When I was still in elementary school so many years ago, I distinctly remember one of my religion teachers saying that out of all of God's creations, it is only man who has a soul, as we are the only ones made in His image.
When pressed by the class to elaborate, particularly with regard to whether animals, such as dogs and cats have souls, she answered in the negative.
If I remember it correctly, this is how she put it:
Tao lang ang may kaluluwa dahil sa lahat ng nilalang, tayo lang ang natutulog na nakaharap sa langit.
(Translated: Only people have souls because out of all of God's creations, we are the only ones who sleep facing heaven.)
In retrospect, I'm not particularly sure if she was serious or pulling our legs, considering how impressionable as youngsters we in the class were.
Well, this memory came in a flashback as I chanced upon our cat sleeping on the couch on our lanai:
Facing heaven, as my teacher put it.
Well, our cat faces up when it sleeps. Does that mean it has a soul too?
Well, it may surprise you to know that according to the late Pope John Paul II in an audience in 1990, animals have souls too. In fact, this is how he put it:
"...also the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren."
"...all animals are 'fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect' and that they are 'as near to God as men are'."
"'However, other texts state that animals have the breath of life and were given it by God. In this respect, man, created by the hand of God, is identical with all other living creatures. And so in Psalm 104 there is no distinction between man and beasts when it reads, addressing God: ' … Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.'"
"The existence therefore, of all living creatures depends on the living spirit/breath of God that not only creates but also sustains and renews the face of the earth."
Interesting no? While perhaps sensible from a theological point of view, I mean, we are all living things, it opens up an entire can of worms of questions.
Does that mean when I die I'll see my long dead pets in heaven? (Assuming I go to heaven, which I really hope I would.) Is there a dog heaven, or even a cat heaven? How about a dog hell or a cat hell? Who knows, maybe the cat who stole your meal from your dining table will burn in cat hell for stealing. :-) How about chicken hell? Is the soul of the meal I bought from KFC resting in peace in some ethereal plane somewhere? Since we're dealing with living things, does that mean plants have souls as well? How about microscopic bacteria? (They are animals you know, albeit single-celled.)
Yeah, I realize some of these questions are seemingly inane, but they're actually quite valid, if you think about it.
So according to the Church, animals have souls. Kinda changes the way you look at things doesn't it?
Me, I don't know. I can't even pretend to know. But then again, I've seen some people in my life who didn't seem to have any souls, the way they think and act. On the flipside, there are animals who seem almost human. Just like our cat, at least as far as the way it sleeps is concerned.
I won't bore you much longer with this topic, considering that I really don't have anything else to contribute.
Maybe, just maybe, we have to think twice about being cruel to animals. While we may think of them as lesser creatures, they are God's creations as much as we are. And besides, we may just see them in the next life. Who knows?
The Pope Has Said: "Animals Too Have Souls, Just Like Men"
Do Animals Have Souls?