Have you ever told a child whose pet died that her little puppy, or kitten or goldfish had gone to Heaven?
Did you mean it? Did you believe it?
Do Roman Catholics believe animals have souls? Do they believe that Christ's atoning sacrifice also paid the sin debt owed by animals? For that matter, do they believe there is a divine law governing the moral conduct of animals? If they do, how are animals made aware of this law?
I do not believe these questions are as foolish as they may at first appear to be. The Roman Catholic Church has made provision for ministering to animals in many of the same ways it ministers to the human beings who have fallen under its sway.
In many Roman Catholic churches around the world, October 4th is a special day. That date marks the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, when the Catholic faithful bring their domestic animals to church to be blessed. Imagine the chaos that must reign within the Catholic temple on that day, what with dogs and cats and hamsters and parakeets and gerbils and who knows what else all assembled under one roof awaiting the priest's benediction.
The Roman Church is adamant that, though it may have co-opted many animist religions and their practices into the RCC, it still is the church that Christ founded, and its doctrine is pure. Yet there are many things done and taught within the Roman church that appear to be more suited to a religion that worships things.
In the Body of Christ, believers worship the Lord. We do not say prayers to the dead or for the dead. True believers do not pray for trees or other created things, but the Roman Church has prayers for these things and for corn and wheat and such stuffs. It has ritual blessings for lard and bedrooms and bells and candles and bees and chickens and all sorts of creatures. For the curious, some examples of these are to be found in The Rural Life Prayer Book, compiled and written by Jesuit Alban J. Dachauer. According to the referenced article, the blessings listed were translated from the 1944 Ritual Romanum, and all could be dispensed by just about any priest, with one exception. The exception was a blessing to fend off bugs and destructive little beasties. For this one, the priest needs permission from the local bishop.
The RCC not only has prayers and blessing for created things, it also has minor deities (patron saints) whose function is to watch over critters and things. St. Francis of Assisi is the overall patron of animals and birds, but he has subordinates. For example, birds are watched over by St. Gall, but St. Martin of Tours specializes in geese. St. Kentigern is the patron of salmon, while St. Neot watches over fish in general. I suppose the RCC is conscious of the fact that whales are not fish, for their charge has been given to St. Brendan the Navigator. St. Beuno is the intercessor for sick animals.
All these blessings and patron saints and things. Does this mean that animals that live good lives might go to Heaven? Or do all animals go to Heaven? Even the dog who chases elderly people walking for exercise? Or the one that poops on his neighbor's lawn?
What is it that goes to Heaven? Well, at mortal death, I believe the human soul goes to its eternal home (Ecclesiastes 12:5). Believers who go to sleep before Christ's return will be re-united with Him in the clouds and joined by those who yet live. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). When we are with our Savior, we shall receive glorified bodies which will never grow old or weak or infirm (Philippians 3:21).
But what hope do dogs and cats and horses and jellyfish have? Can they respond to the Gospel of Salvation? Can they trust in the Lord Jesus Christ? Do all dogs go to Heaven like the movie says? Perhaps. If the dogs are Roman Catholic.
Of course, this would present some apparently unresolvable difficulties for theologians, though I would imagine the Magisterium – with its vast experience in imaginative and creative theology – could come up with something acceptable to the RCC leadership. Think about it. If all dogs go to heaven, then dogs must hold a more favored state with God than man, for not all men go to Heaven (Romans 9:15). Also, dogs must receive some special "revelation," since they apparently do not need to hear the Gospel to believe it.
Another question comes to mind: Who are the missionaries called to take the Gospel to dogs? Are there separate missionaries for each breed? Who cares for the mongrels and street dogs?
Do different breeds hold to distinct systematic theologies? Can a Doberman Pinscher convert to Russian Wolfhoundism without losing its salvation? Do some breeds believe in puppy baptism? Do they sprinkle or do all dogs baptize by immersion?
Is there a doggie Pope? Do dogs of one denomination keep little statues of doggie saints by their food dishes? Can devout Romish dogs eat meat on Friday? Do they celebrate a mass during which the body and blood of Rin Tin Tin are consumed?
The questions are endless.
As a Southerner, I believe dogs have a place in man's life, but I surely hope dogs don't go to Heaven. It is bothersome enough having to watch where I step here on earth.
Please forgive the frivolity. My position is that there is no divine law for dogs, so there is no sin for dogs. Jesus Christ did not die on the cross in order that dogs might be saved. Dogs, as other animals, serve man. When they die, they die.
Come soon, Lord.
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