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The Busted Halo Question Box
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Our readers asked:

Is it a sin to treat my dog like a child?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

Is it a sin to treat my dog like a child?  He’s a good dog and I pamper him a bit, but people seem to be thinking that he’s like a baby for me because I am a childless person.

It is not a sin (i.e., sin is “humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him” CCC#386) to treat your dog or any other pet as a child, but I would challenge those tempted to do so to reflect on the practice.  I always cringe a bit interiorly when I hear someone speaking to their dog or cat while referring to themselves as “Mommy” or “Daddy.”  It always sounds to me that such persons have a deep affective need in their lives which is not being fulfilled by human relationships.

Enjoy the gift of companionship and presence a dog or cat gives to in one’s life.  But also find a way to care for real people in a way that creates real bonds of human affection and love in your life (e.g., foster parenting or Big Brother/Big Sister programs).

The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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