A Pope for All Species

Francis’ empathy lifts humans, animals and Christianity itself.

Comments: 176

  1. I certainly do rejoice in the change of tone, Kristof refers to here, with the breath of fresh air that is sweeping in with Pope Francis. While, not Catholic, I support many of his views. How can one not? Love infuses his admonitions to the world. We can sense this will melt the hard edges of things and help to bring our world more into harmony. Dogma and bigotry have no place to be when love fills the consciousness. We are all human, including Pope Francis. We are in the time and place of our lives, making the best of what our lives have brought us to. This includes our institutions and social structures, which need to be in constant adjustment to bring them more into line with the higher power of love. This is how the world gets better. Compassion for our weaknesses and effort to make things better for our fellow man are the guides. Rather than the old corporate view of early celebrators of pure self interests, civil society is growing to compensate for the failures of old nation state/commercial structures. This old structure must make adjustments, or the world is facing calamity. Of course, it always seems to be those theys. But in reality, it is each of us, recognizing what is happening and causing the shift in consciousness to make those changes. I think Pope Francis is doing a stellar job in bringing about that vital and necessary shift in world consciousness of what needs to be done.

  2. Amen and amen, you got it Carolyn!

  3. I like Mr. Kristof . I like Pope Francis, I like Bruce Friedrich very much! This opinion made my day! And for climate change and many many other important reasons CO VEGAN!

  4. Couldn't agree more. What I find so revolutionary about Francis is the unfiltered view he has of the world as it is,with its challenges and problems not merely the one as we pass through the Pearly Gates.
    The irony I find in the controversial canonization of Serra is that the Spanish father's legacy was was one of coercion and repression of a native population while his very champion, Francis, preaches acceptance and compassion for all peoples.
    I would like to believe that by opening the door so wide, he understands that other barriers to justice and equality will in time fall and that women will enjoy the same rights as those guaranteed in civil society as well as equal access to the priesthood.

  5. Kristof, unlike other writers in the NYT, manages to convey his message without name calling and misrepresenting facts. No doubt we should build a better world where people share resources and enjoy what they have rather than just try to squire more. I would advocate for that world.

    Unfortunately, the Pope ignores several facts about poverty and life, one being that the world cannot support exponential population growth and the other being that some people's brand of religions are incompatible with getting along together.

  6. I don't see how animal rights necessarily leads to vegetarianism. Are we going to insist that all animals eat only plants? I think part of the problem with our meat eating is how we do it -- the overconsumption, the unnecessary suffering of the animals we eat, etc. I am not sure that I would be eating meat if I had to be my own butcher, but I don't see that meat eating is intrinsically wrong in the world as we have it and are part of. Maybe the challenge is to find a better balance for how we eat and interact with other species. I have not, by the way, found vegetarians to be more empathetic on other matters, either, or in general to be respectful of the dietary requirements of others -- vegetarianism as I have encountered it practiced has often come across, to me at least, as a closed-ended set of behaviors, as a doctrinaire position, rather than as a part of a journey towards general compassion for others, for example.

  7. I happen to be veg. I just don't think its necessary to eat meat. If faced with starvation or eating meat - yes, I'm sure I'd capitulate. The idea of enjoying something that was born of immense suffering is unpalatable to me. I agree with you that the way we do it is all wrong - our immense appetite for meat at low costs results in sheer torture of animals - not to mention the degradation of the planet. This said, I do cook meat for my teenage son - who grew up without it. Now, he has it once or twice a week and I buy non-factory farmed meat. Eating meat is a personal choice that we all make. I would hope that as people become more aware, they reduce their consumption and demand producers raise the animals in a more humane way.

  8. This is so relevant, Today being eid when innocent goats are sacrificed worldwide .

  9. Animal rights necessarily leads to vegetarianism just like human rights necessarily leads to "don't murder and cannibalize humans". The fact that some non-human animals kill and eat other animals no more justifies our killing and eating animals than the fact that coyotes eat human infants justifies our killing and eating human infants. Yes, we should care about animal suffering in the wild. But it makes no sense to say that this excludes us from caring about them at home.

    You said that you haven't found veg*ns to be more empathetic. I'm sorry that this has been your experience. But science does not have your back. See this article from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201207/brain-scans-....

    Lastly, the claim that veg*ns are disrespectful or doctrinaire is very tired. While there are certainly some annoying and unkind veg*ns, some of us really are trying to do whatever we can to make the world a better place.

  10. Nicholas, perhaps this Pope merely understands that this world is a delicate ecosystem, within which every form of life plays an important role, however obscure or uncomfortable it might be?

    As regards acknowledging animals' presence in the afterlife, I dare say that Hindus went there several thousands years earlier, as have adherents to various esoteric traditions.

    Still, one does get the sense that this Pope takes it upon himself to walk-the-walk rather than pontifically talking-the-talk. If only his hubristic predecessors had made the same choice...

  11. Whoops! I guess you didn't notice yesterday's canonization of the man who enslaved or killed most of the Indians in California via the mission system. I'm so glad the Pope loves dogs, though. And I'm so glad to read that you agree with him that dogs go to heaven. I think dogs just die like the rest of us and go nowhere. And all those indios the new saint killed in an historic genocide? Where did they go, Mr. Kristof?

  12. Pope Francis ....defies criticism....and ...actually lives the words of Christ....
    and is what the world needs now...desperately ....a breath of freshness and
    for war torn Middle East and North Africa....and healing from all the selfishness which
    divides humankind....

  13. "How can it be that it is not news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points”?

    Pope Francis

    How indeed? On December 1, 2013, I tweeted the following message to the pope:

    "@Pontifex: Your Holiness, you are driving the right wing in America nuts. Thank you."

    Dick Gregory once theorized that if Christ came back today the American right wing would tie him to a giant peace sign and roll Him off of a cliff. There is a serious conflict between the teachings of Christianity and the modern right wing movement. If you are a devout "Christian" and are unable to see this eyesore of a conflict, my suggestion to you would be - for the time being at least - don't focus so much on the Old Testament and concentrate mote on the New. That'll learn ya!

    Today the pope will be addressing a joint session of congress. These are indeed interesting times to be alive.


    Tom Degan

  14. A quick theological question, Nick: If there are dogs in heaven, who gets to "pick up" after them?

  15. Interestingly with only a couple hours of online release of the NYT there are hundreds of Ben Caraon comments and none for Pope Francis!
    It is the ease and emotional power of commuting to what we are against. When you step into the what are you for things get softer.
    The objectification of an other be it race religion or species allows for this odd logic of Carson and the rejection of it the pure logic of the pope.
    Love is the answer.

  16. Mr. Kristof is becoming so tiring with his hypocritic litany of animals being "abused" in "factory farms." As if the "happy" animals he reared so "humanely" on his childhood farm had an outcome that is any different.

  17. My Grandfather had a beautiful farm wherein cows grazed and had a pond and barn, pigs weren't clamped in crates, and chickens walked in sunkight without having their beaks chopped off.

  18. Let's make it official and start a #WhatWouldFrancisDo? campaign that reminds us of Pope Francis' work whenever we go to that polling booth. My purpose in life has recently shifted to figuring out ways to build farms and groups homes for the Autism community. I have to be honest in saying that the community chose me rather than me choosing it as I have an Autistic son. I think Francis is going to make my job easier.

    With eight years of Jesuit education behind me, I would really like to see The Jesuits in America expand their role(s) beyond the traditional educational institutions that they have run. How far can they take Jesuit Volunteer Corps into the community? Francis will challenge us all.

    I really love my existing car with 180,000+ miles. It runs great but it is a 17.8 mpg SUV. As we are now a family of three down from four with a son away at school, that Fiat is looking nice. Yes, Francis IS good for the economy too!

  19. Of the many wrongs history will judge us for, one of the worst is our staggering indifference to the other species we share this planet with. Climate change is already beginning to decimate the Arctic -- if you're not moved by pictures of 30,000 walruses hauled out on a single rock because there's no more ice, something's wrong -- and climate change, deforestation and other habitat destruction threatens an all out global species holocaust. Not to mention the needless cruelty that is industrial meat and egg production. I can't imagine anyone better suited to speak out for animal rights than one of the world's foremost religious leaders. Thank you Pope Francis.

