The Distinction Between Humans and Animals

The Catholic position on the distinction between humans and animals can be quite controversial, especially among those who love animals as pets. Debates about whether animals can go to heaven after death have been well-rehearsed, and it should suffice to say here that there can be no certainty. What is clear, however, is that Church teaching does make a distinction between people and animals, a teaching that is clearly backed by Scripture, logic, and common sense. Biologically speaking, we have some characteristics that animals also have, but we must not fail to consider the spiritual side. Spiritual speaking, we are very different from animals because we possess free will, intellect, and creative ability.

God created man in His image, and out of His infinite goodness, He gave man free will. At first glance, animals seem to have free will because they, too, can make decisions, this is an over-simplification of the definition of free will. As human beings, we use our free will to choose either good or evil, and we also use our free will to choose whether to accept or reject God Himself. Animals can choose things, but they do not have free will. They only have instinct. When we hear of a shark attack, do we blame the shark? No – in fact, sometimes it could actually be the fault of the person if he provoked the shark in some way. The shark did not attack the person out of evil intent or malice; it was simply acting from its instincts, and its instincts help it to protect itself and to survive.

Animals also do not have intellect like human beings do. This is not to say they are stupid, because many animals can be intelligent and can even help people in dire circumstances. However, animals do not, for example, gather together in groups and discuss the existence of God! Unlike humans, animals do only what their instincts tell them, or what humans have trained them to do. Much of what animals do is done in order to protect themselves or to survive. As for people, life would be very boring if we thought about nothing except how to survive. We think about topics like the meaning of life or the existence of God, while animals do not. Therefore, animals do not have intellect like humans do. Nor do animals have creative abilities like humans do. Although animals do create things, they only create things out of instinct. A certain type of bird only builds a certain type of nest. A certain type of spider only makes a certain kind of web. As people, because we have creative abilities and free will, we can create whatever kind of home we like. The creative abilities God gave us also allow us to create different kinds of art, architecture, music, or literature.

Scripture shows that human beings are more important than animals. From the very beginning of creation, we were given “dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). In Matthew 10:29-31, Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.” Catholic teaching re-affirms this: Although it is “contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly,” it is also “unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons” (CCC 2418). Saving human lives is, of course, more important than saving the lives of animals. Scientific experimentation, for example, on animals is morally acceptable as long as it remains within reasonable limits.

Man was created in God’s image, and this is what gives human life a certain dignity that does not pertain to animals. This is not to say, of course, that Catholics believe that animals are not important, or that they can be abused. However, in the beginning, God gave us dominion over all other creatures, and for this reason we are distinct from animals. As people, we possess free will, intellect, and creative ability, while animals do not. It should be clear now that humans are different from animals, but the question mentioned in the beginning still remains: can animals go to heaven? Many theologians have pointed out that if one really needs their pet to be happy in heaven, then one is definitely not ready for heaven! All this is true, but Matthew 6:33 states, “…seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we seek God first, then perhaps – someday – God will give us our pets back.

On Homosexuality and Gay Marriage

“Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.”

The media is constantly misinterpreting Pope Francis’s words, and the result is that many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, may be confused about what he really meant. Many articles on the Internet claim that this quote shows that the Pope is going to change the Church’s traditional teaching on gay marriage, but this is nothing but wishful thinking from those in support of gay rights. Nowhere is this quote does he say that gay marriage is morally correct, because that is simply not the Church’s teaching. He merely means that Christians should never condemn or be judgmental towards those who are homosexual, and even those who engage in homosexual activity, even if their actions aren’t morally correct. Does God condemn sinners in this world? Does God refuse to love them? Of course not! God loves even the worst sinner in hell. Here is another question: when we meet an atheist, should we judge them or do we help them see the error of their ways? Why should the same concept not apply to all other sins, including homosexual activity?

