Pope Francis, in off-the-cuff comments as part of a general audience on Wednesday, lamented that some couples prefer pets to children. He said many “
do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one, but they have two dogs, two cats. Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children.”
The animal lovers of the world have already raised their objections. But as the mother of one daughter, I also find his remarks a bit insulting. Francis frowned on one-child families like mine — although I’ve had more children than he has. Family size is deeply personal. I never thought I’d marry, let alone have kids, so my child’s birth was a gift, and her presence alone has filled up our lives.
And to be frank, the pope’s words are quite hypocritical: The church talks the talk on families, but it doesn’t walk the walk. Many of its beliefs and policies are decidedly not pro-family.
Consider, for example, the second-class status married people have had in the church itself for centuries. For close to 900 years, the church has deemed celibacy crucial to a priest’s vocation. By being unmarried, it was thought, the priest more fully conformed to the life of Christ, and thus his role was more elevated spiritually.
“As followers of Christ, we must aim for that pure love which renounces life,” theologian Max Thurian wrote.