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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!

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3 Responses

  1. But yes I also had a rabbit I feel was most definitely possessed have you ever heard a rabbit growl? Well mine did! its like a honk honk honk noise. She would try to bite me whenever I would give her food!

  2. What about the part in scripture I’m not sure where or if I’m remembering correctly but I thought it said ‘in heaven the ox and the lion both lie together and eat straw’

    FATHER JOE:

    “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall graze, together their young shall lie down; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

    Similarly we read in Isaiah 65:25:

    “The wolf and the lamb shall pasture together, and the lion shall eat hay like the ox—but the serpent’s food shall be dust. None shall harm or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.”

    As I inferred in the posting, the idyllic harmony of Eden is recalled. The coming Messiah and his reign are viewed in terms of restoration and vindication. That which was lost will be recovered. Not necessarily viewed in a literal way, the prophet makes the status in the primordial garden into a powerful symbol of coming peace and justice under Davidic rule. Like the parables of Jesus, here too worldly wisdom is turned on its head. Again, we are awakened to something of the humor or comedy of God.

    P.T. Barnum used the image here for his circus. He created an exhibit featuring a lion, a tiger, a panther and a baby lamb. People were amazed to see them all together in a cage living in peace. It was purportedly quite moving. Asked a few close friends if it would become a regular exhibit, he confidentially joked, “Only so long as the supply of lambs holds out.” Every evening, after the show, the lamb was devoured.

    Pointing beyond this world, the prophet is suggesting a return to primordial harmony, peace and unity between men and creation with their Creator. But does it the restoration and peace between wild carnivores and their prey? This is far less certain.

  3. “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.”

    My wife and I laughed out loud!
    Have and blessed Thanksgiving Fr. Joe!

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