It should become self-evident that Pope Francis’s opinion is perfectly compatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (CCC 2358). The Church’s teachings are clear: those who suffer from same-sex attraction do not sin unless they act upon their desires, which are in and of themselves, morally wrong. Temptation itself is no sin, but giving into temptation or taking delight in it is a sin. Same-sex attraction is, in fact, a cross that God allows some people to bear. In regards to a blind man, Jesus said that the man was born blind so that others may see God in his life. Similarly, we should try to see God in the lives of those who suffer from same-sex attraction, and we should not judge or condemn them. Someone who suffers from same-sex attraction does commit sin, however, if they choose to act upon this desire. As the Catechism states: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (CCC 2359).

Pope Francis is not going to change the Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and neither is that possible, since the teaching is a divine law and not a merely ecclesiastical or human one. The official position of the Church remains unchanged: although homosexual desires, in and of themselves, are disordered, the temptation of being attracted to a person of the same sex is not a sin. Only when one gives into that temptation and engages in homosexual activity, is homosexuality a sin. And since homosexual activity is a grave moral wrong, we as Christians have a moral obligation to oppose the legalization of gay “marriage”, which will inevitably lead to a greater acceptance of homosexual activity. The Supreme Court may have ruled that gay “marriage” should be legal, but the opinion of government officials cannot overrule the opinion of the God of the Universe. Aside from religious reasons, there are also other reasons why homosexual “marriage” should not be legalized. Simply put, homosexual marriage should not be allowed because it is not a valid marriage, it is not open to procreation, and it can have a negative impact on children.

Gay “marriage” is simply not a true and valid marriage. A homosexual couple would never be allowed to get married in the Church because matrimony is a sacrament, and the Church cannot change the substance of a sacrament. A homosexual marriage can never be a valid sacramental marriage, just as baptizing someone with wine, using gingerbread for communion, or ordaining a woman to the priesthood are invalid. Outside of the Church, however, homosexual “marriage” is also invalid, because God created marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. God created men and women to be sexually compatible with each other, for the purposes of procreation (to “be fruitful and multiply”). Adam was a man, and Eve was a woman; God did not create two men, or two women. Although in the New Testament, Jesus never outright condemned homosexuality, He did re-affirm what was written in the Old Testament: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5).

When God created marriage, He intended for His people to “be fruitful and multiply”, and therefore sex is a means of procreation. However, because two people of the same sex cannot biologically and naturally have their own children, the legalization of gay “marriage” would be disrespectful to this sacred purpose of marriage. Sex simply cannot be seen as a mere act of pleasure and the sexual act should not be motivated by lust. “Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes” (CCC 2351). Since a “marriage” between two persons of the same sex is not a valid marriage, homosexual activity is obviously sinful because sexual activity should be within marriage only. Homosexual activity does not have any “procreative” and/or “unitive” purposes.

Finally, gay “marriage” is dangerous to people and society because of its harmful effects on children. A growing child needs both a father and mother. Studies show that children who grew up with only one parent are more likely to be suspended from school, have emotional problems, become delinquent, suffer from abuse, or take drugs. It is self-evident that children do best when they grow up in a family with both a mother and a father, in a low-conflict marriage. They live longer and healthier lives, for example, and are more likely to do well in school, graduate, and attend college. They are also less likely to live in poverty, get in trouble with the law, drink, or do drugs. Most importantly, they are likely to have a successful marriage and family life when they are older. This is why, logically, the Catholic Church defends the dignity of marriage and the family.

In the case of homosexual “marriage,” the couple cannot have their own children, and so they must adopt if they want children. These children are denied proper growth and development because they will lack either a father or a mother. As Pope Francis says, “A marriage (made up of man and woman) is not the same as the union of two people of the same sex. To distinguish is not to discriminate but to respect differences… A father is not the same as a mother. We cannot teach future generations that preparing yourself for planning a family based on the stable relationship between a man and a woman is the same as living with a person of the same sex.” In short, a homosexual “marriage” is not marriage and a family cannot be sustained when the parents are the same sex. A child cannot develop properly without both a mother and a father. There are certain things that only a father can teach his child, and certain things that only a mother can. No child should ever be denied proper development, both physically and mentally, because of their parents’ wrongdoings.

