am reading a book called Everything You Wanted to Know About Heaven by Peter Kreeft. I recommend it highly. In the beginning of that book he poses 14 basic questions about Heaven. One of those questions asks if there are animals in Heaven. The author is adamantly certain that the answer to that question is YES. There are animals that exist in Heaven.

    He references Psalm 36: 6.

    “LORD, your love reaches to heaven; your fidelity, to the clouds. Your justice is like the highest mountains; your udgments, like the mighty deep; ALL LIVING CREATURES you sustain, LORD.”

    The real tragedy is that animals make it to Heaven, while some people fall into hell.


    Changing sides? Gosh, you sentimentalists and your animals!

  5. I personally feel that a people should be able to freely choose to believe whether or not their pets go with them to heaven, considering that I choose to believe in heaven and Christ. God created us with a mind so that we would be able to make choices. He wants us to be happy. I believe that if God wanted us to be truly happy, he would accept our devoted pets into heaven. The space is not limited in heaven, and I think Father Jenkins is being slightly insincere to tell others that their animals will not reach heaven. It is not even so much that we will join our pets in heaven, but the fact that they get there. We want them where they will be happy— where they deserve to be, after all they have done for people, including myself. I have just recently lost my dog after seven years, which is a lot harder than I ever imagined. Animals are God’s creatures.

  6. I have lost two loving dogs within the last four-and-half months. The first was due to an accident in my own driveway. Maggie was 3 1/2 years old and I rescued her from a Georgia Farmers Market where she was starving and untrusting. I already had three dogs and did not want another. After five days, she was waiting for me to come to work every morning and she would sleep on the steps waiting for me each day. She needed me and had seen something inside me that she loved. I took her home and she became a loving member of my family. I loved Maggie with all my heard and was heartbroken when she died. I rushed her to the local vet where he could not save her. I held her sweet little head as I saw the life go out or her eyes. I was still crying over her when my oldest dog CoCo (age 9 1/2) went downhill fast. She had a tumor for 18 months and I had to put her asleep. She was my best friend and I have never met such a sweet, kind soul as hers (with the exception of Jesus). When the vet gave her the first shot, I was holding her as she went limp on the table. She could not move. She realized what was fixing to happen so she tried to kiss my hand gently with her tong and I kissed her back. Tears started coming from her eyes so I gently wiped them off and was telling her all about doggie heaven and how I would see her again. Then the second shot was given and she passed away. I saw the life go out of her eyes. I have never felt so much pain, my baby that trusted and who loved me unconditionally just died in my arms. I just cannot imagine that our God who loves us unconditionally would let such a sweet soul just vanish.

    I too believe and pray to our Lord that there is a place in heaved so we can reunite with our loving pets. I have never felt such love except for our Lord. I am blessed that I still have five more dogs for which to care and to love me but Co Co was special. We went through so much together and I was looking forward to spending many more years with Maggie and my other dogs. Accidents happen, Jesus said it himself.

    I have so much hope and faith in knowing that our dogs don’t sin and therefore don’t need redemption. If you think about that, it is just common sense.

    My mind is at ease that when my job here on earth is done and I am called home, that my loving pets will be there waiting on me. Together, we will live forever in the kingdom of God.

    I am still having a hard time and just break down crying many times a day; however, I have hope and faith. My dear friend is commended by prayers to our Father. I am sure that with his grace we will be reunited with our best friends after we leave this earth.

    I am a retired law enforcement officer and have seen death many times and have always been able to handle the stress somehow. But let me tell you, that as strong as I am, I am having a hard time dealing with my two furry babies passing in such a short period from each other.

    I smile to think that they are out of pain, happy and in the kingdom of God in (or near) heaven.

  7. It is ridiculous to speak of Heaven for earthworms and mosquitoes (yet C.S. Lewis said that a heaven for mosquitoes could be a hell for man!) BUT, this is not so of a companion animal of higher sentience such as a beloved dog.

