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Theresa O'Connor wrote:

Hi, guys —

I had a golden doodle dog and she died about a year ago. I know that the Church teaches that if a person dies they could go to three places:

  1. Heaven
  2. Hell, or
  3. Purgatory

and that we should pray for them in case they went to Purgatory and seeing that Our Lady said most souls do end up in Purgatory.

I was wondering if the Church or any theologians have any theories on what happens when an animal dies. I remember hearing somewhere that if your dog dies (he or she) will be waiting for you when you get to Heaven but I was wondering if anyone has an idea if animals go straight to Heaven or if they could end up in Hell or even Purgatory like humans.

I know it's kind of a bizarre question but I just wanted to see if anyone has any thoughts on this issue.

Theresa

  { Does the Church or any theologian have any theories on what happens when an animal dies? }

Bob replied:

Theresa,

We don't have the full information on animals (C.S. Lewis [Wikipedia][CSLewis.com] would say God didn't give us that box to open), but suffice it to say that they do not have the same kind of souls as we do. We are made in the image of God, with an immortal soul — that we know.

  • Can animals be in Heaven?

While their telos can easily be seen as one in the natural order, what God has in mind beyond that simply isn't spelled out.

Many (believe/hope) our animals will be brought to Heaven by God, for he wants Heaven to be superabundant in joy, and the Bible has a good deal of imagery of animals, in Revelation, and even Jesus' riding on a white horse (cf. Revelation 19:11).

I certainly love my dogs and think it would be super cool if God had a plan for them.

What we can say with certainty is animals don't go to Hell or Purgatory for they can't have any culpability for sin. Sin requires freedom of the will and intellect, which is unique to humans (and angels, etc.) so maybe we can hope, but we just don't know.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Mike replied:

Dear Theresa,

Let me add/clarify to what Bob has said.

Men (or men and women) have immortal souls meaning they have souls that will live past this life on Earth.

Animals have mortal or earthly souls; their life is limited to this earthly life. That said, the joys we receive from our earthly pets will be multiplied multiple times over in Heaven.

Because of the confusion among some on this topic, I created a web page:

and specifically:

As I say on "The Life of the Soul" page:

  • A dog or cat who has just given birth to puppies or kittens will never think about taking out a life insurance policy for their newborn's well-being.
  • A pet fish will never be able to manage a successful Hi-Tech company.

If you search our database I think we have answered similar questions to yours. Just scroll down a bit from this page:

Mike

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
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