In the usual way, the Catholic church has been busy in these last few days speculating about a place no one has seen, no one has visited, and from which no one has ever returned, with one alleged exception, and he heard voices, and frequently talked to himself, and anyway he's been gone a couple of thousand years, without anything further by way of new news.
Naturally the reports sent theologically inclined Catholics into a frenzy about the mainstream media:
2) Why do we have reason to be suspicious?
First, because the common theological opinion for centuries has been that the souls of animals do not survive death.
Second, because this is just the kind of sensationalistic story that the media loves to get wrong.
Third because we have the same words being attributed to two different events: The Wednesday audience at which the remarks were allegedly made occurred on November 26, but the donkey-giving event occurred later.
Fourth, because the Apostle Paul never wrote anything comforting a child who was morning the death of his dog. Anybody who has read his epistles knows this. In fact, just do an online search of St. Paul’s epistles, and you’ll see what I mean. There is only a single passage (Philippians 3:2) where St. Paul refers to dogs, and there he isn’t comforting a boy. He’s using the term as a way of referring to people who do bad stuff.
Fifth, St. Paul certainly never wrote that “One day we will see our animals again in eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.” That’s just not in the New Testament. Anywhere.
3) Do the reasons for suspicion deepen if you look further into the story?
You bet. While many secular news agencies are carrying this story, you know who isn’t?
The Vatican’s own news agencies. You can do searches on News.va for terms like animals or dog and you won’t find any articles about Pope Francis saying that animals go to heaven.
You might even find a story denying this if they get around to posting a denial for the benefit of the world press.
You can also read the entire text of the Wednesday audience where Pope Francis allegedly made the remarks. He doesn’t say anything like what is attributed to him.
And, if that’s not enough, you can watch the video of the entire papal audience, including the stuff before and after it, like where he’s riding around St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile, and you can see for yourself that at no point does Francis make such remarks—nor is a crying child ever brought to him for words of comfort. (here - may be slow to load - for more, including the links, and what Francis allegedly said, and more about the nature of heaven, without any indication that the writer has actually visited the place and returned with details of the visit).
Now the pond has visited heaven, and knows exactly what it is - a wonderful country club, with great entertainment and facilities for angry elderly white men. The pond even returned with a few snaps:
What a great place, so why shouldn't there be a few doggies floating about? Not to mention moggies.
Yes you can sell anything to Americans including heaven with a decent golf course and dry matinies and some condo in Boulder as a vision of heaven ... and never mind what those pet-hating Catholic conservative writers might say about the beasts in and out of the fields ...
As always, in the event of great theological debate, some might like to resort to the Catholic Encyclopaedia here, on the matter of soul, where it seems that animals don't carry much clout, even human ones, whatever Christ might have been doing blathering about lambs and riding a horse, or the dove being roped in as the holy spirit.
It seems pretty clear cut in another part of the Encyclopaedia, here:
If plants and animals are to remain, either all of them will, or some of them. If all of them, then dumb animals, which had previously died, will have to rise again just as men will rise again. But this cannot be asserted for since their form comes to nothing, they cannot resume the same identical form. On the other hand if not all but some of them remain, since there is no more reason for one of them remaining for ever rather than another, it would seem that none of them will. But whatever remains after the world has been renewed will remain for ever, generation and corruption being done away. Therefore plants and animals will altogether cease after the renewal of the world.
Yes, that passes as theology in Catholic land.
There's a lot more speculation and blather by the unwitting about the unknowable, but the pond prefers to get its notions from more respectable sources. There is, of course, a long history of impeccable theological and philosophical conclusions on hand thanks to able contributors to The New Yorker:
Oops, those last two seemed a little strange.
Never mind, and never mind that the next two New Yorker cartoons aren't really about heaven.
After that parade of deep theological thinking on a meditative Sunday, the pond was ready for a Peter Credlin cartoon:
And one for Tony Abbott: