The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973

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Letters - By J. M. Gilheany

Time to revisit Animals Hereafter

Fr. Michael has conferred comfort to many readers of The Universe over the years and is notable in his recognition of the value of animals in the lives of many people. It has been heartening to read his outright condemnation of cruelty and his regard for animal welfare in its own right on several occasions.

I have, nonetheless, been disappointed and perhaps other readers may have been saddened by the way in which those who have sought succour after the departure of beloved pets from this realm seem to have been spiritually short-changed.

The traditional theological award of immortality to the human soul alone is remarkable in its prevalence, given that the notion is so thoroughly lacking in biblical teaching.

I was surprised that there were no replies from animal lovers following Fr Michael's lengthy, orthodox, considerate but ultimately negative speculation in response to the lady whose dog and 'constant companion' was no longer physically present (Universe, March 22).

Is it not high time that Church teaching fully met with the Good News of Christ who redeemed the whole of Creation?

At least we are reminded of the cosmic capacity of God's love for a brief moment in the liturgy of the Sunday Mass.

Yet the arbitrary exclusion of animals from heaven and indeed the implication that a heaven without birdsong could even posses eternal appeal remains a perennial source of dichotomy and hurt.

I hope that you'll consider reprinting the following response to this very debate from your own publication which was originally headed 'Animals Hereafter' and appeared in the July 22, 1921 edition:

"As a member of the R.S.P.C.A., cases of cruelty to and suffering among our dumb friends - the horse, donkey, and dog especially - are frequently brought to my notice, and from this point of view alone it is incredible that a God of Love and Mercy can permit such misery to end in extinction.

There appears to be no conclusive evidence that after life here, very often spent willingly enough in work, or filled with devotion, the dumb creation does not go to its reward. 'In My Father's house are many mansions.'

May it not well be that God in His infinite love has prepared one for His dumb creatures, even though they have no souls to save?

The whole subject seems, and always has seemed to me, to be the one hard, unsympathetic spot in the Catholic Church, to which I have the honour to belong."

The Universe (3/5/09). 

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