  20. A kinder, gentler Catholicism? It's still superstition no matter how it's dressed up. Far better to face the reality that we have one life. This is it. "Pie in the sky when you die" has diverted attention from the reality for too many for too long. I suppose it keeps the proles down. A combination of the opium of the people and the chains on their minds.

    At least Francis isn't saying we should leave the care of the planet in "God's hands." But dogs in heaven?

  21. He is powerful and well liked, but the witch-burning fundamentalists and evangelists in the US have too much of a stake in vitriol to let it go. The media needs to disclose the extent of demonization of political opponents (liberals, colleges, etc.) that the Christian Right dishes out, all of it undemocratic polarization.

    And when I say "witch-burining" fundamentalists I use that term advisedly. What I am referring to are the clergy who call liberals Satanic and the orthodox Jews who compare the effect of mainstream colleges on Jews to their experience under the Third Reich.

    Time for the media to do their jobs and disclose that it is not only the Saudis who have their Wahhabis and the iranians their Ayatollahs, we do to.

  22. A person who is truly Christian ( in actions, not just words ) is indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God, according to several Scriptures in the New Testament. That Christian then exhibits what the Bible calls the " fruit of the Spirit". That fruit, according to ( Galatians 5:22 ) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This pope truly has the Holy Spirit in him and the world is witnessing what a true Christian should be.

  23. If "God is love", then surely there is a place for dogs--the physical embodiment of love--in heaven!

  24. His compassion bridges the species barrier because the Pope knows that there's an underlying unity of all life forms and between the animate and inanimate phenomena reflecting and sustaining each other in oneness.

  25. I'm sorry but if this pope is so, "drawn to the powerless," when is he going to speak up for women? Have men cornered the market on popedom? Is the priesthood solely meant for men?

    Yes, Pope Francis is a vast improvement over past leaders of the Catholic Church, but until he becomes totally inclusive in his efforts to uplift all those who are powerless in this world, he remains a leader with one toe in the 21st century while the rest of him is still standing in the mire of a narrowly mythical quicksand.

  26. Why is there such resistance to the idea that killing sentient beings, defenseless before us and wanting to go on living as much as we, is wrong? There is no necessity for doing so, nothing we gain from their deaths that we can't live without. What engenders such selfishness in us, that our wants count for everything and theirs for nothing?

    If killing for "sport" - and what an ugly idea THAT is - or convenience, or taste, or fashion, or whatever other justification we come up with, is not simply, in the most fundamental sense of the word, wrong, then what is wrong? And where is our morality supposed to begin?

    If we can't recognize - or won't recognize - that we share a common experience with all the sentient beings on this planet, both human and non-human; or we are unable to see in their particular joys and travails our very own, then on what, exactly, are we to base any mutual regard at all?

    Isn't that essentially what morality comes down to?

  27. My parents were products of a Catholic School education, but became more and more distant from the church, especially my father, as years went on. I remember telling him that in my "religious instructions" class that week, a nun had told us that dogs didn't go to heaven, that no animals did, because they didn't have souls. As a little kid, I just refused to believe that. My father's opinion of that nun's comment was, "how does she know animals don't have souls? What makes humans so much better than animals that they have them, and animals don't? Humans are animals, too. How does she know there are no other animals in heaven?" In his opinion, it was the epitome of the arrogance of the church, and of humans in general. I don't think I'll ever consider myself a Catholic again, but Pope Francis makes me so happy that he is the changing face of Catholicism and the essence of what Jesus talked about in the first place.

  28. All beings have souls (or spirit). Whether a dog, ant or human.

  29. The dogs go to heaven first!

  30. It shows you just how twisted our religious beliefs have become that it seems shocking to hear a religious leader preach love rather than condemnation.

  31. The US has clearly taken to heart Pope Francis' message to love refugees.

    After all, we made at least the plurality of them, if not the majority.

    (Taking any of them in, of course, would be wrong. Since we love refugees, we don't want to reduce their number by offering any of them refuge.)

  32. Four legs good.
    Two legs better.

  33. "[H]is humility and compassion ... benefit the reputation of Christianity itself, by helping to recast it from pointing fingers to helping hands."

    That cannot happen soon enough. We've just about had it with all those politicians (Republican for the most part) who are trying to cram their particularly small-minded and petty "Christian" religious views down our throats. Several have actually castigated the Pope this week for his lack of finger pointing. Imagine lecturing the Pope on how to practice his religion. You might think they would be more self-aware than that, but then you would be wrong.

  34. If animals can love, and animals do love unconditionally, they know God. If they know God they will return to God.

  35. There is nothing that is not God. It is not separate.

  36. ANIMAL RIGHTS are not newcomers to religious thought. The Second Commandment, instructing people to remember to sanctify the Sabbath as a day of rest extends from the male heads of households (who were, in Biblical times, the ones counted as full people), to their wives, children, servants/workers and animals. Yes, the animals are to be permitted to rest from their labor on the Sabbath. Every week.

  37. Certainly a change from Pope Pius XII, who was once photographed (carefully staged) with a bird on his finger, much like the picture of Francis and the dove that accompanies this column; but when the SPCA asked Pius for his endorsement, he refused, replying that kindness to animals wasn't an obligation of Christians, since God had put other species on Earth for our use.
    (I won't single out Christianity. All the Abrahamic religions have similar teachings; Islam is against vegetarianism because supposedly it assumes Allah allowed us the use of animals, and man should not presume to create rules stricter than God's; a teaching in the Talmud justifies God drowning all life on Earth for the sins of man by comparing him to a father who's set out a banquet for his son and is told the son is dead, whereupon in grief he trashes it all, as its only purpose is now futile. And people ask why I'm an atheist.)

  38. Unlimited human population growth is the greatest threat to the survival of wild animal species on the world.

    Lets talk birth control.

  39. And competitive population growth is the root cause of war.

  40. Poverty is.

    Poor less educated women have less access to birth control. Solve poverty and access to education for this women and I garantee you they are going to have less children, even no children at all. Human population growth solved.

  41. I like all you have to say, Mr. Bolger.

  42. Certainly Francis is a nice man and, compared to other popes, he is a beacon of kindness. However, this is all sideshow. He promulgates religion, which is the greatest (albeit self-imposed) obstacle to human freedom and progress in human history.

    Religion tells us that this life is less important, that there is an "after life," that there is some great supernatural being in the sky that loves and attends to us, that there are rules of conduct handed down from primitive times when we didn't know what caused lightning or anything about the nature of the universe. It is like mass hypnosis to quell our fears, eliminate ambiguity, and reassure us in ways that defy reason and evidence.

    Dogs in heaven! Mosquitoes, dinosaurs, disease spores, alligators, and dog poop, all in heaven! This is the nonsense that gets served up, and because we humans don't deal well with hard and uncomfortable truths, we revere a religious leader because he conspires with us to tell us the fairy tales that please us.

  43. Heaven and hell are states of mind, In any realm, here on earth or any place else. All that we know, from those who have viewed that realm outside our earthly existence (spiritually transformative experiences, out of body experiences, near death experiences) in modern day (this number increasing exponentially since modern medicine resuscitation techniques), is that there is unconditional love that surrounds us all, that it is love that binds the universe together. That there is no such thing as eternal hell or eternal heaven. That everything and every particle is in flux, impermanent, changing. And that Consciousness is fundamental to this universe (or multiverse). So, yes, mosquitoes, dogs, snakes, scorpions are all beings of sentience who as particles of this Universe, are subject to laws of formation and dissolution and recycling. We might as well have been formed by the particles of dog poop, recycled from cosmos.

  44. "Dogs in heaven! Mosquitoes, dinosaurs, disease spores, alligators, and dog poop, all in heaven!"

