Sunday, December 14, 2014

Noah's Ark and Dogs in Christ

A certain amount of news has been stirred up by the remarks of Pope Francis, made during a general audience, that  “paradise is open to all of God’s creatures”  and that "one day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ.”

Most people interpreted this as an assurance that they will see their pets again in the heavenly beyonder.  The  Vatican Sweep Up Brigade, (also known as the Roman Curia)  immediately sought to clarify that the Pope had not quite meant what he said and that only man was made in God's image.  This in turn engendered a debate over whether dogs have souls.

The theological issue is not whether dogs have souls but rather what kind of souls they have.   It helps to understand how the Church uses words.  Reading the Guardian or the NYT will not help in this regard.

In the Church's lexicon, "soul" is a translation of "psyche"   Since the days of Aristotle, no one in the Hellenic Greek tradition (which includes  Christianity) has doubted that animals have souls.   Of course they do.  It is obvious.  The Church's catechism has always taught that animals have "anima" (souls, in Latin).

The issue is whether their souls are capable of that intuition and reception which we describe as "going to Heaven."   As you might have guessed "going to Heaven" is a term of art.  Some simple souls (of the human sort) interpret these words in a spacio-temporal sense.  Other minds understand the phrase to mean some state of consciousness or some level of being.  

The question (in the Church) concerning dogs is whether they have that kind of soul which is capable of "going to Heaven."   Pope Benedict was correct in saying that Holy Scripture is largely silent on this issue and Jesus himself said nothing on the topic.  But "largely" is not "totally." 

Ecclesiastes expresses unknowing as to whether the souls of dogs (or for that matter of men)  rise up to heaven or go down to earth. (Ecclesiastes 3:21.)  But the story of Noah, clearly implies that -- with man's help -- animals are capable of ascending above the waters onto a high place "on the mountain." 

Floods and turbulent waters are similes for overcoming-passions, impulsive agitation and impermanence -- the darkness of the deep.  The metaphor in the story of Noah is that the skill and spiritual capacity of man has a role in raising up and hence "saving" all of creation.

The story of Noah presents a clarifying progression from the ambiguous use of the word "dominion" (Hebrew: radah) in Genesis.   Both words can be used to signify a subduing domination.  But both words also signify stewardship (in the case of radah) and domestication (in the case of domus).  Indeed, in Latin, Jesus is the dominus and not even the Roman Curia would suggest that He is the oppressor and slayer of mankind.  

So scripture is not entirely silent on the matter.

Moreover, its is absolutely established Catholic doctrine that Scripture is not  the only source of truth or revelation.  "Tradition" -- the common understanding, usage and practice of the whole church -- is also a source of revelation.  (Summa Theologica, Art. I.)

There is no question in my mind that the experience of such a vast number of people -- Christians and not -- is sufficient to establish a traditional understanding that dogs do indeed go to heaven.


: <  woof  woof.

©WCG, 2014

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