. How come it’s ok for an animal to kill an animal but not ok for a human being to kill a human being. Does animals have soul like humans, if they do, would a soul of an animal go to purgatory after it’s death to be purified.

 Diana Sony, Brisbane, Australia

 Clarity on the difference between human beings and animals will shed light on this question.   ‘Man is by nature a social animal’ said Aristotle.  Yet we are more developed than other animals. Unlike other animals, humans possess intelligence and the ability to form societies.  Moreover, humans can exercise reason and free will, whereas animals cannot.  Humans have a sense of purpose and meaning for life, whereas animals do not.  According to the Scriptures man was created ‘in the image of God’ (Gen 1:26) and God breathed into him ‘the breath of life’ (Gen 2:7), which is not the case with animals. Further, in contrast to animals, man is an eternal being (Lk 16: 19-31), which means human souls are immortal; death of the body is not the end for us.  This potentiality to “share in the God’s blessed life” for all eternity makes us different from animals (CCC 1).  Finally, humans possess moral principles or moral conscience, which govern the life of human beings.  Due to all the above said reasons God’s commandment stated ‘You shall not kill’ (Ex 20:13).

All living bodies have a soul and a soul, on its most basic level, is the life principle of a body. In other words, if they did not have souls, they would not be alive. While plants, animals and anything living contains a soul, the human soul is unique.  In human being, the soul has not only vegetative powers (as plants have) and sensitive powers (as animals have) but also rational powers.  Human souls are rational because they are spiritual and not material. Animals and plants can’t do anything beyond the limits of matter, and their souls are dependent entirely on matter for their operation and being.  Consequently, they cease to exist at death.

Human souls by contrast are spiritual (CCC 363).  Two chief faculties of a spirit are the intellect which knows and the will which loves. Thus we know human souls are spiritual since humans can know and love.  We also know human souls are immortal because spirits can’t decay (CCC 366).  They have no parts; only a thing with parts can fall apart.  A spirit is a unit; it has no top or bottom, no left or right, no inside or outside.  Whereas every bit of matter, even the smallest, has parts.  The human body can decay as it is made of matter but the human soul cannot. That is the reason we say the human soul is immortal.

Since animal soul (life principle) cease to exist at death, there is no question of purification and purgatory.

Please send your questions to askfrbitaju@kairos.global and your questions will be answered here.

Fr Bitaju Mathew, O.SS.T. belongs to the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives (Trinitarians). He serves as the secretary Vice Provincial of the Order in India and is currently Chaplain of the Jesus Youth International Formation Team.