In a Sydney Morning Herald article some years ago by Rick Gladstone taken from the New York Times, we hear that Pope Francis when comforting a little boy after his beloved pet dog died, assured him he was in heaven.
This opened the flood gates of excited discussion by animal lovers around the world and it raises some interesting questions of Papal exhortations on this very subject, as various Pope's have contradicted each other.
In this SMH article the following Papal quotes are cited:
Pope Pius IX (tenure 1846-1878) the longest serving Pope, strongly supported the doctrine that dogs and other animals have no consciousness. He even sought to thwart the founding of an Italian chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It was this Pius IX who declared Papal infallibility in 1854.
Pope John Paul II contradicted Pius in 1990 when he proclaimed that animals do have souls and are "as near to God as men are." Oops! On the infallibility issue!
But - John Paul's successor, Benedict, seemed to emphatically reject his view in a 2008 sermon in which he asserted that when an animal dies, it "just means the end of existence on earth."
Now Pope Francis has reversed it again. Nothing like a good theological issue to get the chattering classes going and going they are.
This article has it all. There are quotes from -
Christine Gutleben, senior director of faith outreach at the Humane Society, the largest animal protection group in the United States.
Charles Camosy, an author and professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University.
Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America, the Catholic magazine.
Sarah Withrow King, director of Christian outreach and engagement at PETA, one of the most activist anti-slaughterhouse groups.
Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council.
Laura Hobgood-Oster, professor of religion and environmental studies at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.
A dog's breakfast
I think that Laura Hobgood-Oster has touched a nerve here: "Historically, the Catholic Church has never been clear on this question; it's all over the place, because it begs so many other questions. Where do mosquitoes go, for God's sake?"
There you have it. Papal infallibility out the window. Popes disagreeing with each other. The animal rights world having a field day. Theologians betwixt and between.
So now it's my turn.
As a daily columnist I get to read a great deal and what springs to mind is that John Wesley said our pets go to heaven and so far be from me, to disagree with such a luminary.
Those who live and work with animals day in and day out experience a great deal more of animal behaviour, temperament, character and personality than most of us.
My father was born and raised as a man of the land. He was allotted a selection at Crediton (Eungella â€“ west of Mackay on the great dividing range) where he cleared the land and developed his own dairy herd in the mid to late 30's before WWII. His diary can be read here.
He spoke to his cows and they understood. He knew how to speak into the ear of a horse who likewise understood. My late father had this unusual bond with his animals that many a man of the land enjoys. One or two of his cows would be difficult to herd into the bails, he took counter measures and spoke to them, and they got the message. Horses would be frightened and he'd calm them with a whisper.
His cattle dogs were like eager beavers just waiting for a whistle (various whistles my father utilised) and his working dogs went at the task at hand knowing exactly what sound was associated with what task. The dogs loved to be at work, being useful, doing what they were born to do!
Our favourite characters
Some years ago a vet visited us and was staying a couple of days. For whatever reason this person had never seen Mr Ed. I tell you, this vet missed out on a wonderful aspect of their childhood in not celebrating with Wilber the many bits and pieces of wisdom Mr Ed gave out.
It just so happened, while staying with us, Mr Ed the talking horse program appeared on the television. I tell you no lie, it was impossible to drag this vet away from the television screen. What was of such fascination, was how the lips of the horse moved.
Non-horse people may not be aware that horses communicate visually by the minimal movement of their large lips. This is why, it's said that children with autism communicate so well with horses as their head-facial movement is in effect 'stationary' a dog to a lesser extent, a dog's mouth opens and closes frequently and it's tail wags with more movement than a horse.
I'm with John Wesley. My previous hilarious article on our dog Oscar speaks more of this.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html