  8. What helped me when my dog Queen died was to get another dog. I did, a rescue dog. No, Montana isn’t Queen, and will never take her place; but I needed another dog. Even after 14 months, Montana hasn’t taken Queen’s place; but she does give me joy. It makes me smile and it gives comfort to have a dog sleep with me again.

    As with your dog, Queen and I shared so much. We moved across the country twice: from TN to ND, then to OH. She helped me through my cancer surgery and sat by me when I was sick from chemo. She was there when my hubby had his three heart attacks. I couldn’t have made it without her. We walked each evening. After her death, I have only walked with Montana four times. I just don’t feel like it; but I need to do so because I have MS and other health problems. Yes, it’s hard dealing with it. In my mind it seems that I can’t. You just have to learn to live with it, which I’m not doing so well right now. I miss her and dream about her. I know she will be there when I die. I have to believe that.

    I know you don’t want another dog, but one would help you. Us dog lovers love our dogs like our kids. When they die, a part of us dies with them. Ours heart are ripped apart and we need it to smile again. I try to think of the good times I had with Queen. Now I cry buckets of tears, so it is hard to think of the good times anymore. It is too painful for me. Like you, I wished I had more time with my best friend. I do feel sorry for folks who don’t have this bond with their pets. On the other hand, we suffer because of it. Is it worth it? Yes. Because it makes us real: love makes us real and never, never dies. They are always with us— when we remember them.

  9. Thanks for the support, but I will not be working with police dogs anymore; and a new pet will not take his place. I have no desire to try otherwise. The place and experiences that I had with my partner were unique. I miss him and I am working on getting him memorialized. I am dealing with the loss as we all do. Thanks for the kind words.

  10. Sorry about your loss. I had my dog Queen put down 14 months ago and I still cry over her.

    You made the right choice in having your dog put down. Their eyes tell us when it is time. When we are that close to a dog, we just know. I do believe we will see our pets again. I think they are around us from time to time.

    It’s never easy to lose our friend. I held my dog Queen in my arms when the vet gave her the shot. I told her, “They’re all there, like your buddy dog (who died before her). When you get there, tell everyone hey for me.” She died in my arms. I held her for one hour until my hubby pulled me away from her. I closed her eyes with my finger, and placed her head on her paws so she looked like she had some dignity. I had her cremated and I still can’t look at the wooden box with her name in brass. It’s too hard.

    The day after Queen died I adopted a rescue lab. Montana, as I named her, was abused so badly the vet thought her ears might need to be removed. She had a bee stuck in her nose and scars on one leg. She was either in a trap or abused. She is a wonderful dog. She hates men though and is scared of them. Montana helped me through the grieving process and I helped her to regain her trust in humans. Humans, I really don’t like them. But dogs, they are just about LOVE.

    So, I guess by now you are getting another dog partner. Of course he or she won’t be like your other dog, but you will love this dog and bond with it and again your heart will smile.

  11. I have worked as a police officer for several years. I had to put my police dog to sleep this month. He was 11. He had DM. He was slowly getting worse. I took him to the vet and he said I should have him put to sleep. I took his advice because I trusted the vet.

    That being said, I have struggled with the decision, believing that maybe I made it too early. That is on my heart and I have to deal with it.

    I went to a Catholic school 1-12. After high school, I went to college and never really thought about religion. I started going to church again after my daughter was born last year. I believe that God will reunite us with our pets, I worked and lived with my partner for years. He was not a pet; and he was never referred to as a pet. He was my partner, like someone you went to war with everyday. We had a trust, and a love that will never be replaced. I often describe it this way. I believe my heart is like a large circle. When someone you love dies, as in a pie graph, a part is removed. It can never be replaced, at least here on earth. I do believe that if I can be allowed to go to heaven then I will again be reunited with my partner. I don’t know if I was ever taught a specific idea of heaven while in school, but I have my own idea of heaven, and my old partner is part of it.

    In closing I feel that we as humans cannot truly grasp God’s love till we die and meet him. I believe that we see all of our loved ones when we die, four legs or two.