    You clearly have no idea what Francis is saying. Go back and read what he wrote. As an "Atheist for Francis", I have no problem with this:

    “Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place,”

  45. I would disagree in your analysis. What the Pope promulgates is a philosophy of universal connectivity and love. The primary obstacle to human freedom and progress by far, is ignorance. What makes this Pope a leader of mankind is not his brand of religion, it is his transcendent notion of brotherhood and justice.

    Atheists such as myself have been freed from the mythology of religion, but are still left with a need to develop a social contract whereby mankind can prosper. Too many reject religion and then also reject responsibility to society as a whole. As I strive for a better world for myself and my family, I count as my allies not only those who share my ontology, but also those whose goals, despite religious affiliation, align.

  46. That he would show the same compassion and empathy for women struggling to keep control of their bodies.

  47. The juvenile belief in afterlife trivializes all death and excuses all atrocities. It poisons this whole planet.

  48. Nick, the problem really stems from the belief by monotheistic faiths that God is someone of something outside of ourself. That one God is to be feared, he gets angry and passes judgement, even eternal hell to his children, his creation. What kind of parent would do that? What kind of parent would lack compassion, empathy, wisdom and benevolence when it comes to his own children? It is only now that it is becoming clear that Consciousness is fundamental to the Universe and that we are all inter connected, every particle, animate or non animate. This understanding has a profound impact to the way we should start thinking of ourselves and fellow beings. For centuries wrong idea of a God sitting up there, has been conditioned into human beings, fearful of punishment for not following dogma. Its time for us to open to a more expanded understanding of who or what God is, that it is life itself that bubbles up and manifests as matter and everything else. Compassion and empathy for others can only arise when we know so intimately that we are all interconnected, co dependent, interdependent, for beginning-less and endless times, through cycles of creation and dissolutions, ad infinitum.

  49. "It is only now"? Such ideas are well over 200 years old, strewn through radical Protestantism through Boehm, Swedenborg, Blake, and the like, then in non-theistic form through all kinds of Romantic philosophy and literature. Those who don't study the past will have to reinvent it, and aren't likely to get very far.

  50. You are right. drichardson..Just as this is not the first and only Big Bang, such ideas have likely been around through previous Big Bangs as well.

  51. The concept of Earth community includes the human and non-human living world and their environmental context. It was introduced by geologian Thomas Berry, a Passionist priest who combined his theology with the science of the Earth. His first publication was The Dream of the Earth, published by the Sierra Club in 1988. A 2006 version’s introduction states this landmark work “has established itself as a foundational volume in the ecological canon. In it, noted cultural historian Thomas Berry provides nothing less than a new intellectual-ethical framework for the human community by positing planetary well-being as the measure of all human activity.”

    The philosophy of Berry’s Earth Community became part of the Modern Spiritual Masters series when Evelyn Tucker and John Grim published in November 10, 2014 the paperback Thomas Berry: Selected Writings on the Earth Community.

  52. Empathy is an excellent word, and we could use more of it in our politics in general, maybe it would reduce somewhat the polarization. Sadly though, whenever I hear someone use the word I think of Glen Beck's remarks warning his TV audience about "empathy" and that it was a Trojan horse word for socialism along with other worrisome words such as "justice" and "peace". When that is a movement's message, as it seems to be in general for today's GOP, you will only get the votes of angry and fearful people whose religion has become less important to them than their misguided politics.

  53. We do not need religion to foster these values. Never did.

  54. "In the Protestant world, the baton has passed to evangelical leaders who are less interested in culture wars . . ."

    "We have never seen an administration with such hostility toward religious faith . . ." Sen. Rafael Eduardo Cruz

    You should get out more Mr. Kristof.

  55. I am a living proof of the correctness of your assertion that Francis is revered even by many atheists. I am professor by profession. My students have heard me many times saying that, if I were not an atheist, Francis' stance on our moral obligation to deal with environmental issues, and the rights of the marginalized, would have been sufficient for me to convert to Catholicism. Pope Francis is a source of inspiration for this atheist. Born a muslim and fearing death death at the hands of Wahabis, I will use a pseudo-name to sign my comment.

  56. Agnostic here and I love the pope and his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

    He definitely makes the case FOR religion. As I listen to him and listening to his thoughts on Thomas Merton, it reminds of what I respect about Buddhism and other Eastern religions. A much kinder, more humble form of religion. I have only this week gotten the message that many Catholics don't like that he's a Jesuit. I guess in many Catholic circles, Jesuits = Hippies.

  57. The Pope is himself an atheist.

    If he says "You don't have to believe in Jesus Christ to go to heaven," the bedrock of Christianity, he is at least not a Christian.

    No one seems to have a problem with that.

  58. He is certainly revered by this atheist.

  59. Your book Half the Sky is about turning "oppression into opportunity" for half of the world's population- women. The Catholic Church, it's hierarchy and it's doctrines, is a global institution with a deeply entrenched policy of denying women equal opportunities.

    One of the greatest drivers of intractable poverty around the world is the fact that when women with limited educational and employment opportunities are left to raise children on their own, their children are far more likely to be poor throughout their lives.

    I like this new pope. His focus on the poor and marginalized is right where it should be. But the Church that he heads is one of the world's great marginalizers and opportunity deniers of the half of the population that bears and cares for the entire human race. Bravo for speaking out about animal rights. But what about equal civil and human rights for women on this planet starting within his Church.

  60. My dear uncle, an 85 year old Catholic priest, asked me recently if I thought the church would prosper into the future. I replied that it depended on how much the church took women's roles in it seriously as far as giving them power equal to men. He agreed completely. We both agreed it would take some time.
    This pope has, at least, started the dialogue.

  61. I'll be ready to applaud Francis when he lifts the ban on contraception, and allows priests to be married (and female). The Church's ban on contraception has caused more suffering and sorrow than anyone will acknowledge.

  62. "“We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures,” he declared in his encyclical on the environment. “The Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism.”"

    I think if everyone treated everything with respect--other religions, other individuals, animals, and the environment--it would go along way to solving most of the world's problems.

    Perhaps the most important question to ask about anything is: Is my personal behavior aimed inward at personal gain or outward to serve the needs of others? On this, the Pope has truly moved the epicenter of spiritual issues--from inward self-centered thinking to helping us realize that everything we do has impact on others... that we aren't the center of the universe but a very small part of it.

  63. God is a fantasy invented to answer childish questions. It is not an adult belief. Humans made God to be the image of Man.

  64. My husband recently expressed surprise that I (an atheist Unitarian Universalist) am a "Pope fan", and not only despite but in part because of the disruption of our next few days living in the traffic-free zone in Philly. I explained that as a leadership case study, here's a guy who took over as CEO of a global multi trillion $ enterprise with a serious brand crisis, plummeting market share in historically dominant regions, legal and ethical disasters, disgruntled lifelong / legacy customers, workforce shortages, crumbling physical plants being shuttered left and right, a predecessor who took an early retirement package, etc. He went back to fundamentals - mission, vision, values. Rebrand on those. Restructure management, clean house of those not aligned with MVV, instill accountability and sense of purpose in workforce, modernize policy and procedure, face outward and listen to voice of the current customers and try to win back trust of former ones through humility and authenticity ... And attract new ones. I will never be in his official base (and disagree vehemently with many positions) but can feel admiration for the man who is so clearly following a deep calling to make the world a better place for all living souls even those not "his". Wouldn't it be great if some more global leaders could follow this example. And sorry for the corporate comparisons, but leadership is leadership.

  65. That is really really well put ... thank you (especially as a fellow Philadelphia, bracing for the big event, which, for all intents and purposes is being treated as if nuclear war were imminent here).

    I totally agree. I'm a staunch atheist and believe, overall, that the Catholic church has done enormous harm in the world. But this guy is a good guy, trying his best to sand off the rough edges, rein in a few of the nasty zealots, and preach a simple message of peace and tolerance and compassion. There's little to fault him for there.

    That's a very funny line about the previous guy who took an early retirement package. I wonder sometimes what Benedict makes of all this.

