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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Do all dogs go to heaven?

The Detroit News has an article about a growing desire of religious believers to integrate their love of animals with their faith. There is only one section of the article which directly refers to the Catholic Church:

The Catholic Church, for example, teaches that animals have a vegetative soul, not a rational soul, says Kevin Treston, a friar at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington. The official Catholic position is that without rationality, animals cannot go to heaven. And that is sometimes difficult for Catholic dog lovers to understand.

I can remember one of the speakers on Catholic Answers saying that if we needed our pet in heaven that he/she would be there. But the speaker also noted that he didn't think we would need our pets. I'm not sure what I think about that. One the one hand I can agree that if we have God, we don't need our pets - but, if we have God we don't need anyone else either.

I don't know of any traditional iconography of heaven which indicates any animals present - nor of any iconography that depicts animals in hell. However, there is an interesting site put together by an Orthodox believer who has no doubt that animals will be in heaven. The author gives one argument that I find someone convincing - and not just because I'm a Franciscan.

If Christ is reconciling the world to himself, that must include all of creation. As St. Paul wrote, "All creation is groaning." Therefore, the animals must participate in Christ's reconcilliation in some way as we do. Perhaps one might say that just as we are becoming more and more like God - in so far as that is humanly possible, animals are also becoming more Godlike - insofar as that is possible for them.

Note this quote from St. Maximus the Confessor taken from the above site:

Man is not a being isolated from the rest of creation; by his very nature he is bound up with the whole of the universe... In his way to union with God, man in no way leaves creatures aside, but gathers together in his love the whole cosmos disordered by sin, that it may be transfigured by grace.

Very interesting.


Anonymous TheresaMF said...

The Church teaches that animals have vegitative souls? They got a little mixed up there--plants have vegitative souls, while animals have sensate souls, and man, as they correctly state, has a rational soul.

You have an interesting point about St. Paul and the relationship of all creation, not just man, to God as the ultimate end. St. Thomas talks about the "order of the universe" as the created thing that most perfectly reflects God. As "knower," man has a special role in that order, because through knowing he can take it all in and unite it into a microcosm of itself. Man's end is in knowing and loving God--but the end of the entire universe is in God as well, so (speculating here) it seems possible that the "new heaven and new earth" would include a perfected array of created beings reflecting God's glory.

However, the whole "pet" question is beside that. The different levels of soul are based on the activites performed by different beings. Plants grow, are nourished, and reproduce--vegitative soul. Animals do all that, plus have locomotion and sensation. Man has all that, plus his rational abilities of intellect and will. The activities of the vegitative and sensate souls can be explained solely on the level of material reality, but in order for man to be able to know all material things, his power of reason must be not material, but immaterial. Since something immaterial cannot be destroyed, man's rational soul has an act of existence that is not dependant on matter, allowing his soul to continue to exist even when the body no longer exists.

All very good. The point: when Fido dies, he ceases to exist altogether. There's nothing left to *go* to heaven or hell (besides the fact that without the rational capacity for free will and friendship with God, Fido isn't capable of deserving hell or enjoying heaven). So if there are animals in heaven, or in whatever you call the "time" after the end of the world, they're not going to be the same ones we knew here on earth.

The "if you need Fido to be happy in heaven, God will make sure he's there" line seems like a good dodger to me, because it comes with an unspoken "(but you won't need him.)" Fido is in a different category than the other people you will be with in heaven, because they are joined to you in the Body of Christ, while Fido is not. Even so, there must be a way in which even other people are not necessary in heaven, because the absense of those in hell does not pain those in heaven. (I think--although, those in hell are not part of the mystical Body. Hmmmm.)

Ok, enough philosophizing for today. Thanks for the opportunity!

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Christopher Ignatius said...

My thought is that if you need your dog to be happy, then perhaps your priorities are not quite in the right place. If you are not fulfilled by God's fullness (in heaven), then clearly you have not "dropped every incumberance" in order to "run the race."

The happiness given by a pet is far from the bliss given by God. Let us not forget that.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before I owned a dog, I would have readily agreed with Theresa & Christopher. As a Catholic, I was raised with the view that man has dominion over earth and animals have no souls. But now I own a dog. And this primitive sensory creature has taught me love. Unselfish love. Anyone who owns a dog feels this - a dog, more so than other creatures. There is a fierce loyalty, personality, and understanding. More so, it is my dog that has taught me compassion, since humanity in its current state seems to only cause harm. So if God used this creature, "creature" of course being from the word "creation", to teach me love without allegiance (e.g. parents, whom i love because they raised me, my husband because he is my partner, friends because they like me) then perhaps companion animals have a place in the greater plan than we can say. My sensory-soul chattel has confirmed in me that I could adopt a child and love it as my own, a fact no amount of reading, rationale, or self knowledge could teach. So on this topic, I prefer to use the non-judgment pillar of teaching. Man cannot know God's plan. Man cannot know what awaits in heaven. So perhaps we should just leave the topic as it should be: moot.