  12. I had pets too and I also miss them. My thought is that animals don’t possess immortal souls like we do because they don’t have an intellect combined with a will as we do. It was man who fell in the garden. The rest of creation had nothing to do with it.

    Animals sometimes have a better life than we do though. They don’t have to worry about work, paying bills or taxes or preparing meals. They sleep whenever and wherever they want to do so. They don’t have to worry about finding a bathroom. They even chase the mailman away… the guy who brings the bills. Nice life! They make better friends than some humans that I know.

    The nuns back in the day were very hostile. I agree. They taught us to sing “Make me a channel of your Peace” and then they beat the hell out of us. Some of them could qualify for the UFC today— THE ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP.

    I think that when we get to heaven, we will be soooo mesmerized by The Holy Trinity that we won’t even think twice about seeing Pookie, Spot, or our relatives and friends who went before us.

  13. There is no proof animals don’t have souls. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school back in the 50’s and 60’s. The nuns back then were nasty, beat the kids, etc. When I told the nun that animals had souls she had a fit. None of us know about our furry brothers and sisters until we die, then we will know. Yes, we have our own views, and each one should be considered. I also believe we may come back, to get it right.

    Yes, I love God/Jesus the Virgin Mary and the angels and saints. Getting to Heaven at least for me is a hard task— perfection, which I’m not and the readers probably aren’t either. I think we go to a place, like a school when we die to learn about our mistakes before we go to heaven.

    I was diagnosed with MS back in 88. I had lesions on my brain but I could amble about and do chores around the house. Two years my last MRI was CLEAN, no lesions, and the neurologist said “there is nothing there anymore.” He noted I was given a miracle. I’ve been cured of MS. God healed me. I’m blessed but wonder why he chose me. I’m not special and a sinner— nickel and dime sins. I’m also cancer free for seven and half years.

    I’m still banking on I will see my sweet dog again.

    Yes, God make animals for man. We must stop the fur trade in China where they skin dogs and cats alive. Check this out on the net. This is cruel because animals feel pain and deserve better than being subjected to being skinned alive, and living for hours or a day in pain. I’m for the humane treatment of animals, including humane treatment when used for food.

    FATHER JENKINS: The Church is resolutely opposed to reincarnation, no matter what the fate of dogs might be.

  14. Animals do not have immortal souls like we do. Man was created for God and animals were created for man.

    I love animals too. They’re delicious!

    FATHER JENKINS: You have a mean streak, Michael. If we find an angry pack of dogs waiting for us at the Pearly Gates, I am sending you in first. Hopefully that might distract them long enough for me to sneak in.

    Very funny Father!

    Many of my friends have said that God gave me the right name.

    St. Michael, my patron, is no push over either.

    My point was that I will never pass up a good steak or a good Italian meatball.

    I’m also a deer hunter and I donate most of the meat to the homeless folks.

  15. I believe in heaven and hell; and I believe dogs and cats or any other pet we loved on earth will be there for us when we die.

    No one knows if animals have souls or not. No one knows what happens when death happens. After my dog died last year, I adopted a rescue dog. Now, many of you, probably most of you, won’t process or believe this, but my new dog acts odd at night where my Queen slept. Queen was the dog that died. Last night she jumped onto my bed, then jumped back down and slept in her dog bed where Queen used to sleep. I heard her stir about, and when I got up to go the bathroom she was gone. I looked for her and found her looking scared on the guest room bed; she never slept there before. I am convinced she saw Queen. I would not want to go to heaven if my Queen was not there. I think God keeps our pets in the palm of his hands until we are ready to join them. I am sure I will get a lot of “you’re nuts,” or “yea, sure dogs have souls” but that’s not important to me. What is important is that God is love, and the love we have for our pets or loved ones, goes with us when we pass on. The bond we share with our pets is strong, and at times stronger than what we feel for other humans. They ask for nothing, but give us love. Isn’t that what God is all about?