  66. I would say he may have made examples of some visible predators, but swept the rest under the rug. Reminds me of VW and GM.

  67. Yeah, I'm really sorry for the corporate comparison, too.

  68. There is a certain continuity to this Pope, perhaps more so than other Popes and religious leaders.

    Religious dogma, usually the domain of conversative culture, has been turned upside down by the 'commonality' worldview of this Pope--and whether you agree, it is mostly consistent across issues: Life is sacred and interconnected.

    No birth control, no death penalty, no abortion, no war...no interference in the creative process of life. Borders do not define human value...there are no 'aliens', just God's children. Do not harm the planet, do not ignore conspicuous consumption, and of course, our fellow occupants are God's creatures.

    It's consistent, and in many ways reflects ancient aboriginal 'circle of life' wisdom of 'primitive' natives. It will become more powerful and resonate when women are able to participate more fully in the celebration.

  69. The plain reality is that every human being tries to sterilize the space they live in to most other forms of life.

  70. We spend enormous energy and money to cultivate and raise plants and animals. We try to control the spaces we inhabit, for good, and not-so-good, reasons, but it is far from a "plain reality" that "every human being" tries to sterilize their living space. I assure you that I don't.
    If you make a statement like that, please include some evidence or at least a reasonable premise.
    Your post doesn't even appear to be related to the statement it addresses.

  71. The Pope is a good huckster.
    Mr. Kristof, what do you think of men who rape young boys? You seem to forget, like the Pope, the many thousands of children who were raped by Catholic Priest and Pope Francis is still protecting them and the Churches money.
    The Pope is making statements about things he has no control over while covering up gross and disgusting crimes of his own clergy.

  72. Francis brings a message that has been sorely missing not just from religion but from society: The importance of compassion.

  73. Compassion is human. Nature is implacably dispassionate.

  74. How refreshing is his message about getting out and helping the poor instead of hiding behind silly cultural wars. "What would Jesus do" is his creed indeed, rolling up his sleeves and getting dirty. In this time in history when other religions are "pointing fingers " and condemning , Francis has arrived on the world stage perhaps just in time to save not only Catholicism but the free world from itself.

  75. compassion would be birth control for the millions of poor women forced by this religion to bear child after child they cannot afford to feed

  76. One minor quibble. I would not say Pope Francis is "revered by many atheists". Perhaps admired would be a better descriptor of how we feel about many of his worldly views. He still does, after all, takes his cues from a single tome which all secular humanists consider, at best, a work of historical fiction.

  77. None of Us can "revere" any person for whom "faith is belief without evidence." Just shows how little religionists disrespect the opinions of those who disagree with them.

  78. I am one of those atheists who is a fan of Pope Francis, there are millions of us who can overlook the religious stuff and focus on the message. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case with many who claim to be Christians.

    Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish is one of the people who advocated for the pope to come here yet so many Catholic republicans have stated that they are planning n shunning the pope.

    It boggles the mind that So many Americans in the 21st century can be so cruel and hateful that they would choose polluting corporations and inhumane treatment of workers and animals over doing the enlightened thing.

    As to the treatment of animals, eating them is part of the cycle of life and treating animals with dignity and respect and making sure they have a decent life and a humane ending to that life should be what everyone strives for.

    If anyone is worried about the good of the planet and the good of mankind, the last thing they would do is vote republican.

  79. You and the others who say they "can overlook the religious stuff" are making a big mistake in interpreting the Pope's intentions. While the pope undoubtably wishes for all of us to look for this common ground that we can work together on, these aren't just issues you can cherry pick and say you are of a like mind. I am neither atheist nor religious, but I was a Catholic for a long time. I promise you that in the Pope's mind, all of this has a spiritual basis.

  80. Your comment that eating other animals is 'the cycle' of life is absolutely wrong. Just because something is a cultural norm does not make it right. How can you possibly treat another living being, who has just as much to life as you do, with 'diginity and respect' if you are killing them and eating them? And why eat some animals and not others? How many dogs and cats have you barbequed lately? And, animal production and farming is a major contributor to global warming. So "if anyone is worried about the good of the planet" they last thing they would do is to eat other animals.

  81. It's increasingly remarkable that serious people write serious articles about places (heaven) and things (god) that almost certainly do not exist. While agreeing with the Pope's focus on climate change, the poor, and empathy for all, including animals, I wish it were more reality based rather then based on ancient myths and superstitions.

  82. This Pope glosses over this juvenile duality as shamelessly as Dr. Ben Carson misrepresents the risks of vaccination.

  83. Do ideas exist? Does aesthetics exist? Does ethics exist? And don't serious people write about them?

  84. "Still, Francis is relentlessly shining his spotlight on the voiceless, whether two-legged or four-legged, and that is new." Or the unborn.

    All lives really do matter to this Pope. He's the one person who can make this claim and actually mean it.

  85. Indeed -- and what Conservatives and single-issue Catholics should realize is that he can ONLY make an effective case against abortion if it is part of what Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago once called a "seemless garment" of compassion and respect for all life.

  86. the unborn... You said it, not born, not here, not yet.

    Refugees are here, inmigrants are here, poor children are here, sick persons without healthcare are here, elderly empoverish people is here.

    Let's keep it real. Let's focus in what is already here, already a problem, already need a solution.

  87. You nailed it. And the Pope is nailing it.

    I was surprised how quickly the US turned from compassion to judgement in the name of religion after 9/11. There was a resurgence of practicing Christians, but what they were practicing was not compassion but rather protective judgement. It was a perversion of religion, which is not uncommon among humans.

    This Pope is setting people straight again and going even further than before.

    One thing that has always intrigued me is why so many Christians become judgmental so easily while I don't notice the same in Jews. Both share the same Torah, the same 10 commands, the same moral lessons of Leviticus, etc…

    The problem with religion isn't in the bible or the koran. It is in the interpretation of them.

    We need spiritual leaders to behave like the pope. Most people can't weave through the complexities of modern existence without this kind of leadership.

    "Who am I to judge?"

    The best line from a Pope ever.

    What good is religion if it results in cruel behavior, self-righteous judgement of others, and a division of cultures? These things had their place in the past hellacious periods of humanity, but no longer.

    Some of us are at the point that we think about going vegetarian about once a week. Nature is pretty cruel at times without our help, but does that justify being cruel?

    I recently heard someone correct their 2-year old child for feeling bad for a chicken they ate. "Don't empathize with the meat, they said." Why not?

  88. The "Who am I to judge?" line, coming from a pope, still boggles me.

    Coming from a pope!

    To me, that right there is a sea change. Coming from any previous pope, the answer would be, "Um, you're the pope, that's who!" But this pope is modeling something ENTIRELY different.

  89. Re "The problem with religion isn't in the bible or the Koran. It's in the interpretation of them":

    The fact is that interpretation is all there is. The so-called sacred documents are nothing more than their writers' and editors' interpretations of their own experience, attempts to determine what their experience in the world means. Subsequent people handling those human-created documents are in the same predicament - trying to determine what those documents mean, i.e., what their "truth" is.

    But there is no "truth" inherent to those documents; only people whose interpretations satisfy them as being true, which they then pass on as "the truth in itself."

    It is best to ask them how they know what they are talking about when they make ultimate truth claims, and more importantly, how they find their truths to be so satisfying? Truthists, as I call them, seem oblivious to their own authorship of the eternal truths they favor, the ones that interpret reality in ways they find pleasing. Their eternal truths, in fact, are totally subjective.

  90. We humans are evolved social animals. It is time to cure ourselves of the rampant sociopathy that threatens most life on this planet.

    Don't take the name of God to justify anything you do. You will have to justify it on its own merits.

  91. You are an illustration of why religion is necessary to so many. Apparently you have decided you are going to seize authority and lay down the law on what others can and should believe. The only thing that stops that sort of tyranny is pushback from another tyrant.