12:42 AM  
Anonymous kieron said...

Well said by "anonymous". I spent 11 years loving my dog and her 3 children or should I say soulless pups?...she just passed and I refuse to believe that she will cease to exist. If God created everything, then he'll find the room. I loved one of his creatures, soulless or not, so gimmie a break God. Why can't we just die, go to heaven, chill with our animals, meet new soul friends and enjoy the lord? Why must humans make so many rules? If my dogs are not with me in heaven, then I'll have no problem standing in line at the complaint window, for an eternity if need be, to voice my opinion.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous dave said...

this is the most stupid debate I've ever seen in my life

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Judy said...

To Dave...this is not a 'stupid' is a longing for people to find consolance for an existance without their beloved pets. My 2 dogs of 16 years recently passed away and brole my heart. I have 5 sons and in no way compare my furry kids with my wonderful children. That being said, I seek solace in the fact that God gave us our creatures for a reason and our longing for them to have an afterlife is a tribute to His wisdom. Perhaps all life-forces converge to a Greater force in this universe to make up Gods heaven. I don't know the answers but am comforted by the thought of God giving me the resources to surround myself with His creatures great and small.

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dog died two days ago. He was the most loving creature, man or beast, that I have ever known. If he does not go to heaven, I don't want to either. To say that man is the only creature with a soul is arrogant. Those are man's words, not God's. The Pope may be learned in theology, but he has obviously not had the privilege of owning a dog such as mine. Does that make me a bad Catholic? Let's just call it free will.

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel that to believe in God is to believe that every sentient being created by God was made with a soul. Sometimes humans seems to have too much hubris in believing they can definitively say whether other sentient beings have souls or not. I don't even pretend to know. I just have faith and that is all that is humanly possible for me. Having had the blessing of my dog who just died three days ago just strengthened my faith in God even more. Only a soulful creature could inspire mankind to have faith in God. I will stay pray for my dog, since I will always pray for the love she inspired.

1:41 AM  
Anonymous Don said...

Entering this discussion a little late....7 years!....but I will say that comments of those whose lives have been touched by a pet and those who have little connection with pets will always pass one another like ships in the night.I won't enter this debate directly except to say those people who think they know the mind of God - for example, "no dogs in heaven" - and freely pronounce on what God can or cannot do, is just not supported either by the Old Testament or by the life of Christ. Christ surprised everyone -welcomed the sinner,shook up the establishment, was the complete opposite of the expected messiah and we could go on and on...but it was always more, not those people who pronounce on how Christ will deal with his non-human creation , whether they be vegetative, animal or mineral simply do not know and in my view are expressing a spiritual arrogance that is not supported by salvation history. This Christ, who surrounded himself with animals at his birth, who used the humble donkey on many occasions,who created animals before man and who used the image of a lamb to describe himself -well it would be inconsistent if these creations had no role or presence in the Kingdom of Heaven. Look at this not from the animal's or a pet's perspective but from man's - humans created in the image of God and loved by God so much his only Son would be tortured,humiliated and would die on a cross because he loves us so much. The Catholic church has always taught the resurrection of the body and the fulfillment of the individual personality after relax - we won't be playing harps and eating Philadelphia cream cheese....these are just commercial images but do find their way into the popular psyche. We have been promised that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and that the eye has not seen nor the ear heard what God has promised for those who love Him....if our tears are caused by poor health, loss of people we loved, the death of our pets,etc. God has promised to wipe away these tears.....a human way to do this is to "fix" what brought about the tears.....but in a way that we do not know or fathom until our death...just know that it will be so much better than we ever expected. We will share in the life of the risen Christ but in a human personal way and yes,if a pet has so affected our soul - a pet that was initially a gift from God - and our soul will have a body (remember we believe in the resurrection of the body, although different in ways we do not understand ) and if God will wipe away those tears, it follows there are leashes in heaven!

1:49 AM  
Anonymous Robert Ainsworth (Athanasius) said...

I'm an Orthodox Christian (OCA) in the Southern United States.

The Holy Orthodox Church has never, to my knowledge, dogmatized the ultimate fate of corporeal non-human creatures since they are guiltless before their Creator. She has rightly so been preoccupied with the salvation of human beings who will give account before God for every idle word they have spoken.

And since animals have no guilt even though they commit acts that were never intended by God, they either pass out of existence OR they are restored and refashioned with a *new* body as befits their nature for existence in the New Creation.

