I think that my article in the New York Daily News is breaking news that has not been reported anywhere else in the United States (maybe in the English-speaking world)—that the Catholic Church has an official position, for the first time ever, on animals in heaven.
You may recall that last December, there was quite the brouhaha when it was reported that the Pope had told a young boy that animals will go to heaven (the New York Times put the story on the front page). The story turned out to be wrong, and so there was another big round of “he didn’t say that” stories.
Here you go:
BRUCE FRIEDRICH is director of policy and advocacy for Farm Sanctuary, a national farm animal protection organization based in Watkins Glen, N.Y. He is a 1996 graduate of Grinnell College. Former CW and Plowshares activist. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.----
"All dogs, and cats, and pigs, and goats, and cockroaches go to
heaven: So says Pope Francis" by 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 for all.”
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 light.”
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 Doctrine.
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.
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