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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Monkey Business

I have an ongoing argument with many of my readers about animals in heaven. Our dear old nuns back in the day always taught us that the difference between animals and people is that people have an immortal soul and animals do not. Therefore, an animal's soul does not live on after death. On top of which, animals operate on instinct, not free will.

Even at age six, that made perfect sense to me. Apparently is does not make sense to all the people who want little Fluffy in heaven with them. I actually received hate mail. Someone wanted me to go to hell. Two people, actually.

There are no animals there, either, by the way.

The Catholic Church does not say one peep, or cheep or woof, about animals in heaven one way or the other. I just have to reinterate my point of view (at the risk of reading some very foul language) that if people really thought it through, they would realize that having Fluffy in heaven means having every single organism that ever lived in heaven. Otherwise it wouldn't be fair for Fluffy to be in heaven and not some poor badger who never had his name on his own bowl.

And why on earth is everyone so happy to let some little 'soul' be stuck as a cat for all eternity? What's up with that? If I were a cat, I wouldn't want to be a cat anymore when I was in heaven. Doesn't anyone bother to think of that?

A reader wants to know:
Apparently Spanish parliament is passing a law that gives monkeys human rights. Sister, does this mean we can have simian saints?

Before we get our knickers in a knot here let's get our facts straight. News reports have made out that the Spanish are very silly for making monkeys into people.

I would rather see them make monkeys into people than make
corporations into people, as we have done here in the United States. No one to date has asked me if they should do a novena to St. Exxon Mobile.

Anyhow, the Spanish parliament is trying to give GREAT APES rights so they don't have to sit around in zoos and circuses anymore or ever again. That should thrill the animals in heaven crowd to pieces. Perhaps the animals in heaven crowd wants chimps in circuses in heaven, too.

I don't think it's the worst idea ever to try to help these creatures out. I do see the slippery slope in giving great apes human rights. It seems to me that the Spanish Parliament would do better to simply pass a law that great apes cannot be used for entertainment or given roller skates.

The real irony here for me is that I'm sure everyone reading my blog would be rather horrified at this part of the story as stated in an Australian newspaper:

--The real force behind the initiative is Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and co-founder of the Great Ape Project. Singer is widely viewed as the father of the international animal rights movement. His rationale is simple: "There is no sound moral reason why possession of basic rights should be limited to members of a particular species."

Ironic since, as far as I can tell, because this is exactly the argument for animals in heaven. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone go on about their reasons for believing that animals are in heaven and end their spiel with, '..after all, we are all God's creatures!"

Will be asking for the intercession of St. Jocko, because of the Spanish Parliament, you ask? We
don't need the Spanish Parliament for that. The title 'saint' is bestowed on everyone who has made it to heaven. Everyone in heaven is a saint. If Jocko is there he is, by definition, a saint. There are plenty of people, at least two of whom would like me to burn in hell, who can't wait to meet St. Jocko while they are walking their dog Rollo in heaven.

Those old nuns knew more than how to teach the Palmer Penmanship method.


Anonymous said...

Right now, what your pets want is to be treated kindly, protected, fed, and loved. Every day you give them these things, they are in animal heaven.

Sister, one thing I have to mention is that I've seen you rail against people who spend money on things for their pets, but in the scheme of things, to spend money on keeping one of God's creatures safe and happy is far better than spending it debauching and visiting establishments of ill repute.

I don't want you to take it back, but spread the raillery around a little!

Soutenus said...

I am with ya on this one, Sister. When I was little I remember being very upset that our much loved pet would die and turn to dust and that would be that. My (very wise) Mother told me that in Heaven there is perfect joy. When I died and went to heaven if I needed Bootsie to complete that perfect joy she was pretty sure God would let Bootsie live with me.
To a 4 year old brain that made sense.
She also (very wisely) added that she was certain that when one goes to Heaven GOD is all we would want or need for that perfect joy.

Oz said...

Peter Singer was my lecturer and tutor for a subject at Open University (a subject that I am proud to say I failed). He is a proponent, not only of abortion but also infanticide. If the baby is born and isn't perfect - kill it and get another one. He argued that infanticide is no different to abortion. I had the nerve to agree but claim that it meant abortion was just as WRONG as infanticide. He failed me and in his comments wrote "you are not expected to express an opinion, simply to demonstrate that you understand and accept what you are taught".

Sister Mary Martha said...

I don't recall railing against spending money on pets. I'm only against excess.

Sister Mary Martha said...

