Pope Francis Urges Couples to Renounce ‘Culture of Well-Being,’ Raise Children Instead of Pets

( [email protected] ) Jun 03, 2014 05:26 PM EDT
He strongly criticized couples choosing not to have children, commenting that they've given in to a culture of "well-being" that values material wealth and comfort more than children.
Pope Francis leaves Rome's Jesus Church on Friday after celebrating a mass with the Jesuits. ( Riccardo De Luca / Associated Press / January 3, 2014 )

At Monday's daily mass, Pope Francis renounced the "culture of well-being" in which more and more couples choose to raise pets over children.

According to Time, the Pope spoke to an audience including 15 couples that have been married between 25 and 60 years. The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that the Pope's address began by citing fidelity, perseverance, and fruitfulness as the three characteristics of authentic Christian love. The Pope drew from Christ's relationship to sinners as the prototype: "It is a faithful love. It is a persevering love. He never tires of loving his Church." His remarks on perseverance within marriage are certainly applicable to the Western world, in which comfort and personal happiness often reign. On the contrary, according to the Pope, Christ-like love "perseveres, presses on, always trying to work things out, to save the family."

Not surprisingly, the highlight of the Pope's address involved a Catholic favorite: childbearing. According to The Huffington Post, he strongly criticized couples choosing not to have children, commenting that they've given in to a culture of "well-being" that values material wealth and comfort more than children. "It might be better - more comfortable" he said, "to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or not?" He goes on to say, "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."

The data on fertility rates around the world according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook, indicates that fertility rates are very low in Italy, the United States, and other developing countries. Italy's birth rate in the current year is projected at 8.84 births per thousand people and the United States' is only slightly higher, projected at 13.42 births per thousand. Declining birth rates have been a popular topic for the media in the last several years, provoking varying responses from the public. The declining birth rate in America made the front cover of Time's August 2013 issue. Tweeters followed suit after yesterday's message, some with praise of the Pope's critique, and some with condemnation.

Dissenters rallied together, claiming the Pope's remarks on childbearing are none of his business. Among them were the Hispanic Secular Humanists of North Texas (@HSHTX) tweeting "Pope Francis Urges Couples to Raise Kids, Not Cats and Dogs. Because world overpopulation in not a concern." Along the same lines, Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel wrote, "Apparently a lifetime in the church has left Pope Francis immune to the irony of a celibate man issuing such instructions to married couples...it is not for everybody, and a sense of obligation is likely one of the worst reasons to reproduce."

However, others equally rallied together, affirming the Pope's critiques. Russell Moore, current president of the Ethics & Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Commission, tweeted in response to the Pope's message: "Yessir. And especially not cats." This sentiment was echoed by countless others including Nisansa de Silva (NisansaDdS) who tweeted: "I love cats. But I see @Pontifex's point. I too find people calling themselves 'parents' of their pets to be bloody ridiculous."

The Pope, named Time Magazine's 2013 Person of the Year, continues to draw widespread media attention with his unconventional approach to the papacy.