Although nowadays the Church emphasizes the importance of treating homosexual people with love, mercy, and compassion, the official teaching has never changed. The Supreme Court was clearly wrong when gay “marriage” was legalized, because is not a valid marriage, it is not open to procreation, and it can have a negative impact on children. Catholics should not remain silent but continue to proclaim the gospel to the world, showing people the error of many worldly ways and speaking the truth. And when we do that, we need to be careful to avoid judging and condemning others. As the Catechism explains, being attracted to a member of the same sex is not a sin, even though the temptation is morally disordered in and of itself. One only sins when one acts upon those desires and/or seriously entertains thoughts of such an action. People who have same-sex attraction still have an equal chance at salvation as everybody else, and this condition is a cross that God allows some to carry. On His Cross, Jesus died for everyone, and paid the price for all sins past, present, and future. Anyone who repents will be forgiven.

Predestination is a False Doctrine

In the sixteenth century, John Calvin introduced the Protestant doctrine of predestination, claiming that before the world was created, God had already chosen who would be saved, and that everyone else was going to be lost forever. In Calvin’s opinion, without predestination no one would be saved; no one can ever be acceptable in the eyes of God no matter what they do, so predestination is necessary, or else all will go to hell. Nothing a person does can change his destiny, and faith and good works has no influence on whether or not a person can be saved. This blatantly contradicts both Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The idea that before He even created the world, God had already decided who would be saved simply does not make sense. This suggests that God Himself directly wills sin, rather than simply allowing it to happen (this is the difference between His perfect will and His permissive will). When God created Adam and Eve, they were holy and sinless; this was the way God directly willed them to be. If Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned, then all of us today would still be sinless, which is obviously not true. Hell exists because of sin, so to suggest that God created certain people just to send them to hell would suggest that God wanted us to sin.

Did God directly will for Adam and Eve to sin? Of course not! However, He allowed it happen because He respected the free will of the people He had created. When God creates something, He gives up a certain amount of power over it, and so He does not control everything that happens like a tyrant. Although sometimes it appears that God should simply take away our free will to prevent us from sinning, He knows that respecting our free will is more important because although abusing our free will can lead to sin, our free will is also what allows us to do good rather than evil, but only if we so choose.

If predestination were true, then free will would have no meaning, because predestination teaches that nothing we ever do can change our eternal destiny. If predestination were true, then there may be people who love God and put Him before everything and everyone else, but still face eternal punishment in spite of everything. If predestination were true, would we ever say God is merciful? A merciful God would not create certain people solely for the purpose of sending them to hell. And this simply doesn’t make sense, because God does not choose some of His creations over others: “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

If “God shows no partiality”, then why, you may ask, are some people seemingly more “blessed” with gifts and talents than others? If our God is a just God, how can He choose some of his creations over others? But it doesn’t matter what one’s talents are, for these gifts were not given to us for our selfish intentions or our human desire for fame and recognition in the earthly world. No, God uses them for His divine plan, to glorify Him who is holy. There isn’t a single person who ever existed that had nothing good about him or her, so no, God does not prefer certain people over others in that sense.

And since God does not prefer certain people over others, it is only logical that He wants everyone to be saved. “The Lord…is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus came to earth and died on the cross to save everyone; He paid the price for all sins past, present, and future for everyone. Predestination, on the other hand, falsely teaches that the blood of Christ is not available for all men.

Besides, if God has already chosen who He is going to save, then sharing the faith with other people would be pointless. Predestination claims that nothing a person does in their life is a factor in determining whether or not they are saved. Then why are missionaries traveling around the world to share the gospel with other people, hoping that others can see the truth? After the Resurrection, Jesus came to the Apostles and told them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Why did Jesus tell the Apostles to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of the nations if it would all be pointless anyway? (As a side note: the fact that Jesus says that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him does not mean He controls everything like a tyrant does, as explained earlier.)

In conclusion, if predestination were true, then not only does this mean that free will has no meaning, it also means that God is not just and merciful and that the blood of Christ is not available for all men. If predestination were true, then evangelization would be utterly pointless and fruitless, which contradicts what Jesus told His Apostles after the Resurrection. This is clearly a false doctrine that contradicts both Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Predestination and other false doctrines do not reduce the credibility of the Catholic Church, but rather re-affirm the need for the Magisterium, and the necessity of the Church’s correct teachings and interpretations of Scripture.