    FATHER JOE: You would not want to go to heaven if your dog was not there? I can appreciate the pain of loss, but let us keep our priorities straight. You should want to go to heaven because you love God and want to be with him. To hell with the dogs, or at least with the cats! (Not literally of course.)

  16. I lost a pet dog that I kept for 10 years. I know that their lives are shorter and more compressed than ours. It always brings me to tears when I lose a pet. But I leave all my pains to God since he is the source and creator of everything. I thank God for bringing my dog to my life. My dog died without me by his side but I hope God would grant him a way to know that he will always be in my heart. I cherish my memories of eight years with him.

  17. Thank you for the answer of “I don’t know.” A lot of times, in the western Church, an answer is expected for every single question made by anyone. And a lot of times I wonder why She has given answers to extremely esoteric things in the past when “Is that crucial to the mission of salvation” would let the issue rest “We don’t know yet” when the answer is no.

    Anyway, all know is to, in the end, turn all to the providence of God, for human concerns as well as what’ll become of our pets. But I do know that if I’m lucky enough to make it, when the time for praying and interceding for the souls on earth has ended, I hope to be able to humbly ask for a reward for my little buddies so they can also have the joy of hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

  18. I enjoyed reading what you wrote and your replies to other comments. Now, I have a question: if not our bodily forms, what exactly ARE we in heaven? How do we communicate in heaven if we have no mouths? How do we hear if we have no ears, etc.? Sorry if this is a difficult question to answer but it has been on my mind lately.


    Angels have no bodies as such and yet they can communicate. The human soul has the powers of mind and will. While we do not have angelic powers, certainly God could make it possible for our ghosts to communicate with him and other souls. You can hear your own thoughts without speaking aloud. We are promised a share in the life of Jesus and Mary. Ultimately, that means that we will be resurrected as body and soul. While we will not be subject to mortal limitations, sickness and death, we will have our tangible bodies restored to us, albeit in a glorified state.

  19. I just lost my dear dog today. I have been in tears and so distressed all day about this. I thank you so much for publishing this kind information. I’ve never thought about it before now, but it is true God is taking better care of my Russell than I ever could!


    I am not sure that my remarks are all that kind, but I can certainly sympathize with you over the loss of a beloved dog. Some dogs seem more loyal and devoted to us than people. We thank the good Lord for the companionship and joy that beloved pets bring to us. Your dog is commended into the hands of God. Everyone and everything belongs to him. The mystery of death is real for animals and for men. While we as human beings hope for redemption in Christ, we know that nothing of creation is ever forgotten or lost in God. All that made your dog special can still be found in the Creator to whom we are drawn.

  20. I am a little confused. If we think that personality and consciousness are mysterious indicators that we have souls, then what really makes us so different from dogs? It is proven that dogs can problem-solve and reason. They have consciousness. So why would we believe that only human consciousness constitutes a “soul”? The consciousness given to animals or dogs is just as real and unexplainable. This brings me to another point. If my dog was conscious but souless and only meant to satisfy me; then why would my pet feel sad when I am away and happy when I play ball with him? Do we not feel the same things? Saying that people have souls but that dogs do not sounds like mere human nonsense mumbo-jumbo. It is issued to give ourselves a false dominance and superiority over animals.

    Jesus may have eaten lamb; but do you think that Jesus would have entered an abode to eat a person’s cat or dog? Could you see Jesus saying, “Sorry Timmy, times are getting hard. We are going to have to eat your cat.”


    Personality and consciousness are not necessarily indicators of a soul. Recently research into ants shows that they have varied personalities, some more industrious, others aggressive, and a few rather lazy. Also, animals are conscious in that there is an awareness. A dog sees a piece of meat and he salivates; heck, he might even dream about meat and bones and mother. What I am talking about here is something different: personhood and self-consciousness. Human awareness is self-reflective, it literally bends into itself, something that traditional Christian philosophers argue that regular matter cannot do. Thus they posit a spiritual substance. Atheists, however, tend to argue instead that we are “thinking meat” and that what passes for human (self-reflective) consciousness is simply an incredibly fast processor speed together with an obscene number of neuron connections.

