Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Two Thorny Issues
"Question Authority"? &
"Heavenly Creatures"?: -Evolution and Pets in Heaven?

Father John J. Lombardi

Can't avoid 'em-these questions, First evolution.

Two weeks ago Vienna Archbishop-Cardinal Christopher Shonborn wrote a liberating and dynamic op-ed piece in the New York Times questioning, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not."

For a long time, now, scientists and others have accepted-consciously or not--that scientific evolution is compatible with Catholic doctrine. Cardinal Shonborn obviously questions and even rejects this Myth.

These past decades since the Scopes Monkey Trial (in Tenn., 1925, pitting the famous William Jennings Bryon -often portrayed as a simpleton- southern fundamentalist, against the suave Clarence Darrow) we've gone from total opposites: when everyone believed God created the world ten thousand years ago, and Adam and Eve out of slime, to time now when people believe we came from monkeys. Even though they've not been able to find the so-called "missing link" (the "mysterious jump from chimpanzee to human) if you say it enough --"evolution"-and provide enough half-examples and surmises, people will believe it.

Okay, here's the bottom line on all this:

Cardinal Shonborn has courageously questioned the Myth that evolution is accepted by church (esp. after Pope John Paul's 1995 letter stating "it is more than a hypothesis"; Pope JP II also said later that there is, within the mystery of creation, such phenomena as: "internal inventor," "Mind," "finality," "creator" and so forth).

This is the liberalist dogma-Evolution (really, mostly "atheistic evolution" under a "scientific guise") --and it has been foisted on most souls the entire past century-without empirical data. (You can read many books on the "shams" and falsities-some involving Catholic priests-about supposed "missing links," and other scams of evolutionary hypotheses). Our Catholic schools and colleges should especially take warning-and courage-to beware what dogmas are taught and, as the bumper sticker goes, "Question Authority" . Here's a big, Important sentence, from Cardinal Shonbron's NYT Essay--read and re-read it: "Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of "chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence."

The inquisitive Cardinal has questioned-without finally answering (wisely) the Doctrinal Myth: Evolution with God is possible-and must be believed. No, the ground is shifting-now it is possible and ok to disbelieve in God-driven evolution as an axiom of Faith. A new faith-and-scientific movement called Intelligent Design (IT) has questioned all this, basically saying: you cannot have a delicately tuned, infinitely complex cosmos (or even human eyeball) without a Design or Intelligent Designer. Just as unquestioned Marxism has been disproved (pretty much so) so now scientific evolutionism is being disproved-as dogma, at least by the IT movement. The Cardinal is just giving another questioning critique.

There's a hijacked "Evolutionary Train": Let's face it, whether "Evolution" is true or not (in the sense of ape to man, versus other forms of evolution, say, a boy to a man which is no big deal): many evils have entered atheism, sexualism (fornication, sodomy, other aberrations), relativism, have all come, at least in part more speedily, in thru the wide open door of materialistic evolutionism. A pilgrim wrote, regarding this: "Evolution has opened the door to change - what is a flying dinosaur today is a bird tomorrow …Therefore what is a marriage today between man and woman is evolving into a new kind of marriage between man and man/woman and woman…all things are evolving…"Evolution-ism is being used to relativize values and culture itself. Even good Catholics who teach and preach evolution have been caught off guard by this rag-tag phenomenon.

Okay, so, as a Catholic, What Must I Believe regarding Evolution?-The Bottom Line: 1. The Church has never taught certain belief in Literal meaning of Genesis (God creating man directly out of earth), but preference to literal belief by Fathers of Church and others is noted. 2. The Catholic Church permits investigation into, and possible belief in, evolution (mankind "evolved" thru previous sub-human existences)-if the following propositions are maintained as non-negotiables: God has created both the world and soul ex nihilo-out of nothing. God is the author of the World (by whatever mysterious process/es) and the direct creator of the human soul. 3. The Catholic Church has never taught that evolution is true, but it is permissible to investigate.