ONLY GOD is immortal and eternal; every created being, man included, exists only by the energies and grace of the Most Holy Trinity (Acts: 17:28).

"Instead of remaining in the state in which God had created them, they were in process of becoming corrupted entirely, and death had them completely under its dominion. For the transgression of the commandment was making them turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again.

The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone Who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good. By nature, of course, man is mortal, since he was made from nothing; but he bears also the Likeness of Him Who is, and if he preserves that Likeness through constant contemplation, then his nature is deprived of its power and he remains incorrupt." (St. Athanasius the Great: On the Incarnation: Chapter I, S.4, vv. 6 - 10.)

None of us possess an intrinsically "immortal" soul.

And while the Church has rightly discerned the will of God that human souls will continue to exist after physical death, She has never, to my knowledge, stated dogmatically concerning the continuing existence of the souls of corporeal non-human creatures after their physical death. (Angels are incorporeal non-human creatures.)

St. Irenaeus of Lyon hinted at the resurrection of animals in his work Against Heresies, a text of the very earliest times (late 2nd Century):

“... nevertheless in the resurrection of the just [the words shall also apply] to those animals mentioned. For God is rich in all things. And it is right that when the creation is restored, all the animals should obey and be in subjection to man, and revert to the food originally given by God (for they had been originally subjected in obedience to Adam), that is, the productions of the earth."
St. Irenaeus of Lyon: Against Heresies: Book V, chapter 33, v. 4

If a sinner such as I can weep at the death of a faithful and loving dog, then surely from what we know of the character of Christ - He must love them even more. And since He never intended death for ANY part of His creation, and since His Father notices even the death of each and every tiny bird, and both Scripture and Tradition clearly imply that there will be animals in the New Creation, why then would He not restore those guiltless creatures who never rebelled against Him, but suffer due to the self-willed rebellion of man?

I’m well aware that St. Gregory Palamas referred to animals passing out of existence and humans not so passing as part of his defense of Hesychasm when describing the energies and essence of God, but I’m not aware that an Ecumenical Council ever approved a canon declaring upon the ultimate fate of the animal creation.

So while we are left with a theologoumenon (private opinion) in this matter, I choose to agree with St. Maximos the Confessor and St. Symeon the New Theologian that ALL of creation will be renewed and restored to Edenic perfection.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Robert Ainsworth (Athanasius) said...

There are more than a few Orthodox priests and theologians who believe that many if not each and every one of the animals that have lived and suffered through the corruption and death they received due to the Fall of man will be restored in that great Day when Christ delivers up the Kingdom to His Father and God becomes "all in all".

And this from another Orthodox priest:

"A great saint by the name of St. Isaac the Syrian said that heaven is the presence and love of God. Heaven is not a place high above the earth, like a planet or a star. God is everywhere and heaven is the enjoyment of the sunshine of his love.

Do animals survive beyond death and go to heaven? That's a hard question. In the lives of saints, we are told that many had animals as good friends. In Orthodox icons, St. Gerasimos is shown with a lion. The saint has just pulled a thorn from the lion's paw, which he holds tenderly. Both the man and the lion gaze happily toward Christ, who is in heaven. St. Seraphim of Sarov, who lived in a forest for many years, is shown peacefully feeding a huge grizzly bear. I have no doubt that these saints would rejoice in seeing their animal friends in heaven.

What does the Bible say about this? Not much explicitly. The Bible's focus is on people, the salvation of their souls, their resurrection at the end of time, and the fullness of life in God's eternal light.

However, the first and last books of the Bible tell us something hopeful about all creatures of the earth. The book of Genesis says that "God made the wild animals...and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:25)! In the book of Psalms we read: "Every wild animal of the forest is mine.... I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine" (Psalm 50:10). Would not a loving God want all things that He has made to live with Him forever?

A hint of this is in the book of Revelation, which teaches that evil and the power of death, which are a corruption of all that is good, will be completely defeated and a new world more glorious than ours will arise. God's promise is: "See, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).

Why should death finally win out and swallow up any of God's good creatures? Would not God then be defeated, and death prove stronger than God?

Because God is the ruler of all creation, and loves everything in it with a love that never fails, I have hope that we will see our pets again somehow, just as St. Gerasimos will see his lion, and St. Seraphim his bear."

Father Theodore Stylianopoulos, Th.D.

(Fr. Ted was part of the theological staff for New Testament that produced the Orthodox Study Bible.)

And He Who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation: 21:5)

(You'll notice He didn't say that He would "make all new things.”)

Yes indeed. "Come Lord Jesus."

10:24 PM  

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