Q - What is the Church's teaching on the moral and spiritual status of animals, especially after the animal's death? I am under the impression that the Church has taught that animals have no souls and so would not enjoy the Beatific Vision after death in the same way that baptized Christians in a state of grace would. However, as a private opinion, I've always believed that God, in His Mercy, beholding the faithful and devoted love that can exist between humans and animals, would make some provision for the animal out of the goodness and mystery of His Providence. For example, dogs and horses would have meadows to run and play in, and cats would have lots of sunny windows to doze in and all the cream and catnip they wanted :). Am I just being sentimental? Thanks for your answer!
A - Thanks for the question. Here is what we know:
1 - We know God created animals without an eternal soul, as humans have - in other words, if animals are in heaven, it is for God's purposes as creator and for our purposes as the height of God's creation - not because they are "saved" and "merit" eternal bliss. Sometimes philosophers talk about animal or plant "souls", but that is not the eternal soul, rather they are using the word to indicate that which gives life, not that which lasts forever after death. So, if they do go to heaven, it isn't merely for their own sake, but because they share in God's glory by being part of his wonder of creation.
2 - We also know that there is a physical/bodily reality to heaven, but that it isn't identical to what we experience now. When Christ's body was resurrected and glorified, he was transformed. He passed through locked doors and appeared to his disciples. So, in some way there is a bodily reality to heaven, but how it plays out will not be known until we get there.
3 - The Church has never ruled one way or the other. So, we are free to believe either way.
Some argue against any animals making it into heaven (e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas) and say it is not going to happen. An example or the reasons they believe this can be found here. Or you can watch this video of Jimmy Akin giving an answer to this question:
Others, such as Peter Kreeft, CS Lewis, and Fr. John Hardon, believe it is possible. But again, it isn't because they are good pets and merit such, but because they share in God's glory.
I guess the final answer is - we can hope so. As the Catechism says in 1047:
The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, "so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just," sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.I can tell you this for certain -fire ants are not in heaven. :-)