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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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If Good Dogs Can Go to Heaven, What About Bad Cats?

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There are a couple of gentle and devoted dogs I would love to see again.  There is even a horse I miss from long ago.  I am not untouched by the companionship given by animals.  I would be happy to see and to experience their presence again.  But I am also confident that God will satisfy every longing and that nothing is lost on God.

Dr. Kreeft asserts that it is irrational to deny the existence of animals in heaven. He cites C.S. Lewis who assumed that tamed animals might be saved as extensions of their masters.  But Kreeft says it is likely that wild animals will also inhabit paradise.  I suppose in this reckoning, Eden and its harmony is somehow restored.  Man is once again the steward of a creation made invulnerable to natural violence and extinction.

 

Really, is this so?  Call me mean-spirited or illogical, but I just do not know— it is hard for me to take a certain view on this matter.  Indeed, if I lean one way over another, it would be toward a kingdom inhabited by God, angels and men, but not by our furry friends.  But, I might be wrong.  I know Franciscans, true to their founder, insisting that animals will join us in heaven.  If I should find my old cat there I will be much surprised.  She consumed 20 years of my life and was reckoned by most as an evil creature.  She would pretend to have gentleness and then she would attack.  She delighted in relieving herself where it would cause the most anguish. She would literally bite the hand that fed her.  As for scratching, neither flesh, nor paper nor wood was safe.  I have heard hopeful rumors that dogs go to heaven; it would be easier for me to imagine my cat at the head of a gang of feline thugs, patrolling the boundaries of hell.

I have written upon this topic before and will rehash old remarks:

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?

I have had a number of 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!