It was a perfect example of people wanting to believe something a bit too much. Last week, a story spread across the media that Pope Francis had said, â??Dogs can go to heaven.â?
A few days later it turned out that most of this was just wishful thinking and shoddy journalism.
The story was a perfect storm, a misinterpretation of a speech by the Italian press coupled with a quote from Pope Paul VI (whoâ??s actually in heaven now) that was then falsely attributed to the current pope.
Admittedly, it was a nice thought so people instantly bought into it. The story fell perfectly in line with a narrative of kindness and openness attributed to Pope Francis. It made sense, at least to our emotions.
Instantly, the quotes and catchy headlines began to blossom across the internet like a field of dandelions next to the rainbow bridge.
Many spotted the article, memo or headline and shared it on social media.
Who doesnâ??t want to reunite with a furry friend in the afterlife?
Iâ??d like to think that my former dogs made the cut to the great fire hydrant in heaven. The only one Iâ??m worried about was a feisty unapologetic Shih Tzu from the late 1980s. He might be in warmer climes or perhaps in some kind of pet purgatory chewing on the Devilâ??s platform shoes.
What is more believable than a misconstrued notion of the afterlife is that humans have always had selective hearing when it comes to the rules and regulations of the worldâ??s great religions.
Isnâ??t that what got us in trouble in the Garden of Eden?
Mankind has historically twisted, added and omitted all the things that suit us within our preferred religions. The various misinterpretations of religious doctrine have been a plague on humanity since it climbed out of caves.
The most troubling aspect to this entire story is the lack of fact-checking on the part of the media.
Facts seldom get in the way of agendas or money these days. Sadly, most of our â??allegedâ? press pens press releases for billionaires or political parties—-so itâ??s not surprising that most media outlets just ran the story and never bothered to check with the Vatican about its authenticity.
Considering the ease in which this story spread I canâ??t help but wonder how many other stories cross our social media news feeds, TVs and newspapers that have the same level of accuracy.
The recent national turmoil over race and policing is a great example of this. How many photos and stories have been manufactured to incite rather than tell the verifiable truth?
This hurts all sides in the big picture. The truth has become a rare commodity.
Within my own church a kind-hearted Franciscan father mentioned the Popeâ??s alleged comments in his homily. He smiled and stated, â??An article going around recently stated that dogs can go to heaven. As soon as people heard about this a number of parishioners, mostly cat owners, asked me to petition on behalf of their pets. It didnâ??t surprise me that dogs made it and cats did not.â?
Another exciting idea raced through my mind when I thought about animals and the great beyond.
If there are pets in heaven might there also be fish? And if there are fish, there might be a chance that I could still go fishing in heaven.
I understand that this is dependent on actually getting to heaven. I also know this is a bit selfish, but the apostles were fishermen, right?
I saw another quote yesterday while staring blankly at my phone.
â??If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went,â? wrote the late great humorist Will Rogers, according to the internet.
Do journalists go to heaven?
They may want to verify it with reputable deity.
Marshall Conner is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at email@example.com.