Coming to Dogs and Cats, Liberals Claim the Pope is Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Preferring dogs and cats instead of children seems a crude remark. And yet, a harsh demographic winter is out there, projecting a dark and concerning shadow upon European economies. Childless marriages, Francis warns, are fruitless, as old age arrives in solitude, with the bitterness of awful loneliness. 

Newsroom (12/01/2022 11:23  AM, Gaudium Press) Speaking at his general audience on Jan. 5 about the importance of parenthood, both literal and spiritual, Pope Francis again brought up his concern about a “demographic winter,” especially in Europe, where birth rates are consistently below death rates.
The pope addressed the suffering of couples who cannot have children and the bravery of those who choose to adopt.

But what stuck in many people’s (and rubbed the media the wrong way) was when he said that “many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one because they do not want any more, but they have two dogs, two cats…. Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children.” Since then, the remark has garnered massive publicity, i.e. Pope Francis’ view on couples having pampered pets instead of children. A lot of ink has been spilled about his comment. When people at the audience laughed (perhaps nervously), the Pontiff replied: “Yes, it is funny, I understand, but it is the reality. And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity.”
When discussing the “demographic winter” on Dec. 26 Audience, Feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis mentioned the practical problems declining birthrates have for a nation: not enough young workers paying taxes to support the pensions and health care of the elderly.
The issue has long been a concern for the Pontiff. Although Francis has mentioned he does not believe Catholic couples need to have as many children as possible; he considers countries and companies should enact policies helping families have the children they long for.

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Fratelli Tutti

But the idea of some couples being selfish has been part of his discourse, too. In fact, in “Fratelli Tutti” in 2020, he wrote, “a decline in the birthrate, which leads to an aging of the population, together with the relegation of the elderly to a sad and lonely existence, is a subtle way of stating that it is all about us, that our individual concerns are the only thing that matters.”
And, seeming to pick on those who would rather dote on their dogs or cats is not new for him either. The fur also flew in June 2014 after Pope Francis preached at an early morning Mass in the chapel of his residence with couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries.

Again, he spoke of the pain of couples unable to have children and of the suffering of parents whose child is ill. But that didn’t cause alarm. According to the Vatican newspaper, L’ Osservatore Romano, Francis told the couples that “Jesus does not like marriages in which couples do not want children, in which they want to remain fruitless,” who think “not having children is better, this way you can travel and see the world, you can have a house in the country and relax!”
Such a culture, the newspaper quoted the pope as saying, suggests “it is more comfortable to have a little dog and two cats” to love, but at the end of such a marriage, “old age arrives in solitude, with the bitterness of awful loneliness: it is fruitless.”

Back in 2019, speaking to reporters on the flight back from Panama, Francis noted there a phenomenon he didn’t see in Europe: “They hold up their children and say, ‘This is my victory, this is my future, this is my pride!’ In the demographic winter we are experiencing in Europe — below zero in Italy — this should make us think: What is my pride? Tourism, a villa, a small dog or raising a child?”

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By Raju Hasmukh

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