[I]t 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.
My wife and I do not have children. We have suffered through many lost pregnancies, only to realize that it is apparent that children are not in the cards for us. As a couple, we struggle with our culture’s expectations that everyone will (or should) have children. Many are insensitive without meaning to be, such as the common rejoinder: “No kids yet? Just wait, you’ll see!” Or the more ignorant: “What are you waiting for? You better hurry up or you’ll be too old!”
So it was with great regret and disappointment that I read the words of Pope Francis above. First of all, it’s just a strange statement coming from him, for several reasons:
- The Pope has no children, nor is he even married. Does he find that he lives a life of solitude, in the bitterness of loneliness?
- The Catholic Church apparently condemns its priests to a life of solitude and the bitterness of loneliness, as they forbid them from entering into these familial relationships.
- What does this mean for the Catholic Church’s ministry to the LGBT community? Apparently, if you are gay, not only are you to live a life of solitude and bitter loneliness (without a partner, no less!) but you are also denied the opportunity to live a life in service as a priest. [Women need not apply.] No worries, though: remember, the Catholic Church loves you completely!
I love Pope Francis and I think he’s doing an astonishing, inspirational job of leading the Catholic Church. Maybe that’s why I was so shocked to read his tone-deaf and insensitive remarks.
Granted, he did add a qualifying statement prior to the above quote:
“In a marriage,” said Pope Francis, “fertility can sometimes be put to the test when the children do not arrive, or are sick.” The Pope said that in such times of trial, there are couples who look to Jesus and draw on the power of fertility that Christ has with His Church.
I wonder, if infertile couples can look to Jesus and draw on their relationship with the Church, then why can’t couples who are childless by choice?
Is it possible that some couples are childless by choice for good reason? Perhaps they do not have the emotional or financial resources to provide for a child. Maybe there are problems with substance abuse, violence or other underlying reasons that allow them to function within a couple but that would not be good for a child. Maybe they know they would not be good parents. Or yes, maybe they are simply ‘selfish’ and wish to live a different life than would be possible with children.
Aren’t all of these possibilities good reasons to not bring an unwanted child into the world? The idea that anyone that is physically able to have a child should have a child is just wrong and one reason why we have so many unwanted children in the world languishing in orphanages, homeless or in toxic families.
Pope Francis is doing so much good right now. However, I think his remarks here were unfortunate to say the least and harmful to many. Would anyone look at this threatening view and feel inspired by this sentiment? Does this sound like the perspective of a loving, inviting community?
I’m hopeful his comments sounded more harsh than he meant them to be. I think it would be helpful if he would revisit his remarks in the spirit of love and acceptance that characterize so many of his other messages.