    As for feeling sad or the other emotions, these are attributes of physicality, not the soul. The spiritual capacity for love is not an expression of the emotions and body chemistry but of the human will, a capacity of the soul. The Church does not deny that animals feel emotions (as such), but we should not be so anthropomorphic to think that what they feel is exactly what we feel.

    We do not need mumbo-jumbo to give ourselves dominance; such is made manifest by civilization and a rational discernment of the hierarchy of being. There is a created order. We can rationally reflect upon creation and come to a realization of our identity and our place within creation.

    By the way, one should never give pet names to food. Members of my family named a chicken and afterwards wasted the meat because they could not eat him. As for dogs, in some places these are delicacies. Indeed, an army friend found it to be his favorite food while he lived in the Philippines. As for cat, well, it really does taste like chicken.

    One final comment, look closely at the videos on YouTube of the artistic elephant(s). A caretaker is always on the far side, away from the camera. He is touching the animal’s trunk and sometimes the ears and face. I suspect he is guiding the elephant. In other words, it is probably a trick!

  21. JOANNA:

    I respectfully would direct you to several books that are researched and quote the same Scriptural supports but WILL I SEE FIDO IN HEAVEN? is the best and most cogently written. The author, Mary Price-Buddenmeyer, studied at both Maryville and Fuller seminaries and presents Catholic and Protestant viewpoints. Perhaps it’s also well to say that it is up to God to make that decision. I do believe that God will judge how we treat His creation here on earth.


    Did you read all my responses? I did say that God is free to do whatever he wants to do. This is a topic of some speculation, and while my opinion is generally negative, I may well be proven wrong.


    As God has given dogs (and some cats and other companion animals) skills and talents to aid us and to teach us, we are entering an understanding of their Creator. We have dogs who search out cancer, who guide the blind, who help heal the brokenhearted, who facilitate learning, who bring to connection those afflicted with autism… and the list could go on and on. For in truth, we know very little of their abilities. Even those of us created in His image are ‘incomplete’ and God has sent us helpers in the humble guise of animals. We have been too ‘stiffnecked and proud’ to admit that we are not as wonderful as we’d like to think of ourselves.


    Yes, animals have their benefit, but please remember, we also eat them. Sheep are stupid, and despite the caricatures in Western movies, horses are not much better. Pigs and cows, on the other hand, are proven to be exceptionally smart, maybe even more so than cats and dogs? If we seriously believed animals had a share in immortality, how could we slaughter them and prepare them for supper? Even Jesus ate lamb.


    I’d like to offer up this prayer for you and others to use.

    Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, especially our dear little friends and beloved animals, who rely so completely on us and yet give us so much in return; we give them to Thee knowing that Thou art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for, and we give thanks for the joy you bring into our lives through sharing them with us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer, #53, at page 831.


    Thank you for sharing the Anglican prayer, very nice.

  22. BERNARD:

    I would be remiss if I did not point out that there are numerous passages in the Bible that relate to animals in heaven. Revelation chapter 19 specifically mentions horses in heaven. So, why can’t I believe that my pet dog will make it to heaven. And, as the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “If it will make us happy in heaven, then our dogs will be there with us.”


    Archbishop Sheen was speaking somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I am unfamiliar with the quote, but note the conditional manner it is cited, “if”. He knew full well that what makes us happy in heaven is the beatific vision. We will see God, face to face. Of course, the substantial forms of animals will continue to exist in an intentional way, as ideas in the divine mind. As for biblical references, Catholics do not read such things in a fundamentalist manner. Poetic license is sometimes used in Scripture and one must be aware of the various literary forms. The problem with animals in heaven is that we do not traditionally view animals as having immortal souls. Having said all this, God can do what he wants to do. The Church really does not teach much of anything on this point. So, I suppose you are free to believe that animals will share paradise with you, although I would then wonder if that opens a door for my cat to endure perdition? Where do we draw the line, ticks and mosquitoes?

