Sunday, December 3, 2006

All Dogs Go to Heaven?

In regard to the preciousness of human life, it seems that the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds could both look to the very first chapter of the Bible. Genesis explains that humans alone were made in God’s image and likeness. Throughout most of history, children – additional images of God – have been seen by both the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds as God’s incomparable blessings.

Commentator Ben Wattenberg has coined the term, “baby bust,” to describe unprecedented low birth rates in many parts of the world. For some countries, it is questionable whether social nets can be maintained. The U.N.’s World Fertility Report 2003 confirmed drastic birth declines since the 1970s, as well as the existence of 14 developed countries with unprecedented lows. Generally, countries with a predominantly Judeo-Christian heritage have experienced these declines, while countries with a predominantly Islamic heritage still see high birth rates.

At least until very recent times, it seemed beyond question that the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds both treasured their children as God’s incomparable blessings. American society now seems to be going adrift from that common ground. As per Barbara D. Whitehead and David Popenoe of Rutgers, “Demographically, socially and culturally, the nation is shifting from a society of child-rearing families to a society of child-free adults.” Herbert S. Klein of the Hoover Institution confirms that today’s typical American family is “a household with few children.”

With the decrease of children, Americans have seen the ascendance of the household pet. Just since 1988, the percentage of households with a pet jumped from 56% to 63%. As per Stay Free Magazine, “Surveys by the American Animal Humane Association show that seven out of ten American pet owners think of their pets as children.” American annual pet expenditures of $30 billion must seem scandalous to some. As per Mufti Ebrahim Desai, “we are instructed not to keep dogs as pets and 'love' them as exemplified by the non-Muslims….However, Jurists have stated that it is permissible to keep a dog for security purposes, farming and hunting.”
Interestingly, the mufti’s position is close to that of Catholic moral theologian Germain Grisez, who maintains that treating pets as humans is a type of abuse: “although this misuse of an animal usually involves excessive kindness rather than cruelty, it is like any other abuse of a subpersonal entity in its irreverence toward God. The irreverence is especially marked in those who invert God’s order, which subordinates animals to humans beings made in God’s image, by substituting concern about animals for concern about people, care of animals for care of people, and psychological bonding with animals for interpersonal communion” (p. 788).

Hey, I’m not suggesting that animals are not wonderful gifts from God! I readily agree with Marie Hendrickx (in a piece which originally appeared in the Vatican’s L'Osservatore Romano), when she maintains that: “We can and must thank God for the beauty of a kid, a cat or a dog, as we do for the beauty of the sun, the moon and the rain.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church, itself, makes clear that, "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly" (n. 2418). Yet, American expenditures must give us pause, to question whether we are placing the needs of Lassie and Garfield, before those of our fellow humans. As per the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, 854 million people continue to go hungry. That fact suggests an answer! Germain Grisez maintains that “economic capacity ought to be devoted to promoting and protecting human goods….while pets seldom compete directly with the poor for food, medical care, and so on, unreasonably keeping pets does contribute indirectly to economic injustice” (p. 788)

There is still room for enormous common ground between the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds. As per the Vatican’s Cardinal Renato Martino, “We must work together as a human family, and as a family of nations, so that the starving and those who want for nothing, the very poor and the very rich, those who lack the necessary means, and others who lavishly waste them, no longer live side by side….The right to have enough to eat is fundamental and inalienable for every person and for their family.”


American Pet Products Manufacturers’ Association. Industry Statistics & Trends , 2006.

Animal Surprising Pet Statistics

BCC Research. The Pet Industry: Food, Accessories, Health Products and Services <>, 2001.

Catechism of the Catholic Church , 1992.

Desai, Mufti Ebrahim. Dogs and Islam and Prayer <>, 2002.

Food and Agricultural Organization. Investing in Agriculture for Food Security <>, 2006.

Grisez, Germain. The Way of the Lord Jesus, Volume II, Living a Christian Life. Qunicy, Illinois: Franciscan Press, 1993.

Hendrickx, Marie. Causing Animals Needless Suffering is Contrary to Human Dignity , 2001.

Klein, Herbert. The Changing American Family <>, 2006.

Martino, Renato. Intervention by the Holy See at the "Special Event" of FAO on the Realization of the Human Right to Food <>, 2006.

Stay Free Magazine # 13 <>.

United Nations Population Division. World Fertility Report 2003 .

Wattenberg, Ben. The Grandchild Gap <>, 2003.

Whitehead, B.D. & Popenoe, D. Life Without Children <>, 2006.


The Beatitudes from "Jesus of Nazareth"


Use of Emergency So-Called Contraceptives in Catholic Hospitals for Those Reporting Rape

Book & Film Reviews, pt 1

Book & Film Reviews, pt 2

Blog Archive

And yup, that's me!

And yup, that's me!
(from page 1 of the NY Sun, 3/22/04)

Total Pageviews

12/12/08 Interview with Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

March for Life 2010