Animals in Heaven? Jesuit Professor’s New Book Claims Catholic Theology Says Yes
Professor Christopher Steck (new window), S.J., has published a new book that – for the first time – claims Catholic theology suggests animals will join people in heaven.
In his book, All God’s Animals: A Catholic Theological Framework for Animal Ethics (Georgetown University Press, 2019), Steck argues that this claim furthers the importance of caring for the animal kingdom on earth.
More traditional teachings in the Catholic Church have upheld that animals would not join humans and God in heaven.
Steck builds on shifts in newer theological thought that occurred with Vatican II, arguing that Christ’s mission incorporated nonhuman creatures, and that the mission of the Church should echo this inclusion as well.
“The natural world is not just there for our use,” says Steck, who was once the caretaker for Georgetown’s mascot, Jack the Bulldog. “We have a responsibility to cultivate and care for it. The core mission of the Church – that is, to witness to the kingdom of God as proclaimed by Christ – must now be seen as a mission of good news for our fellow creatures. God wants these creatures to flourish, and so we should act in ways that protect them from abuse.”
The book comes at a time when the Catholic Church has greatly emphasized the responsibility of individuals and society to care for all aspects of nature. Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on climate change and the environment, encouraged environmental justice and “care for our common home.”
“Pope Francis has called humanity to an ecological conversion, a change in our attitudes toward the natural world,” says Steck. “Such a conversion is not possible, I argue, without a conversion in how we treat the animals of our world.”