Pope Francis has called couples who decide to have pets over children “selfish,” while instructing people to have more children in the face of declining populations.
Speaking to a general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday, he said, “Today … we see a form of selfishness. We see that some people do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh but it is a reality.”
The Pope argued that a couple’s decision to remain childless leads to a loss of “humanity” and does not serve civilization.
“And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity. 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 continued.
His comments struck a sour note, with many people taking to social media to call out the childless leader of the Catholic Church.
Others shared that the Pope should not have a say or opinion in the personal choices people make for their bodies.
In his address, the Pope also suggested that couples who cannot biologically have children should consider adoption, and urged potential parents “not to be afraid” of having kids.
“Having a child is always a risk, but there is more risk in not having a child, in denying paternity,” he said, referencing a “demographic winter” – possibly referring to countries with declining birth rates.
Canada’s birth rate has been steadily declining since 2008 – a trend seen across much of the western world.
Since the onset of the pandemic, that decrease has intensified: the birth rate decreased from 1.47 children per woman in 2019 to a record low of 1.40 children per woman in 2020.
Statistics Canada said 358,604 live births were reported across the country in 2020, the lowest number since 2006. The decline from 2019 — 3.6 per cent — was also the greatest year-over-year decline in 14 years.
Mary-Ann Murphy, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia who specializes in aging and demographics, told Global News last year that the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada has brought with it “the opposite of a baby boom.”
She said more couples are concerned about finances, job security and keeping a roof over their heads than growing their families.
She also said that more women are spending what would be considered prime child-rearing years on advancing their jobs and livelihoods, and are not choosing to have children until their 30s.
“And when you wait that late, you’re not going to end up having very many kids,” she said.
This is not the first time Pope Francis has lectured those who choose pets over children.
According to the BBC, in 2014 he called the decision to have a pet, but not kids, “another form of cultural degradation.”
— with files from Ashleigh Stewart, Sean Boynton and David Lao
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.