  92. As an agnostic, I'm one of that "species" who respects this Pope, quite simply because his sense of morals is based upon two precepts that don't require any particular religious doctrine: the Golden Rule and the notion that "the least of our brethren" should be cared for by those with the means to do so. Then, the absence of that typical public-figure narcissism seals the deal for me --- I like the man. The comment that the pope is revered by atheists is a "delicious irony" is, however, bothersome. It's only ironic if one fails to consider that many atheists (most, in my experience) have a well-developed moral compass without the need for religiosity; it's pure ignorance to proffer that an atheist or agnostic can't be "moral."

  93. This pope is a beacon of rationality for so many of us with distant Catholic roots who have observed a religion of authoritative control and hypocrisy. While I am truly encouraged by his message and his willingness to make a real difference in the progress of humanity, I was nonetheless disheartened as I watched the NYT video. At his great and official mass, not a single representative of half of the world's population. This pope is moving the Catholic religion forward in ways no one has for centuries, but until women are part of the equation, it will still be a an anachronism.

  94. Formal religion aside, it is a breath of fresh air to hear a world leader speak directly to the profound suffering of other species who share this planet with humans. This is not about politics or religion. It is about decency, compassion and the reverence of Life itself regardless of what form it takes. So I commend Pope Francis for his important validation of this Truth. We are all in this together. And each of us needs to respect the life of others regardless.

  95. No world leader has taken on the 2 most important issues facing the planet: income inequality and climate change. There's one exception: Pope Francis. So while he's not tackling issues I think he should, I'm content with him tackling the 2 most important ones.

  96. Sharon: You need to work on your prioritization skills.

  97. Amen! Killing animals seems to be pretty clearly permitted in the Bible. (Although we are told that the Lord cares even for a sparrow.) But does anyone think he would approve of factory farming? We have created so many institutions and systems that don't reflect his image in the way his own creation (the natural world) does.

  98. My family has been Protestant since the 16th century, at least. Still, this Pope is my Pope. Had all Popes been like him, Luther and Calvin would have been forgotten the day they were buried, and the world could have been spared the 30-years' war, as well as the endless persecution of Jews, heretics, etc.

  99. I'm disappointed in this unreserved praise of Pope Francis. He does seem to be pretty good, and there is a lot to his credit. But there are some pretty serious problems, too: his (so far) tepid response to the abuse scandals (yesterday outraging many victims by actually praising the American bishops' response); his unwillingness to condemn violence as a response to insults of religious belief (remember, he said it would be natural to punch someone who did such a thing); his elevation of Junipero Serra. These are all issue involving how human beings have treated each other -- which ought to be as important as saying dogs go to heaven.

  100. Nice column again Mr. Kristof! I know many people who don't declare themselves as Christians although are indeed followers of Christ. These individuals are similar to the Pope in that they believe in the sanctity of life, stress the indigenous people's belief that the Earth is sacred & mankind is a mere guest, advocate for animal's rights as well as dedicate their lives to the poor and needy. These individuals aren't as eloquent in their speech as the Pope nor are they as elevated in status due to the power of the Vatican and Catholic church, although much the same their lives are in congruent alignment with their values and deeds. They're highly predictable individuals in that they're always in the "right", that is they're morally pure people who live a Christ like life helping others, attending to their spiritual nature and have great empathy and love for all sentient life on Earth. These same people can be found working in inner city schools and staying late to make home visits or help underachieving students with their homework. They can be found at homeless shelters feeding the hungry or volunteering at local libraries teaching the illiterate how to read. They will not be seen in powerful boardrooms making decisions that effect the world in dramatic ways, although they work humbly & without great fanfare, financial reward or receiving the vain glory of solicitous adulation from followers. They may name recognition although are true spiritual pilgrims.

  101. The pope represents the catholic church, a belief in God and the 'heavens', along some other fantastic offerings central to its religious dogma, the transsubstantiation (the conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ). Unfortunately, to believe such 'miracle', one must suspend what makes us, animals as we are, unique, the ability to reason. As an agnostic, this make-believe fantasy that shares those claims of n all-loving god by all other religions, is just that, a belief. But believing in something doesn't make it so. Our ethics and morals, somehow, seem to belong to us humans naturally and does not require supernatural beings to explain it. Now, the pope as a human being, with his teachings and recommendations regarding real problems, is wonderful, his empathy and humility as well, and deserving our respect and admiration.

  102. I am one of the atheists who greatly admires Pope Francis, his eschewing of regal trappings and his concern for the regular and most down-trodden of peoples of the world. I admire his attempts (as both a religious leader and scientist) to call the world to action regarding environmental degradation and climate change, both certainly the most important factors impacting the lives of all (and especially the poor) people and creatures in this world.

    I am flummoxed, however, by his failure to address the many victims of priestly sexual abuse, nor to address such practices in any terms, save to tell a gathering of bishops that he is sorry for the pains that THEY had to go through regarding these situations.

    I am hoping that somehow, at some time during this Papal visit, he will address these concerns and meet with some of these victims. It is sorely needed. If he cannot voice sincere apologies to the scores of children (many now adults) whose lives were shattered by these "servants" of the Catholic Church and take measures to prosecute these pedophiles and their protectors (Cardinal Law et al.) in some manner instead of moving them to similar positions in other parts of the world, then all of his other wonderful deeds and attributes seem horribly hollow.

  103. Whilst I agree with the pope that other lives than humans matter morally, I wonder what his reasoning is. In particular for example, if he thinks it's OK to kill pigs, is that for a reason that makes it not OK or OK to kill a human in the womb at age 4 months? If he thinks it's morally wrong to cause pigs to suffer before we eat them, is that a reason to allow or not allow abortion to reduce suffering?

    We need to know the pope's reasoning for his moral stances.

  104. Pope Francis gives us a wonderful reminder that we must embrace our humility as stewards of the earth and celebrate all life rather than dominate and oppress less powerful people and creatures to satisfy our latest whims and selfishly extract profit.

  105. We in the atheist/agnostic community don't give a damn about religious orthodoxy or scriptural narratives. These are all cultural adaptations.

    But ironically we know far more about religion than most believers and we're thrilled to see an influential figure embrace the true tenants of religion and challenge the hypocrisy and false sanctimony exhibited by far too many claiming divine sanction.

    Conservatives especially use faith as a tool and cudgel of judgment and condemnation and express great religious reverence merely as a means to attain power and status.

    Pope Francis is acting as a mirror for the supposedly righteous to look into. They're understandably appalled at what they see. Will they reflect upon this and take moral stock of themselves? Reevaluate what their faith actually means?

    A few may ,but more likely the phonies and falsely pious will expose themselves as the empty hearted vessels we know them to be.

  106. Humans who believe in a god have obsessed about the question of how humans can be liberated from their perceived mental failings labelled "sin", but the real moral question of existence for those who believe is, how can all creatures be liberated from the slavery of subsistence? We know that predatory mammals such as cats and foxes can be peaceful and affectionate to other species when they aren't driven by hunger--how do we free ourselves and the animals from the nightmarish slaughter of each other brought on by the curse of hunger? Is it possible? What would we all become? It takes great moral imagination to see to the heart of the world's essential problems...

  107. There is a an interesting article in a recent New Yorker that is more about what Pope Francis is doing inside the Vatican and church hierarchy to clean house, how he addressed financial corruption at the Vatican, and how he is dealing with his "controversial" positions with doctrinaire church officials.

    One of the things he did was warn church officials against their "theological narcissism," a term that is applicable far beyond the Catholic Church, I would say.

    It is also interesting that his inclusion of animals and living things as concerns of religion and the Church is considered "revolutionary" by some and even "heretical" by others within the Church.

    What a breath of fresh air this Pope is!

  108. "Indeed, here's the delicious irony: Pope Francis is revered even by many atheists."

    That might seem like an irony but it isn't. While atheists don't believe in a higher being per se, that doesn't mean they also don't believe in love, compassion, and good works. And often, because their views, beliefs, and behaviors are thoughtfully and freely chosen sans religious dictates and dogma, the loving qualities Pope Francis exhibits are often even more deeply felt and authentically expressed among members of the atheist community.