  23. Interesting view, Joe (Father Joe).

    [The rest of the message was personal and I responded in an email.–frjoe]

  24. Here is a recent book on the subject by the Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz:

    Will I See My Dog In Heaven? PB
    I Will See You in Heaven HB (question mark removed)

    Citing various Scriptures, the priest expounds upon his opinion that beloved pets will be found waiting for us in heaven. He argues along the lines of revealed salvation history, starting with Noah’s Ark and extending all the way to the apocalyptic wolf resting peacefully with the lamb.

    His view is interesting and he might be right and I might be wrong about certain things. We shall see.


    Whether or not someone’s pet goes to heaven or not depends entirely on whether or not the pet’s owner believes in heaven or not. Good luck finding an atheist who thinks their pet is going to heaven.


    I am not sure I follow what you say? Do you mean that the existence of heaven and its laws are simply relative truths? No, I would contend that heaven is what it is, totally apart from what we might imagine. If there were no heaven, my thinking there is one would not make it so. Similarly, an athiest who denies heaven cannot negate such a reality if it actually exists… or for that matter, hell.


    My point is, only those who believe in heaven, believe that their pet will join them there.


    Actually, I believe in heaven for people, but think about pets as you do about yourself– that they are destined only for worm food. But I could be wrong about pets… I still think there might be a place in hell for cats. Yes, I have a cat!


    And, sir, the religious constantly shape their reality around their faith and their faith around their reality. Whether YOU do or not is irrelevant.


    There are many views of an afterlife or the lack of one. Moslems have a rather earthy version, with virgins to despoil. Hindus think Uncle George has come back as a roach. Hollywood usually gives us images of fluffy clouds and a comedic hero who can’t believe he’s dead and still needs to prove himself. Jews look forward to justice and reunion. Christians anticipate the eternal banquet table of Christ. What you say may be true about how faith or its lack colors our views about an afterlife; however, this does not negate the existence of such an afterlife or its objective parameters and qualities. In other words, it is not simply what we think it is but what it is and is not. If you should awaken from the sleep of death and find yourself somewhere, then you will know that we were more than flesh, blood and bone. If you should see red-skinned characters with horns and pitch-forks, then you will know that your miscalculation was a serious one. Haha… sorry for the dark humor!


    I LOVE dark humor, Father Joe, but, just to clarify, I wasn’t suggesting that ALL people who believe in heaven believe their pets will meet them there, but simply that those who DO believe their pets are going to heaven are ALWAYS those who believe in heaven themselves. They are NEVER those who don’t believe in heaven, such as atheists. I, personally, LOVE both dogs and cats and am always fascinated by how absolutely different both these species are. They both comfort us in such different and yet similar ways. It could be argued that there is no better way to judge a person’s character than to judge how they treat their pets.

    And, of course, even if there were a hell, there would be no red-skinned, cloven-hoofed, pitch fork wielding demons there. These images are, as I’m sure you know, man-made inventions.


    True, the Church appropriated images (even those outside of the Judeo-Christian heritage) to convey something of the corruption and bestial nature of evil. Angels and demons are pure spirits. As such they have no corporeal forms at all. We use symbolic images to express that which cannot be seen. Of course, I suppose that an angel or a demon could also use such commonly held symbols to express itself. I am often amazed at how similar the images are in the West and the Orient that convey the demonic. Fanged teeth, horns, a hybrid animal-human form, etc., the symbolism is pre-Christian and is reflected even in the art of cultures with minimal or no serious interaction. I knew a professor who denied the existence of angelic beings, classifying them as no-bodies… a play on words with Catholic teaching. However, he meant what you intend, that they have no real existence at all. I disagree, of course, and ask protection of St. Michael and of the guardian angels.


