Today's Offertory Prayer, taken from Daniel 3: 40, speaks of the necessity of man having dominion over the animals for sacrifice to God. Unfortunately, many today would prefer to preserve the animals and sacrifice humans such as the pro-abortionist who has no compunction to kill the child in the womb, but complains loudly at the treatment of whales.
Last year I spent a brief vacation in Nova Scotia. "Nova Scotia," of course, is Latin for "New Scotland." My Scottish ancestors, used to the beautiful, but rather barren look of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, were amazed at the abundance of trees when they first saw the forests of North America. They used to sing a Gaelic song called "Duich nan Craobh"- "Land of the Trees."
Since the time of the pioneers, the land has become not only the land of the trees, but of highways, smokestacks and skyscrapers, and much of its beauty has been ruined by human greed and carelessness. We are all saddened by the devastation caused by forest fires, some of them started deliberately, and by industrial waste and pollution, not to mention the ravages of terrorist activities and wars.
We read in the Book of Genesis that God gave man dominion over the earth, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle and all the animals that crawl on the earth" (Genesis 1:28). This means that we are stewards of this earth, and must render an account to God for what we do with it. But a former vice-president, in his controversial book on the environment, says that God made a mistake. Man should belong to the earth, not the earth to man.
It is a good thing to care for the environment, but we must not swallow everything we hear from the false prophets of environmentalism. Ecological conversion has crept into the modern church lexicon as if it were dogma, while conversion to the true Faith continues to be, by the modernists in the Vatican's own words, an aversion. Environmentalism is the ethical system that holds nature to be the standard of value. It connects with pagan nature worship and the Eastern religions, but it is not at all friendly towards Christianity. Environmentalism amounts to a new religion with a mystical dimension. The earth is alive and superior to man, who should worship Mother Earth. Many environmentalists want to cut down the human population by the billions, by whatever method it takes - the right virus, famine, or war. In fact, nature might be better off if mankind could be erased from the picture. Could you be persuaded to join the "Voluntary Human Extinction Movement?" This is a group that wants to see the end of the human race altogether.
Adding to the confusion is the teaching of the Eastern religions that souls go through endless reincarnations as various life forms, including the human, on their way to final liberation. We don't believe that "a duck may be somebody's mother," but many do. A few years ago a group of Buddhist monks and nuns spent a week in fasting and prayer for the souls of thousands of chickens, which had to be killed because they were carrying a disease.
At the National Conference of the Animal Rights Movement held last year in Washington, DC, Christianity was blamed for denying equal rights to animals. We certainly do, and we base that on the revealed word of God, but we do not condone cruelty to animals. Animals should be treated well and given proper care, because to abuse them and cause them unnecessary suffering is sinful. It might even be a good idea to save the whales, but not because they are our brothers and sisters. God gave us the animals for our use, not for abuse.
The false prophets of Mother Nature believe that human life can be cloned, cultivated for body parts, or experimented on. Human embryos can be kept in a state of limbo frozen in a lab, until they are either implanted, used for experiments, or flushed down the drain. So-called unwanted pregnancies can be 'terminated,' as they say, and humans can be "euthanized" when they are old and no longer useful. Even though St. Thomas Aquinas defined man as a "rational animal," human life at all its stages is precious in God's sight. "Fear not!" said Jesus, "You are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:31).
The essential difference between human life and animal life lies in the soul. Only human beings have immortal souls. God created man, as the psalm says, "little less than the angels" (Psalm 8: 6). We have the power to think rationally, to know, and to love God. Our spiritual souls cannot die but will live forever either in a state of eternal bliss in Heaven, or in eternal hellfire. Although animals do have souls, they are not spiritual souls, nor are they immortal. Animals do not have the power to reason, though some of them do have a high degree of intelligence.
But is it not all right to believe that "all good dogs go to Heaven?" The essence of Heaven is the vision of God, the Beatific Vision, which will be given only to angels and men. Animals do not have the capacity for it. But even though they do not have immortal souls, the Church does not teach that God cannot give the animals some kind of future life in a Heaven where they will enjoy a happiness appropriate for them.
Sometimes it's hard to believe that they will not go to Heaven. When I was a teenager our family had a dog named Toby, a friendly dog of mixed breed. But the dog became very sick and was lying in the corner of the kitchen one day, as some family members and friends sat around in a circle talking, not paying particular attention to the dog. To our great surprise, Toby suddenly got up and walked around the circle, making a quick visit with each one, and then walked back into the corner and died. That dog knew he was going away, and was saying goodbye. If I see Toby again in Heaven I will be not be surprised.
In the end, what will become of the earth? St. Thomas Aquinas says that the world, once created by God, will never be destroyed utterly. But according to St. Peter, it will go through a transforming fire. He says, "…the day of the Lord will come as a thief; at that time the heavens will pass away with great violence, and the elements will be dissolved with heat, and the earth, and the works that are in it, will be burned up…But we look for a new heavens and a new earth, according to his promises, wherein dwells justice" (2 Peter 3:10,13).
And St. Paul states, "The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb," says the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 11: 6-9, "and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the lion and the sheep shall abide together, and a little child shall lead them…They shall not hurt, nor shall they kill in all my holy mountain; for the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea". †