I have only a small flickering light to guide me in the darkness of a thick forest. Up comes a theologian and blows it out." So complained 18th-century French philosopher Denis Diderot. It is true that much that passes for theology fails to illumine the path, and it does not help to claim that nontheological reasoning is often equally opaque. Thankfully, a few lights shine brightly.
Some people think Pope Francis opened the door to believing that animals have an afterlife. Speaking of the “new creation” God intends, the pope said, “It is not an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us. Rather it brings everything to its fullness of being, truth and beauty.” An Italian newspaper concluded that the pope was broadening the hope of “eschatological beatitude to animals and the whole of creation.” But a retired professor at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome cautioned against that conclusion, saying that there will be continuity and transformation between the new and old creations and that the balance between the two can’t be determined (Guardian, November 27).