People have been asking me: Are there animal in heaven? Will I have my pets in heaven?
This has probably been stirred up by something Pope Francis reputedly said recently in the press (as it turns out, it was false reporting, but here goes):
“One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”
First and foremost, this was not – good grief… do I have to write this? – a definitive statement.
The Roman Pontiff does not teach definitively, or even seriously, through interviews with journalists of any country, much less with the Italian media.
So, we can and should simply draw a line through this whole thing.
That said, animals, “brute beasts”, do not have immortal souls in the way human beings do. Do they have souls? Yes. They have their animal souls. Can they feel fear, etc? Of course they can. That doesn’t make their souls immortal. They are not proportioned to the consideration of eternal things, as human souls are. We have our souls directly from God with no intermediary. As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, and I think he is right, God must somehow be involved with the creation of animal souls, but they seems to have their souls through their bodies rather than directly from God. When animals die, their souls die with them.
Could there be critters in heaven?
I suppose one way to look at it is this: If, for some reason, our eternal happiness were somehow dependent on the presence of critters in life the come, then I suppose there could be critters.
However, in the Beatific Vision, in seeing God, we will not need any created thing for our happiness. That’s pretty clear. So, there is no need for critters in heaven. Who knows, but that leads me to think that there will not be critters around us as we contemplate the Holy Trinity in communion with the Holy Angels and each other. Why would we?
Animals don’t have immortal souls. They don’t do things that are meritorious in the way we can. They don’t sin in the way we do. They don’t need a Savior.
That said, at the end of things Christ will submit all of creation to the Father so that God might be all in all. I have no idea what that means in regard to critters. I suppose we will see in that moment how critters fit into God’s plan for us.
In our Judgment we shall certainly be judged according to how well we carried out our role as stewards of creation. We were given all of material creation for our proper use. We mustn’t abuse critters. We can use them, but properly. If we consciously misuse them, we sin, either venially or mortally.
That said, I hope we will still be able to have steak and Cabernet.
But, let’s settle down about this and not get excited or put reason aside in favor of sentimentality. It isn’t that important.
Finally… think about this for while:
If pets can go to heaven, they can also go to hell.