It's not fair to condemn Bootsie to be a dog for all eternity. It seems rather selfish to me. And if Bootsie gets to go, every poor little no name mutt eating garbage in the alley with no little girl to love him should definitely go, along with every badger, racoon and rattle snake and every dinosaur and manotee and eel. Fair is fair.

Queen Mutha said...


Do you believe that when it states in the book of Revelation, Chapter 19 verse 11, that the horse is metaphorical that Jesus is riding? Just wondering.

Jeff Miller said...

The reasoning given by Soutenus is the one used by C.S. Lewis which I always thought was a cop out. St. Thomas Aquinas had it right and I think it is rather silly to elevate the souls of animals to eternal souls. Even though I am an animal lover and have six cats I think we need to follow the theology and not the emotions on this.

Anonymous said...

I love the Palmer Method, and thanks to the good Sisters at my grammar school, I have had many compliments on my penmanship. (Bzzzzt.......Pride!)

There was one Sister in particular, who drilled us for 1/2 hour everyday right after lunch in the circles, swirls, lines, etc... The rest of the school was entirely jealous and made fun of us at no expense.

Er... as for animals in heaven; those who want their animals in heaven need to spend some time in countries where entire sections of cemeteries are dedicated to children. Animals are... animals. Thank God we have the luxury of loving them.

And perhaps they can pay attention to our Lady of Fatima (a title which has the approval of the Church, though many balk at that conception,) who told them that little Francesco would go to purgatory unless he did many Rosaries. My little Fido never said a Rosary in his life. God bless him.

I loved my pets, but realize that God invented time, too. And since heaven is the fullness of God's creation, perhaps I will be able to see my pets in God's time, even if they are not in heaven per se.

And if not, then I still strive for heaven. Because it simply must be more glorious than anything we can imagine.

Well, call me a Ramblin' Man. And I am a ramblin on, in my surfing towards heaven.

God bless,

mcubed said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,
OK, I got the Novena stuff down...almost. Here are some questions for you on a similar matter (that's the closest thing to a seguey I can get): Like an idiot, I have fallen for my best friend (opposite sex). I want marry him. He knew this at some point, but seems to have forgotten it and we remain friend-like.
I have been praying on this a lot, to/for the following: *That God will re-create his heart. *Heal his mind body and soul (he'd be more disposed to a relationship with me if he could get his health in order). *That I will be able to accept God's will (though I have NO IDEA how I'm going to know what that is). *That Mary our Mother will take an active role in match-making (MY mom would if she were alive--at least kick down with some comforting words and carrot cake). *St. Joseph for meaningful employment for the two of us and his obvious family ties. *St Ann because she must have had something to do with Mary and Joseph getting together. *Sts Jude, Francis and Anthony because we have always been close and their reps for coming through with difficult cases. *The Holy Spirit for guidance and clarity on the situation. *Padre Pio because he loves families so much and we both come from very loving homes.
The questions? Am I praying against myself? When does it cross over into superstition? When is it "perseverance" to keep praying and prudence to stop? Did I miss any Patrons who are known to help out 40 year old teenagers?
Sorry this is so long--I've been trying to sort this out through my prayers and still don't feel like I'm any closer to an answer.
Thank you in advance for your help!

Maureen said...

Oh my goodness, if my mother were still alive she would beat you down on this one! I remember well, the night that the parish priest came to dinner and told my mother that her beloved cats would not be in heaven with her. She said if they couldn't go there, then neither would she - it took about an hour before Father threw his hands in the air and announced that if my mother Needed her cats with her once she was there, no doubt provision would be made for that,otherwise she wouldn't be happy. Then my father poured him a nice glass of single malt and everyone was happy.

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts: You said "animals operate on instinct, not free will." Anybody who has dogs could argue with that. Also, "It's not fair to condemn Bootsie to be a dog for all eternity." I don't want to do that, but, am I "condemned" then to be a human for all eternity? A lot of people seem to think their dead relatives have been promoted to angel! I want to be an angel....

Anonymous said...

If he's not into you as much as you are into him, he will never be much of a husband. Do you really want a 90-10 relationship for the rest of your life? You'll spend it suffering him into heaven while he doesn't even notice.

I'd stick with the rosary and pray for "all those intentions I should be praying for" and let our Blessed Mother take it from there to give you what you need and should have. Tat's just me, but lets hear what Sister has to say. I DO still say novenas for special intentions when I know exactly what I want, like spiritual healing for bitter folks, or marriage repairal for folks in midlife crisis, or souls in purgatory, or the Pope's intention of the month.

You're in a tough spot. Be strong and think of the future. Can you stomach being treated this way for 40 or 60 years? People don't change all that much. Life is a long time.