Cardinal Shonborn says, further: "Indeed, in the homily at his installation just a few weeks ago, (Pope) Benedict proclaimed: 'We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.'"

Pets in Heaven?

Three times recently this queasy question has arisen. A horse lover sent me a message from a Methodist pastor-friend basically saying that the Bible is not clear on this and therefore one can believe there are animals in heaven… Then I received an article in favor of pets in heaven, which basically relied on sentiments and love, not exactly on doctrine or solid Bible-Tradition evidence. Then (!) at dinner with some fellow priests recently we discussed this question. One priest said that the past-Sunday's second reading (Rm. 8 ) implied for him that St Paul intimates the possibility-that somehow creation will be re-generated and this might allow for animals in Paradise. Another priest said that animals do not have immortal souls like humans-who have immortal souls, but that God could possibly re-create animal souls, esp. if to establish a "fullness" of life in Heaven, which might (?!) include animals. Another priest simply said-when you have the fullness of God, in the Beatific Vision-i.e., total bliss without any desire, why would you need, or ask for animals? Ditto from a moral theologian who just wrote back to me on this question (he is not, he said, an animal lover).

Points of Meditation:

The Bible nor Sacred Tradition never teach that Pets are in Heaven: It is, obviously, not a central concern of the Bible (as, actually, the Methodist pastor himself pointed out): salvation of redeemed and righteous souls is! This is not to mean, however, that it is not possible pets are in Heaven, but just to mean- not important, not necessary.

Heavenly Existence is usually made up of creatures-mankind-men and women, children-who accepted Christ as Savior, saved by Faith- rational souls-who have been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. Did Christ come to redeem gerbils, dogs, llamas? Of course not.

Growing up, we (the Lombardi family consisting of 5 kids and two parents) had two dogs (a laryngitis-smitten beagle named "George," and golden lab named "Amber,") and tons of cats and other critters. All us five children loved them and of course got attached. I would love to have pets in Heaven, but also don't focus on them as "essential".

The Lion and the Lamb:

The Book of Revelation and other apocalyptic books (Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, etc.) use mystical symbolism and cosmic imagery-incl. animals to indicate "the Kingdom" and "Heaven" and "Paradise". Famously, the book of Isaiah has that touching imagery of the Kingdom: the "Lion and Lamb shall sit together" (Is. 11:6)-so recalled at Christmas time in primitivism-art-cards and so forth). The Book of Revelations' first mystical animals is a lion (Rev. 4:7) but the Church has never doctrinally said this is literal The Catholic Church teaches that the Lord Jesus will come back and (somehow) make a New Heaven and Earth -restoring the Earth to its former glory (before sin; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church: # 1042-1047). May this include animals? Perhaps, maybe not. Who knows? The stress of the Salvation Plan is always on God's redemption of mankind and restoration of Original Justice. The emphasis is not, obviously on the animal world.

Bodies in Heaven? Aren't the only two bodies now in Heaven Jesus and Mary-thru the Glorified Resurrection and the Bodily Assumption? Could animal-vegetative souls-animals-go there, with or without body? There is obviously no such Catholic teaching.

So Consider these Mediation Points:

  1. The Bible and Sacred Revelation primarily concern themselves with the Redemption and Salvation of Human souls (rational souls are free-choosing and willing) Souls.
  2. Vegetative, animal souls are not a concern of God's Revelation (per se) and are not taught in the Bible or Church as existing in Heaven.
  3. It is important to cultivate an appropriate understanding of Heaven- which effects your view of what is in Heaven-i.e., that we don't need anything other than God, and that the all-consuming desire within our souls and "restless hearts" would be quenched by God Himself-without any need for anything else-even though we would be in a Mystical Communion with Mary and all the Saints. We won't then have any other desires for possessions of any kind.
  4. Consider your attachment level to your pet-is it ordinate or inordinate? How about your desire for Union with God-and that He will Himself be all for you without anything, anyone else needed or desired.
  5. Given the "openness" of the regeneration of the universe and restoration of the original state of the world (stated above), 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!

St Francis of Assisi-pray for us!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi