A couple of weeks ago, Pope Francis gave a private homily for 15 couples who had been married for between 25 and 60 years. The Pontiff, um, pontificated on the perils of having pets rather than kids.
The Pope told the couples that our “culture of well-being” has convinced younger people not to have kids because they can live a life of jet-setting luxury full of vacations, country homes, and freedom from care.
“Maybe it’s better, more convenient, to have a little dog, two cats; and the love goes to the two cats and the little dog,” the Pope said, but eventually the married couple with pets and without children will endure “the bitterness of loneliness” as a reward for their alleged selfishness.
Putting aside the Pope’s apparent denial of the reality faced by people who don’t spend their days in opulent palaces dressed in gold-trimmed frocks and having even their most basic needs tended to without even a second thought, there are plenty of other reasons why this homily rode the express train past clueless all the way to ludicrously hypocritical.
First of all, even though I know it’s Roman Catholic doctrine that faithful Catholics are supposed to marry and produce children, nobody with even the barest grasp on reality could fail to see that there are many people (including many Catholics) who would be better off not having children.
Ironically, I’m sure some of the couples toward which the Pope directed his homily are suffering “the bitterness of loneliness” because their own children have abandoned them or behaved in ways that disappoint them.
Second, people who don’t want to have children are not necessarily selfish and hedonistic, and people who have kids are not necessarily selfless. Many people who don’t have kids, including a lot of wonderful individuals who work in animal rescue, do lots of work to make their community and the world a better place.
It takes a hell of a lot of self-sacrifice to commit every hour of your spare time, energy and money to rescuing those who have even less of a voice than human children, especially when you’re faced every day with people who demand to know why you care so much about saving animals when OMG THE CHILDRENZ!
As the Pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, said, “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
The most ridiculous part of all of this is that a man who has never married or had children is positioning himself as the leading authority on what married couples should and should not do with their lives.
The Pope has every right to see himself as an authority on Roman Catholic doctrine. After all, he’s spent his entire life in the priesthood. But he has no right at all to decide that a childless couple’s way of exercising love and compassion is based in selfishness while that of parents is inherently Right and Good.
White people shouldn’t believe they’re experts on what it’s like to be a person of color. Men shouldn’t think they know what it’s like to be a woman. People who have never experienced poverty shouldn’t act as though they know why poor people are poor and what they should do to get un-poor. And a guy who has never had a family of his own has no right at all to tell anybody that it’s wrong not to have human offspring.
Maybe the Pope is railing about “the bitterness of loneliness” because he is nothing but a lonely and bitter old man himself. If so, maybe he should get a cat or two. I hear there are quite a few homeless cats roaming around the Vatican who could use some love and compassion.
Do you think the Pope’s proclamation is as ridiculous as I do? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Read Dogster writer Chris Hall’s take on the same issue here:
Read stories of rescue and love on Catster:
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.