A question that comes up frequently is whether
people will see their pets in heaven. Now the Catechism of the
Catholic Church does not directly address this question. But it
does hold principles which lead us in the direction of an answer.
One principle is that all living things have a
soul. Here soul is defined as what makes an organic body live. Now
when any living thing dies, its soul is separated from its body. In
the case of plants and animals the soul goes out of existence. But
in the case of man, the soul remains in existence because it is a
spiritual or immaterial thing. Consequently, it differs from the
souls of animals in two important respects. First, it is the seat of
intelligence or reason. For
this reason a man is held responsible for his actions in a way that
animals are not. Secondly, the soul is immortal. A thing which has
no physical parts cannot fall apart or be poisoned or be crushed or
be put out of existence. For this reason the souls of the saved will
always be aware of themselves as enjoying the vision of God for all
eternity. This enjoyment will be the result of having chosen to act
on earth in such a way that one did the will of God rather than
one's own will. And the
souls of the damned will be aware of themselves as never attaining
this vision of God because they have shown by their lives on earth
that they did not wish this vision but instead preferred their own
In the light of this essential difference
between human beings and animals, it would seem that we would not
see the souls of our pets in heaven for the simple reason that they
do not have immortal souls and are not responsible for their
actions. They do not have the intelligence which allows them to
choose either God's will or their own will.
There is, then, an incomparable distance, say, between
the soul of the sorriest human being who ever lived and the most
noble brute animal that ever walked the earth.
Now a child might be heartbroken at the thought
that he will never see his pet again. He cannot yet understand this
explanation about the difference between the human and the animal
soul. I suppose that one could tell the child that when he
hopefully gets to heaven, he could ask God to see his old pets if he
still wished to. There would be no harm in that. For we know that
when a person finally sees God,
he will not be concerned with seeing old pets or favorite
places but rather will be captured in the complete fulfillment of
the joy of which old pets and favorite places are but little signs.
We adults know that, even if the child does not.
For more information on how the Church sees
animals in the lives of human beings, check the Catechism of the
Catholic Church 2415-2418. You will learn, for example, that the
Church, while it condemns cruelty to animals as an offense against
the dignity of man, allow experiments on animals if done in a
reasonable way. Again, you will learn of the tremendous difference that the
Church sees between the lowliest of human beings and the most noble
of the animals. It will
allow animals to be used for food or clothing, but will defend the
right of an innocent human being to live against Kings and Nations.
The Church will demand that animals be respected as part of creation
while at the same time insisting that the dignity owed a human being
should never be given to an animal.