'We need to be open to motherhood and fatherhood otherwise we can be lacking in ourselves and we can lack in humanity.'
Pope Francis on Wednesday walked into a debate noted for its toxic tone on social media by criticizing couples who choose to have pets instead of children. The 85-year-old argued that people's decision to forgo parenthood leads to a loss of "humanity" and is a detriment to civilization as a whole. The Pope reportedly made the controversial statements while speaking to a general audience about Saint Joseph, Jesus' earthly father. "Joseph shows us that this type of bond is not secondary; it is not an afterthought, no, this kind of choice is among the highest forms of love, and of fatherhood and motherhood," he said, reports PEOPLE. "How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them?"
Pope Francis says choosing pets over kids is selfish https://t.co/RsB0ET4mbO— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) January 5, 2022
The Pope then turned his focus on couples that opt to raise pets instead of children. "We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. And many, many couples 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," Francis said, according to CNN. "Yes, it's funny, I understand, but it is the reality. And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity."
Pope Francis has criticized couples who choose to have pets instead of children as selfish, arguing that their decision to forgo parenthood leads to a loss of "humanity" and is a detriment to civilization. https://t.co/pgjhADcDel— CNN (@CNN) January 5, 2022
"And in this way civilization becomes aged and without humanity, because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood. And our homeland suffers, as it does not have children," he added. "We need to be open to motherhood and fatherhood otherwise we can be lacking in ourselves and we can lack in humanity." Francis also strongly urged couples who cannot have children biologically to consider adoption. "How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them," he said. "Having a child is always a risk, either naturally or by adoption. But it is riskier not to have them. It is riskier to deny fatherhood, or to deny motherhood, be it real or spiritual."
Pope Francis says that the practice of having pets rather than children "is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity."— ABS-CBN News Channel (@ANCALERTS) January 6, 2022
READ: https://t.co/7SeKG5TG85 pic.twitter.com/gqbAs9p6eC
The Pope's remarks—though somewhat surprising coming from the relatively progressive pontiff—play into the practice of trolling "crazy cat ladies" and couples with "fur babies." While the former has long been depicted as lonely women with an unhealthy feline obsession, the latter are criticized as self-centered narcissists for whom babies and children are inconvenient. Francis has previously made similar remarks about couples prioritizing pets in 2014 when he said that Jesus does not like marriages that are sterile by choice.
"These marriages, in which the spouses do not want children, in which the spouses want to remain without fertility. This culture of well-being from ten years ago convinced us: 'It's better not to have children! It's better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be carefree... it might be better – more comfortable – to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or is this not? Have you seen it? Then, in the end, this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fruitful, it does not do what Jesus does with his Church: He makes His Church fruitful."
ROFL no: Humanity has lost its mind, our world is on fire, and you want us to bring kids into this world? For what? For them to watch it burn, with little hope of a future? Not having children is quite the opposite of selfish. Sparing them suffering they don't deserve.— Get Vaccinated 🩹 (@StephieLynn204) January 5, 2022
Wow! Does he understand that some good people realize they would not be great parents? My son & DIL have made that choice. They like kids, they just don't think they want to be responsible for another life in the world we live in now. Not everyone should have kids.— SweetStPete 🇨🇦🇺🇲🕶️😷 (@SweetStPete) January 5, 2022
Wow. I have four children but this, from someone who KNOWS that many young people are choosing not to have kids because of financial hardships and looming climate breakdown, this makes me want to dress my hamsters in tiny pope costumes out of spite.— BackTheBill (@ThusSpokeStella) January 5, 2022
Unsurprisingly, the Pope's statements ruffled some feathers on social media with many pointing out that there could be many reasons why someone opts not to have children. "Can someone explain to the Pope that not having children isn't necessarily a choice? Life is hard: work, health, money... In this day and age, having children and being able to raise them properly is a luxury," tweeted @Chabelitza. "LOL, kids in this economy???? And with the climate issues we're facing???? I'll stick with my pets tyvm," commented @jamiceara.