For the first time in 2,000 years, the Pope Declares (Official Catholic
Doctrine!): Animals Will Join Humans In Heaven.
July 23, 2015
From the New York Daily News:
All dogs, and cats, and pigs, and goats, and cockroaches go to heaven: So says
by Bruce Friedrich <http://www.nydailynews.com/authors?author=Bruce-Friedrich>
The question of whether animals will join us in the afterlife finally has a
definitive response from Rome.
It's a topic that's been long debated, with Popes weighing in unofficially on
both sides. Last December, a story broke nationwide claiming that Pope Francis
had declared that animals are going to heaven, but it turns out that the media
had conflated two stories, and that it was actually Pope Paul VI who had, many
years earlier, told a young boy that "one day we will see our animals in the
eternity of Christ."
Paul was later contradicted by Pope Benedict XVI, who said in a sermon that "for
other creatures, who are not called to eternity, death just means the end of
existence on Earth."
Notably, neither of these were doctrinal statements, and Catholic theologians
continued to disagree and debate.
But no more. Despite last year's media mix up - and despite Paul's and
Benedict's contradictory statement - Pope Francis did just officially declare
that animals will join us in heaven, in his June 18 Encyclical, which offers
official and binding doctrine on the question.
And in fact, he has gone far beyond animals and the afterlife, linking animals
to the Trinity and declaring that the Mother of God "grieves for the sufferings
of the crucified poor and for creatures of this world laid waste by human
power." For Catholics, the idea of Mary grieving for both the poor and animals,
in the same sentence, is revolutionary.
So it's almost anti-climactic that on the question of animals in heaven, Francis
takes a stand: "Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each
creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have
something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and
The Holy Father reiterates this in the prayers that close the Encyclical, which
are filled with pro-animal sentiments, including this: "Teach us to discover the
worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that
we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite
It is important to realize that encyclicals are Catholic Doctrine. As Pope Pius
XII explained, once the Pope opines in an encyclical on "a hitherto
controversial matter, it is clear to all that this . . . cannot any longer be
considered a question of free discussion among theologians." In other words, the
Church has spoken.
So what does all this mean for the faithful? If Mary is grieving for the
suffering of animals, and if we will all be joining other animals in heaven, it
seems only sensible that we do all we can to decrease cruelty to animals, and
especially our complicity in that cruelty.
The most cruelty that is meted out by humanity against God's other creatures is
a result of eating meat, dairy and eggs. Indeed, the average American Catholic
eats dozens of farm animals every single year, thus directly contributing to
their suffering and death.
All of us can take a stand against this abuse by no longer eating animals or
their products, and when we do, we'll be acting in clear alignment with Catholic
And God's other animals will thank us when we meet them in heaven.
Friedrich is director of policy for Farm Sanctuary, a national farm animal
protection organization based in Watkins Glen, N.Y.