Anonymous said...

I just gave a slide presentation at a church using alot of Scripture. The Bible says that we have the same souls as animals.
Revelation 5:13 states animals praising God. Isaiah 11 says that a little child will lead animals.
I like to believe that animals (who belong to God not us) will be in heaven. Colossians 1 says that Jesus died for all creatures (animals) and Romans 8:19-22 says that all creation (including animals) is waiting to be set free.
Jan Fredericks, LPC, MA
Christian Educator
Chair, Catholic Concern for Animals-USA

Jade Dunlop said...

Why would you care if your pets are in heaven with you anyway? I mean, I love my cats, but once I get to be in the presence of Jesus every day, I'm sure I'd be so thrilled that I'd forget all about little Minnow and Bagel. It would be nice to have them up there with me, but it's really not that big of a deal. (Hey, no more litter boxes to clean!)

bill7tx said...

Maybe somebody should write Pope Benedict XVI and ask him where he stands on the pets-in-heaven question. He's got his cat, Chico.

John Paul II said, "the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.” However, traditional Catholic teaching is that the souls of humans and angels are different from the souls of animals and plants. Angels and humans have spiritual souls that do not die. Animals and plants have material souls -- these die with the animal or plant and cease to exist.

We don't know whether God will bring these material souls back at the end of time. The Bible isn't concerned with that, only with human souls and their salvation.

As Father John Lombardi says (www.emmitsburg.net), "it is up to God Himself if animals are part of His re-generative Plan. Endpoint: Enjoy God in Heaven, whatever else comes is extra, but focus on God's Blissful Love first!"

Works for me until the Pope says otherwise!

Anonymous said...

I hope I don't run into the rooster I blasted with the shotgun in Heaven. I'd get mad at him all over again for attacking me.

Anonymous said...

mcubed -

why not take some time off worrying about the guy and take 6 mos/year or so to pray that you be the sort of person God wants you to be, and grow in patience and whatever other virtues you might need for the married state regardless of who the husband might be. It takes a load of stress off of you to commend the whole mess to God's care, and you know you can bug Him again when the time is up.

Katy said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha:
I have a friend who has suffered two miscarriages and is worried that she may not be able to have another child. She is not Catholic, or even religious, but I know she feels comforted to know I am praying for her. Could you recommend a good saint for this?

Karen said...

Hello, Sister! I love your blog and am a regular lurker, this is my first post. I am hoping that you'll be able to help me with a little saint matching.
My son is 14 months old and is having a terrible time sleeping. We're taking our first plane ride on Sat and will be vacationing with family for a week. He's fussy and miserable during the day, too and we can't seem to find a way to help him. I'm also nervous about the impact his sleep habits (read; barely any real sleep, waking up many, many times thru the night) will have on the rest of my family.
Is there a patron saint of fussy babies, or children who won't sleep?

DaveW said...

I was taught that animals do not have an eternal soul. Its kind of tough for those of us that are really close to pets to think of it that way. On the other hand it makes me focus even more on taking care of God's creation as I have it now. Herbie will not be with me forever. God has loaned him to me to keep me company and to give me the opportunity to enjoy the wonder of His creation.

Its OK. Some things are just mysteries and we cannot know until we get to heaven. If Herbie can't come to heaven with me I'll ask God about why He did it that way then...if it still seems important, which I'm guessing it might not.

Anonymous said...

St. Gerard worked for me. I lost my first baby and the doctor thought I had lost my second baby too. St. Gerard was a huge comfort to me. I truely credit his intervention and four prayer chains for my baby's safe arrival.
The 'baby' the doctor thought I had lost is now 6'2" and 200lbs of cowboy. I am forever grateful.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sister,
did anyone mention dinosaurs?
When the Jehovas knock at my door and I smile and take their mag telling them I'm catholic and that isn't going to change...I notice the image of paradise on their leaflet has kids hugging tigers and mums and dads strolling nonchalantly past.
Why do we forget the dinosaurs -God made them too.
P.S.I think theres only people up there. No aliens either...but I guess thats a whole other question.

Smiley said...

Rev. Sister,

This whole giving animals human rights annoys me. Why? well because we humans don't have rights anymore. In Canada i will go to jail for killing a turtle egg.. i could be starving to death and the egg is food none the less i will go to jail.
No one goes to jail when babies in Canada are killed right upto the ninth month.
This annoys me it makes me angry. No mnkets, no great apes and definetly no Corporations deserve humans rights. Secondly Human rights do not surpass God's laws and commandments.