  109. The concept that an animal might go to heaven did not originate with Pope Paul VI or with Francis. As Mark Twain sagely observed 120 or so years ago, the common housefly was -when finished waltzing around in the ripe corpse of some dead creature or another, gauming its feet with deadly germs, then headed straight for man's dinner table to prance in the mashed potatoes and fruit salad- God's favorite pet.

    One would hardly expect the Creator's most-loved creature- born sinless, intellectually incapable of committing same, and living the life God designed it for- to suffer the molten rock ocean of Hell in eternal death.

  110. I respect the Pope but do not revere him.

    Any claim to life beyond the existence of our bodies, while acceptable in concept, is based on an infallibility which is purely philosophical.

    Spirituality is fine if one questions or is in need of mental support, but pragmatism is what we must rely on to feed our bodies in order that we maintain the ability to contemplate that invention

    Heaven only thrives on empty plates.

  111. Not sure that World Vision is the best example of the changes in the church. They have declared they will never hire a gay person who is married.

  112. "Indeed, here’s the delicious irony: Pope Francis is revered even by many atheists."
    This is ironic at the superficial level only, in the sense that the unbelievers are believing in the leader of the believers.
    However, it is far from ironic, and actually makes a lot of sense, if you do not view the Pope as a leader of believers but as a leader of the humanity, compassion, accommodation, sharing, and the like. And it is for that reason that atheists are in love with this Pope.

  113. Just to point out that "followers of Jesus" are not necessarily Christians, so it's not just a name change. To be Christian in the generally accepted sense, you have to believe that Jesus was the son of God, died for your sins, died and came back to life, is able to forgive your sins, offers you eternal salvation if you believe in him, and will come again some time before the ultimate Judgment Day to rapture the faithful.

    (I realize there are many variants, and not everyone calling themselves Christian believes all this; but I think the great majority do.)

    Quite a package to buy into! How much more reasonable and helpful to just go around trying to do a few of the things Jesus did, like helping the poor and the sick, comforting the afflicted, and generally aiming to behave compassionately toward one's fellow humans and other species.

  114. He chose the name of Francisco. Saint FRancis.. who loved and protected the animals.

  115. Kristof's first sentence needs a different second clause, to better read as:

    We all know that Pope Francis cares deeply for the marginalized, except women.

  116. I believe God still sends prophets among us: Martin Luther King, Pope Francis, and others.

  117. Our Lady must do a lot of grieving. And does anyone know if the parrot is a Catholic? The reason, or one of the reasons, why the Pope is revered by many atheists is because atheists tend to be liberals, and this Pope has a great many liberal inclinations. He's a humanitarian, and I personally find it odd that you find it odd that atheists should admire someone who doesn't share their heretical views, as if that were bizarre in and of itself. There's more to a person than his or her religious views, or lack thereof.

    The efforts by people like you to prompt the transmogrification of Christianity so that it parallels modern liberalism are unlikely to be successful among evangelical fundamentalists; and those are the people who dominate American Christianity. The reality is that neither the Pope, nor anyone else outside of the cult, is likely to matter a great deal in the seemingly never-ending struggle to pull this lot away from its backwardness and bigotry.

  118. Hard to believe that we have lowered ourselves to allowing a religious leader to address congress, and are showering him with such praise, even though the US is not supposed to favor one religion over another, and have completely disregarded the criminality of the Catholic Church. Where does any religious leader get the nerve to lecture our congressional representatives, and the entire country? Next, I hope they will bring in Richard Dawkins to give them his unique, and more intelligent, slant on the same topics. I once thought I couldn't be more angry with my government, but I see I was wrong. What a blow to secular government and civic society. THIS is just wrong.

  119. Charlie, a professor at Colgate Rochester Divinity School (now Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School), was dismissive of efforts to include very young children in communion, so he once wrote a small book entitled something like "Dogs and Communion" to make his case that if you serve communion to children too young to understand you might as well include the family dog, too. He may have been more ahead of the times than he realized. But I wonder how cats felt? In any event, with leftover communion bread at my church we often feed the birds.

  120. I, like Pablo Neruda, believe in a heaven for dogs, not for humans.
    Here's the beginning of his beautiful poem "A Dog Has Died" -
    "My dog has died.
    I buried him in the garden
    next to a rusted old machine.
    Some day I'll join him right there,
    but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
    his bad manners and his cold nose,
    and I, the materialist, who never believed
    in any promised heaven in the sky
    for any human being,
    I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
    Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
    where my dog waits for my arrival
    waving his fan-like tail in friendship...

  121. Another ole white man who has empathy for all species except a young pregnant women who does not want a child at this time in her life whom he would deny the right of choice to make her own decision. Yeah he is one of those.

  122. 'Brand' is the right word - sadly. While I'm thankful that the Pope has given voice to what many of us have always thought was the christianity we we've learned, believe in and strive to live up to, I fear that this new 'brand' will be temporary. 'Brand' is something that can always be manipulated by money of course. So I'm waiting for the blowback from the evangelical community ( or that part of the evangelical community) that strongly disagrees with the Pope to contest any 're-branding'.

  123. Simple and insightful, in line with Pope Francis. Why complicate the message. We spend too much time today over thinking and highlighting the negative. Francis cuts to the simple and truthful. Thanks for sharing Nick!

  124. Again, atheists are seen as people denying the existence of any spiritual dimension in the human species or in the Universe as a whole. It's the usual short view of Christians or Muslims about them. Most atheists deny the existence of the Christian or Muslim god. Period.

  125. I don't really think that's true. (Actually, it's can't be true--surely someone who believes in the Hindu gods isn't an atheist!)

    Most atheists I know (and that's most people I know, being a born and bred atheist myself) deny that the existence of anything robustly spiritual. Anti-theists, perhaps, could accept a spiritual dimension to things while denying the existence of god. But post-Christian/Jewish atheism in the West is an entire worldview, generally associated with scientific naturalism, and thus doesn't deny the existence of the Judeo-Christian god alone!

  126. I thought every aspect of this piece was refreshing. Thanks for the good work, Mr. Kristof.

    Isn't it strange like a simple comment about heaven (or any positive reference to God) stands out so much in any piece of well-regarded journalism? Most people in the country believe in it, yet a chorus of criticism often follows its expression, even in pieces like this, where culture wars are eschewed in favor of championing the disenfranchised.

  127. What a delightful and perfect photo that accompanies this column. Look at the Pope Francis' sense of spontaneous joy at the bird landing on his hand. The bird looks much at ease with this man too. The Pope's enthusiasm is infectious, as we can see by the faces around him. He seems to be one of those true leaders, who is positive, conveys hope, and simply brightens a room just by entering.

  128. One of my mother's friends called her Seeing Eye dog, Cindy, "peoples". Dogs such as Cindy give unconditional love and will risk their own lives to save their blind partners.

  129. Now if he will change the rules on celibacy, contraceptions, married priests and nun and quit dressing like a clown, along with his fellow clergy. Move out of the dark ages.

  130. I'm an atheist who admires Pope Francis and shares his concern about the treatment of nonhuman animals. As an atheist, I don't believe there is a heaven, of course, but, in any event, I wouldn't be particularly attracted to a vision of heaven in which "each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place." I'm on board with dogs but, unless the "resplendent transfiguration" includes a complete change of their nature, food, habitat, and life-cycle, I'd rather that these creatures not take a rightful place in any afterlife I experience: http://listverse.com/2010/01/13/top-10-most-horrific-parasite-infections/.

  131. As a Catholic Christian who has always been committed to the Church's teachings on social justice, I am deeply moved by the Pope's visit to our country and by his message. I am touched by the fact that the example of his life, his humility, his simplicity, and his charity have resonated with many who are not Catholic or believers of any faith. I can only feel sympathy and sorrow for those atheists who have commented with such vitriol on what they see as the delusions of people of faith. If we rely solely on human logic, agnosticism is probably the most rational position to take. I cannot prove there is a God; nor can anyone prove there is not. I can understand that, for many people, when a proposition is not provable, the default position is not to believe. I can respect the people who make that choice. But the atheists who are so vehement in their condemnation of religion are being as narrow minded and self righteous as the religious fundamentalists whom they look down on with such contempt.