    Sadly, as long as man has existed, none have ever been able to prove the existence of heaven or hell, or any other sort of afterlife. If your god is willing to wait until my death to prove the reality of his and hell’s existence, then I must be honest, he is not a god I desire to worship. I am a good, moral, ethical, law abiding person. I do not deserve to burn in eternal hellfire. The fact that I demand proof of any god’s existence before I dedicate my entire life to worshiping him should not condemn me to an eternity of torture. It comes down to a simple line of reasoning; IF there is a hell, as described in the Bible, then God cannot be described as “good.” A loving, all powerful god would never allow the existence of such a place. Period. At least I cannot stomach the idea of worshiping one who did.


    If you mean scientific proof, like finding heaven with a telescope, then you are right… it has not happened and I doubt it ever will. There have been philosophical arguments and proofs for God and some of these have tied in arguments for life beyond the grave. Many religious believers simply count upon the teaching of the Scriptures and/or of their churches or other houses of worship. There is a popular cyclical argument that something of man’s universal hope for life beyond the grave is itself evidence– nature seems to direct us in our aspirations and desires to something beyond ourselves and the grave. We find our absolute subtraction from existence to be a repugnant notion. Just as God gives us natural desires for food, water, comfort, sex and procreation, etc. and makes possible their acquisition; why then would he give us a desire for eternal life and no way to achieve it? Believers turn to faith and, hope seemingly against hope. Others get mad and say that creation is a monstrous joke and if there is a god then he is not worthy of our time and devotion. We want happiness and life; but what we know is suffering and death. The early Jews did not possess a clear idea of life beyond the grave, although among them and the Gentiles, there were references to ghosts. The early Jews saw God’s favor in the land, wealth and children a person might know in this life. Later the problem of pain and the story of Job would force a development in their consideration of an afterlife. God is all just and good. Nevertheless, sometimes good people suffer and bad people flourish. The notion of an afterlife with reward and punishment was a way to make sense of it. God would eventually set the scales aright and balance them. The Church sees this development as a gradual revelation within salvation history.

    It should also be remarked that Catholicism does not have the same soteriology as fundamentalist Protestants. None of us deserve salvation, it is a free gift; but God is not capricious or one who delights in punishment. As a priest I leave judgment to God and I live in the “hope” of salvation; however, it would not be my place to say that you or any other person is destined for perdition. Ours is a loving God. The late lay theologian Frank Sheed taught that Catholics must believe in hell as a teaching of faith; however, he added, we can hope that the devil is lonely. Hell is a complicated concept. The greatest pain of hell is not any kind of sensory pain (fire) but one’s alienation from God. It has been argued that the fire might be God’s last gift, to distract the damned somewhat from what they have done to themselves. They were made for God and are incomplete apart from him. The damned are broken puzzles with a crucial piece missing, never to be complete or whole. You see, the damned would want no part of heaven. There is a metaphysical movement. They become their own hells. They hate God and their fellow men. And yet, that spark of the divine that keeps them in existence is an agony to them. God would have preferred them with him. They opted to take a different path and eventually, with death, it is made permanent. They have fashioned themselves with every wicked thought and each selfish act into what they have become and which they will remain. In my own estimation, this is a far more frightful hell than that of cartoon devils with pitch-forks and a fiery furnace running overtime.

    It is interesting that St. Paul uses the image of fire for the saints. Like gold we shall be refined and all that does not belong, any impurity, will be burned away. Catholics link that notion to purgation, but the end of the process is perfection.

    Catholic thinking about life after death often centers upon the immaterial nature of the soul and our ability for self-reflective consciousness or thinking. But I suspect little would be gained by a further explanation of that since you regard human beings as thinking meat and nothing more… am I right? This opens up many other questions, particularly in morality. The philosophy of selfishness by Ayn Rand would make some sense in this context. Why be good? Why be charitable? If this is all there is, why don’t we take all we can get and then when things get hard put ourselves to sleep like an old dog? It would seem to me that being a atheist is not all that easy a proposition. With what would you replace God, a generic love for humanity? A love for children who will forget you and are just as doomed to be forgotten?

    Anyway, I know you think this is all bunk. But I thought I would share anyway.

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