Catholics in Catfight Over Dog Afterlife

A woman poses with her dog dressed as the pope during the 24th Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in New York.
A woman poses with her dog dressed as the pope during the 24th Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in New York. –REUTERS

Editor’s note: This story was written based on several news outlets’ reports that Pope Francis told a boy whose dog had died that animals went to Heaven. Vatican Radio reports that Francis actually said “The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us’’ during a general audience last month. It was Pope Paul VI — not Francis — who told a boy mourning the death of his pet dog that he would see his pet again in Heaven.

During his weekly address in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis confirmed that dogs, with the rest of “God’s creatures,’’ can and do in fact, go to heaven.

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In an effort to console a young boy who was mourning the death of his dog, the Pope was quoted by Italian news outlets as saying, “one day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.’’

Pope Francis has been viewed by many as a progressive voice for change in his short tenure as Holy Father. Earlier in his stint, the world became aware that the pontiff enjoys immoral dance, once bounced at a bar, and drives a car with deck chair style seats and a 30 horsepower engine. When he’s not sullying the office of the Pope (in the eyes of his critics), he spends his spare time bashing the priests he was elected to serve.

Still, devout conservative Catholics have got their rosaries in a bunch over his latest declaration. For all that Popes do agree on from one to the next, it seems they have a tough time agreeing on whether Old Yeller went to that great fire hydrant in the sky.

Lauren Hobgood-Oster, a professor of religion and environmental studies at Southwestern University told the New York Times, “Historically, the Catholic Church has never been clear on this question; it’s all over the place, because it begs so many other questions.’’

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Pope Pius IX, who led from 1846 to 1878, supported the thought that animals have no consciousness. Pius, who was the mastermind behind the doctrine of papal infallibility––the idea that the words spoken by the sitting Pope concerning doctrine must be held by the whole church––saw this declaration go largely unchallenged for more than a century. But John Paul II seemed to disagree in 1990 when he stated that animals had souls and were “as near to God as men are.’’ If this is your first time hearing this, it’s because the Vatican decided not to get the word out about a declaration contradicting the declaration of the guy who said, in effect, what the Pope says, goes.

When John Paul II passed the world’s greatest hat onto Pope Benedict, his predecessor put forth the idea that a dead animal just meant the “end of existence on earth.’’

And now, Francis has thrown his hat into the ring. Andwhat a hat it is!

It must be said that Francis and John Paul II seem to have the upper hand, as a number of Bible passages seem to indicate that God looks upon animals and humans in an equal light. And, if you’re keeping score, The Bible is the text upon which the entire Catholic faith, along with Protestant sects, is built. But, that hat is really cool, and it makes whoever’s wearing it look like they really know what they’re talking about.

Even when the two are placed side by side, it makes for a difficult decision.

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Job 12:7 and 10 says “Ask the animals, and they will teach you…In God’s hand is the life of every creature, and the breath of all mankind.’’

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. —AP

But, imagine how great it would be to show up at your office Christmas party with this hat? Not an imitation, the real Papal tiara. Tres chic!

Still, Proverbs 12:10 gives us “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.’’

Pope Benedict XVI walks around the staging area after celebrating Mass at the Yankee Stadium in New York, April 20, 2008. —Reuters

But, if you get your hands on this hat, you can get shiny red shoes to match! Your dog might go to heaven, but will he go in style?

And, Ecclesiastes 3:21 poses the question, “How can anyone be sure that the human spirit goes upward while an animal’s spirit goes down into the ground?’’

Pope John Paul II sits in front of a giant stylized portrait of Mother Teresa during a special Mass at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. —AFP

But will Spike’s eternal rest get you a chair this awesome? He’s not even wearing the hat, and he still gets a chair like that!

If comparing biblical text to Pope hats seems silly, remember that this controversy started because the Pope tried comfort a kid when his dog died. Maybe we should sit this one out?

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