  132. At least animals don't worry about hell. Those who spin the word of God for their own political objectives may not see their pets and other creatures in heaven.

  133. Having just watched Boehner grimacing throughout Pope Francis' message to congress I somehow doubt that republican politicians are getting it.
    The God of Jesus is Love. Love means compassion, it means forgiveness, it means sacrifice, it requires giving completely of oneself.
    Universal love requires the giving up of one's self to take on the hurts and hunger and pain of all who suffer anywhere in the World.
    That is what Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, M.L.King all did for everyone in the World, and it is what we must do if we are to follow them.
    To keep in sync with Francis, it is also what Lincoln, King, Merton and Day did here in this Country.
    I sincerely hope this humble and loving servant of Humankind will help us to see the innate spirit of God that exists within All of his Creation.

  134. The Pope may have compassion for animals, but every additional human makes it harder for other species to live. The Pope, like all religious leaders condemn birth control, making his compassion for animals hypocritical. Human over-population is directly responsible for the mass extinction of other life forms on Earth, happening right now.

  135. Mr. Kristof,
    I have often wondered to what degree the challenges and traumas women around the world experience is supported by the exclusion of women from positions of power in the Catholic Church. You write so well and so often about women's issues and you have been fearless about writing about topics that are really difficult to stomach. In today's column, you omitted any mention of the church's position on women which disappointed me. Pope Francis' compassionate tone is a wonderful change and he speaks about the moral implications of climate change and inequality and unbridled capitalism, all of which are terrific. But until he faces up to the moral implications of excluding as inferior half the planet's population, the church, in my view, will be complicit in the significant issues women continue to experience.

  136. A Christ-like Pontiff - what a concept! No wonder he's considered a revolutionary. Makes me wonder what would happen if Jesus suddenly appeared in the middle of Times Square in this day & age.

    Wait! Here's one: what if Jesus reappeared as an African American in a poor town in Mississippi?

    As much as I love this Pope, I doubt even he can even begin to repair the pain & suffering Christians have brought upon this world through the centuries. The good news, of course, is that he can and will alter the trajectory of the Christian message, and since Christianity is the largest religion on earth, that is an enormous gift to our world.

  137. I was disappointed to read your article " A Pope for All Species." Do you really believe, in this age and time, about the concept of Heaven? Or is the Pope using Heaven only as a metaphor for compassion so that we treat all living beings with compassion?

  138. Pope Francis should stand for Democratic party nomination. He has usurped all their ideas anyway. A bleeding heart leftist liberal whom the republican base adores! Just what the party needs.

  139. While Francis is much admired for his kindness and love, you have to admit, he heads an organization which is anything but that. While he leads a humble life of austerity and compassion, his immediate brethren, the bishops, live in the lap of luxury. I still admire the man and his message but I am afraid that there is way too much baggage in the Catholic Church from centuries of living an opulent life in the Vatican. Will his legacy every carry on? I bet not!

  140. Animals in heaven; the virgin mary grieving for livestock; eternal life will be a shared experience. If this guy was walking around the streets of New York spouting this nonsense you would think he should be locked in a rubber room. Revere a crazy man? NOT this atheist!

  141. Prove that there's no God; otherwise, you're relying on mysticism every bit as much as the guy you're condemning--not to mention that I guarantee you personally hold at least five views every bit as crazy as the Pope's.

    By the way, who are you to judge? What's so terrible about putting the heaven thing aside, and just looking for what you can agree upon?

  142. Robert, unless a thing is directly apparent to our five senses (e.g. sight), then it is up to those that assert the existence of the supernatural to prove. I could assert that Santa Claus is real - prove that there is no Santa Claus.

  143. a church leader who doesn't promote birth control in today's world is not a good leader.....over population is a world wide issue................

  144. Remember Mr. Kristof you are interpreting the Pope's comments based upon your own experiences and prejudices. What you interpret is what you believe the Pope is saying. That may or may not be what the Pope actually is saying. Anybody can say the Pope is saying this or the Pope is saying that and be totally off base. Only the Pope and God know what the Pope is really saying.

  145. From the Pope's Laudato si:

    “it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly”

    Because meat, eggs, and dairy are unnecessary for humans, this does mean that we should all avoid those products. The suffering and dying is merely for a fleeting taste experience.

  146. First off, kids do in fact need dairy. And dogs need meat.

    Second off, I get tired of yuppies sitting smugly in wealthy enclaves and pontificating about what everybody else should do.

    The sin, if you like that terminology, isn't in eating meat as such or enjoying the meal. The sin is in stuffing your face and in stupid, cruel, and wasteful farm practices.

  147. Our Pope took the name Francis for Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is renowned for his compassion toward animals. St. Colmcille (Columba) required kindness to animals, and would banish a monk found to have been mistreating any of the monastery's livestock.
    How much drearier would Heaven be without the odd Jersey (breed, not the state) cow or a few dogs.
    Mosquitos? Ticks? I'll resist my baser urges, and heed the words our Pope might say, "Who am I to judge?"

  148. The greatest threat to animals, both individually and as species, is human overpopulation. This Pope's sympathy for animals is a canard if he proscribes birth control.

  149. As grateful as I am to Charles Camosy for arguing that animals deserve a much greater measure of moral regard than they receive from secular society -- and traditionally from Catholics -- , there is no good reason for him to get tangled up with choosing between pigs and mosquitoes.

    One step at a time. Pope Francis seems to be pointing in the direction of what I would call a clearer understanding of what "pro-life" truly means. And by that clearer understanding, true pro-life causes -- such as Catholics ought to commit themselves to -- include not only environmental ethics, especially action in the face of the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis, but also animal-protection ethics, especially saving countless fish, birds and mammals from the food industry.

    It's a systemic evil that human beings are the sort of animal that can only survive by feeding on the substance of other living creatures (not necessarily animals, however!). Every act of killing is in itself an evil, even if it may be justifiable. Our attitude ought to be one of regret, at our own limitedness, and sorrow, at the loss of the life of a unique creature, even a mosquito, even a deadly virus.

    So we may need to kill mosquitoes, in self-defense; we probably will never actually "need" to kill a pig, unless we're actually attacked by one with no provocation, which is highly unlikely. In any case, the pope is definitely pointing us to a true pro-life wisdom, even if Camosy misses it.

  150. Anything that has life, whether an ant or a human, lives in God. Spirit pervades the Universe. Bodies do not go to heaven. Heaven is a spiritual domain.

  151. what i find peculiar is that this person comes to the U.S. and says things everybody else in the world knows -- that we should take care of people and save the planet. But here, in the land of absurd plutocrats, these common notions are excused as political, lacking an understanding of the issues. What the pope asks of us are foundational conservative principles.

  152. Kristof writes, "The pope's sweeping empathy will benefit the poor." Really? What would most benefit the poor is having available family planning. Why are the most devotional often uneducated immigrants? Perhaps because they have a tendency to "worship" ordinary people once they are dressed up as popes, princesses, etc. A true teacher teaches one to "think" for themselves.

  153. Dogs in Heaven? Wouldn't be Heaven without them ( at least the good dogs). Now cats on the other hand, clearly playing for the other team. ( thats a joke for all you atheist, agnostics, political progressives and cat lovers)

  154. I love the incongruity of two NYT opinion pieces today. In one a giggly Kristof pontificates on the superhuman sensitivity of the latest pope because he has determined that dogs will go to heaven. Dog is after all God spelled backwards.
    And in the other Tufekci vilifies VW for advertising a lie for past six years of their cars emission standards.
    In my humble opinion the church and its popes have been advertising the world's biggest lie for two thousand years and at least with VW you get a car.
    And all you good folks out there going to heaven please watch where you step because it's piling up real high.

  155. It is not surprising that this pope like his namesake has a special place in his heart for animals. For his most endearing and striking characteristic is his ability to empathize and feel compassion. It is this quality which brings him to call for help for the needy human and to see our fellow animal species who have consciousness and feelings as partners on this planet, our home.

    When one adopts and becomes part with such a holistic view of our earth and its inhabitants, Pope Francis' characteristic view of animals comes naturally. Indeed, this pope may be so well received by so many within the human population because he exhibits so strongly those characteristics of empathy and compassion. These are the characteristics which elevate the human animal above his natural state. And when one shares these characteristics, one tends to view animals as fellow inhabitants of earth and not as meat to be eaten.

  156. Theologus:
    A few years ago (2 this month) we lose Charlie, our beloved dog. He was a wonder, loving, smart, funny, and entirely bonded to us. When I walked him and ran into a neighbor, Charlie would greet him/her happily, and then lie down between my feet. It blew people's minds, mine too. When he became seriously ill we had a summer just for him--his hospice. Then, when he became too ill to be Charlie he went home. I say home since, in doing some work on Thomas Acquinas, I ran into his ideas that animals make it into the next world; that God loses no one and nothing. It remains very consoling to both of us. As he lay on the Vet's table--going to sleep-he was kissing my outstretched hand. That's Charlie and he is with God, waiting for us.

  157. I'm so glad that the Pope is drawing attention to the need for compassion and empathy toward members of other species who suffer so much at our hand. But there is no way for the suffering to subside unless we make choices in our personal life that take into account our own responsibility for the suffering. If we regard other beings as deserving of a right to their own lives we have to move toward eliminating our addiction to dining on their flesh. And we need to petition our government to purchase healthier plant based foods for schools, and other institutions which they supply food to.

    For those of us who care about the environment, animal agriculture is also one of the biggest contributors to climate change, heavy pollution to waterways, the air and the earth, destruction of wildlife, water deficits, deforestation, and the leveling of rain forests, among other things.

    In terms of laboratory testing on animals, there are many far more effective, accurate ways to test, especially via organs on a chip which can test down to the cellular level. We have to get our government to move to changing the laws, mired in benefiting special interest groups, that require animal testing, both for the benefit of the end users of drugs and other substances and for the animals who are tested on in ways that cause them horrific pain.

  158. At the same time that Francis, Bishop of Rome cares for the marginalized, he and his Church marginalize women generally, gays and lesbians, the divorced, and those who choose to have abortions. While his concern for the poor and the environment is admirable and needs to be heard and emulated, the popular enthusiasm for him should be reconsidered in light of his less than progressive positions on the matters I have presented.

  159. I want no part in a heaven without the sound of purring.

  160. Or birdsong, or bees in a field of flowers.

  161. By denying the need to stabilize the human population by effectively denying contraception to billions, saying that all we need to do is "share" as the world population goes to 11 billion by 2100, this Pope is sentencing half the none human species on earth to death, and insuring a high probability that some catastrophic event will occur that will destroy the human species as well! Surely any biologist or thinking person knows this, so why are 'we' deluding ourselves in this orgy of adoration of a 1%er representative of the "descendants of Cortez" Latin oligarchy from a region that oppresses the 90% of its indigenous and mixed race people in a vicious apartheid? A social leader from a south of the border hell on earth where women are so unvalued that people do not even bother to report rape and kidnapping to corrupt police, who are as likely to be the rapists and kidnappers, where 100's of births to 11 year old girls are reported every year, there are whole towns whose known industry is sex trafficking of children and on and on.

  162. "...delicious irony that he is revered by atheists"
    Why so?
    As an atheist I see the good in people as their intrinsic character; not as a metaphysical manifestation. A good man is worth admiring. Period.

  163. Well, the irony comes in the fact that for a substantial period in this church's history, admitting you didn't actually believe in God could get you quickly put to death.

  164. Pope Francis’s humility and words of love and compassion are certainly welcome. But his decision to honor the 18th century Spanish missionary, Junípero Serra, remains a mystery
    According to historian Alvin Josephy, thousands of native Indians perished after the missionaries arrived on what he described as genocide. Soldiers were employed to kidnap children and when their parents came looking for them they too were captured and used as slaves. Escapees would be severely punished. Fathers and mothers would be separated from their children. The women were separately housed and used as sex slaves by the soldiers. Living conditions were appalling and an epidemic of disease would result in the death of thousands. Over150,000 California Indians died under the system that Junípero Serra developed.
    Serra justified the savage beatings as a small price to pay for the joy of moving Indians out of their ‘dark past’ to become ‘enlightened Christians’.
    To canonize Junípero Serra, would be an affront to native Indians and a terrible stain on Pope Francis’s legacy. In keeping with his laudable messages of love and compassion, Pope Francis should assuage the sentiments of native Indians by seeking their forgiveness for the appalling crimes committed by Junípero Serra.

  165. No wonder he took on the name Francis. Like any good progressive, his vision for the right thing to do for all living creatures far outstrips immediate reality. Now, if he could just see as clearly the injustices done to women by his own church . . .

  166. Apparently Roman Catholicism embraces my dog, but would deny me, a divorced ex member, entrance to heaven. Well, thank heaven for the United Church of Christ.

  167. Frankly, I've had about enough of Pope Francis. Is it just me, or does he seem to be always be pontificating about everything?

  168. If there is a dog heaven (I was agnostic on this point until my most recent sadly departed stray, Nellie, died to forge by her own paws a heaven for her and her playmates), she is there, probably running the place. Thank you, Pope Francis, for supporting Nellie's work. She'll do you proud.

    As for Yogi, he never said this but a favorite aphorism of mine is the young, aspiring soldier who, when enrolling, said to the recruiter "Sir, I want too join the few!" only to be rebuffed with "I'm sorry lad, but there are far too many."


  169. Thank you for another provocative column, Mr. Kristof. IMO, Pope Francis has done more for the planet and the disenfranchised in the past year than all the politicians combined. May his tribe increase. (Though his stance on women's issues and global overpopulation needs some work.)

    I would urge your readers to purchase a copy of his new "Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality" -- available at most bookstores for only $14.95. It contains this remarkable quote, among many others:

    "It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty toward any creature is contrary to human dignity."

    And a note to the nay-sayers: The word "animal" derives from the Latin "anima," meaning "soul."

  170. I don’t rule it out, but the Muslim paradise of a garden apartment bordello really speaks to me.

  171. Just dogs? How about cats, and ponies, and bunnies, and my pet lizard? How ridiculous and what a perfect example of the fairy tale that is all religions. If dogs go to heaven then why not the billions of animals slaughtered for our tables? Religions exist to fool people into obeying someone else's ideas about how we should live and then murder and spew hate about other religions. When the world's leading Muslim is invited to speak in Congress I will believe we've made progress toward ONE NATION, UNDER GOD.

  172. I don't think cats would make the cut, just because they are so worthless. As for slaughtered animals, prime Angus cattle absolutely have to be in heaven. Otherwise, where would the angels get their fillets? And what would heaven be without a good steak -- and good bourbon for that matter?

  173. If there are no cats or horses in heaven, how can it be heaven?

  174. Horses maybe. Cats no way.

  175. I doubt the Pope really thinks of himself as Catholic. I say this because the words and deeds of this man are so transcendent of a narrow interpretation of the nature of life and existence.

    I was raised Catholic, and most of the faculty at my school were more about exclusion and impermissibility than love, though there were exceptional exceptions. My second grade teacher was my own "mother Theresa". She embodied love, compassion, and service to others like nobody else. She was a social activist, because in her world view, a believer in Christ could not simply keep church doctrine to be a Christian; one must act to make the world a heaven on Earth.

    The word "Catholic" derives from the Greek word for universal, akin to "holistic". I believe that a genuine Pope would see himself as a spiritual guide to people in general, and not just the head of any sect. Francis acts this way. Not only does he wash the feet of Jews and Muslims, but preaches values that transcend all society, not just of mankind, but all of the glory of nature. Given that, how could he draw an arbitrary line between one species and the next?