I’ll start with a few admissions and caveats. I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of organized religion. I’ve dabbled in most of them, ranging from the modern, mainstream “hip” version of Christianity (where they encourage patrons to wear jeans and play Christian rock music at mass) to the Assembly of God (Pentecostals). I’ve attended Baptist, Mormon, and Episcopalian churches and I’m one of the very few people I know who has actually read the Qur’an.
In the end, spirituality is for me, but not organized religion and believe you me, there is a very stark difference. Religion is the process and practice of humans telling other humans what to believe and how God will react…not to mention the collection of endless amounts of money along the way. I am, instead, like the majority of our founding fathers were, a deist; meaning that I acknowledge the existence of a supreme being and/or creator and who or what that looks like is not of your god damned business (pun intended). Deists also believe that this supreme being does not intervene in the universe…he is the ultimate believer in free will and doesn’t have the time or inclination to actually plan out or interfere in the silly decisions humans are making on a day-to-day level, let alone our long term individual fates.
In other words, everyone hates me in the spiritual world. Atheists think I’m a childish moron who, like others, believes in the man in the moon, and religious believers think I’m gutless and looking for a way to split the difference. I’ve heard it all from both sides. The thing that amazes me is that I am neither threatened nor upset at their beliefs, or lack thereof, but boy are most of them very concerned about mine. It might make one wonder or question their level of faith if one were so inclined.
With all of that said, Pope Francis is a hypocritical moron who, quite frankly, needs to call it a career.
I freely admit that I don’t get the “Pope,” thing. Elevating a human on earth to near god-like status (which is absolutely what the Catholic Church does regardless of their spin) is, in and of itself, both absurd and creepy. That said, Pope Francis was ushered in as a change agent who was going to modernize the church. Despite being now 85 years old, he has been embraced by young believers for his acceptance and/or open-mindedness towards the LGBTQ community, women in the hierarchy, and even birth control. For much of his reign, Francis has shown a desire to move the church forward, while understanding that such changes must be done slowly and methodically to maintain the existing base of followers.
But boy, did he miss the mark last week…and people noticed.
Pope Francis, on Wednesday, January 5th, lamented that couples prefer pets to children. He said many “do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one, but they have two dogs, two cats… dogs and cats take the place of children.”
He said that parenthood provides “something fundamental, something important” in people’s lives. He said there is “a form of selfishness” in couples deciding to have just one child (or none) and that this “is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity.”
This is not a new message by the Pontiff; in 2014 he made sure we all knew that having the audacity to be married and choose to neither have, adopt, nor raise any children would lead to a life of “bitterness and loneliness.”
This is all too rich. Here we have a man who has never had children, never been married, and perhaps most notably, never had a dog, lecturing all of us on all three without being remotely connected with the delicious hypocrisy and vapidness of his comments. (Never mind the fact that we have no shortage of humans on this planet as we’re primed to hit 8 billion this year).
Let’s start with the hypocrisy:
The church talks the talk on families, but it doesn’t walk the walk. Many of its beliefs and policies are decidedly not pro-family.
Consider, for example, the second-class status married people have had in the church itself for centuries. For close to 900 years, the church has deemed celibacy crucial to a priest’s vocation. By being unmarried, the priest more fully conforms to the life of Christ, and thus his role was more elevated spiritually. So which is it? Is this simply the Pope trying to save the souls of those of us not so spiritually elevated as he and others that we have chosen to instead give in to the temptation of flesh by pointing out that the least we can do is provide more humans who can ultimately tithe? (For, let’s not pretend that in the end, all messages from all religions are motivated by one thing and one thing alone: money).
Is now the time to mention the offspring of not-so-celibate priests? No one knows how many there are, but it appears thousands of children may be in this situation, and some may never have been told who their real father is nor have received sufficient child support as part of the decades-old child molestation scandal that has been beautifully brushed aside by the Church so worried about the precious children.
Meanwhile, the pope endorses more adoption. But many Catholic social service agencies refuse to include gay couples as foster or adoptive parents. In judging loving gay unions as not “even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,” the church cannot see the potential of gay Catholics as good parents.
There’s also the deep inconsistency between the pope’s push for more children at the same time that he erects barriers to couples actually having them. Though he expresses empathy for couples struggling with infertility, church rules have been very picky about which fertility treatments can be approved. One treatment deemed unacceptable is in vitro fertilization, even if it only uses the husband’s sperm and the wife’s eggs. In part that’s because children are not conceived the way God intended.
IVF is “making children instead of accepting them as a gift,” Francis said in 2014. The church retains its opposition despite the fact that IVF often offers couples their only chance for children after other treatments have failed and has led to thousands of successful pregnancies.
I could fill endless space with the hypocrisy of all religion, let alone on this particular subject, but alas, let’s move on to the more salient point:
In 2022, you can’t expect people to believe we are simply here to breed. We are all individual humans with dreams and desires and goals. They don’t always include having children. I know a lot of people like me who don’t even like children.
Many people, of course, choose to have children. Some have one, some have six. That is a choice they make, and I say more power to them, as long as they own the fact that they made that choice and the challenges that come with having brought lives into this world are theirs to bear and burden on their own, and they created their situation.
And most importantly, people who choose to have children are in no way better or more human than those who choose not to. In many cases, the latter group is better, for we have recognized our own limitations and inabilities and decided not to pass those along to innocent lives who never asked to be brought into this world. As Oprah Winfrey acknowledged in 2013, had she chosen to have children, she would have had to choose the things in her life which had to be given the highest priority, and she knew she wouldn’t have chosen her children. She would have chosen her career, and her kids would have both suffered and learned to quickly hate her. Is this the fate Pope Francis wishes upon all babies?
To be clear, there are quite literally millions of Americans who have both children and thriving careers and interests; but they are motivated and driven by that. Many of us are not, and recognizing that is the least selfish thing a human can do. I’m not aware of any of us who have chosen not to have children who are pining to be rewarded, congratulated, or revered for our decisions, it would just be nice if we weren’t demonized for it. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/why-oprah-never-had-kids-they-would-hate-me/article15964472/
To the most appalling misstep of the Pope’s comments, let us acknowledge an undeniable truth: dogs make us more human. They make us better. Dogs are, in fact, superior to most people.
The idea that dogs are unlike children is ridiculous.
Custody battles break out over dogs. Short of setting up a college fund, having a dog is as heavy a responsibility — one with an expiration date, with heartbreak for the human built into the deal.
I’ve seen people grieve for their dogs harder and longer than they have for friends and family…dog parents know. To the extent that offends parents, go to hell and stop telling those of us who have chosen who and what to love differently than you that you are somehow better and more enlightened. And while you’re at it, remember once again that you are aligning yourself with someone who we’re being lectured at who happens to be a childless Pope who doesn’t have a dog.
Why begrudge people their dogs? Why such a heartless take on man’s best friend? What a misstep for Pope Francis. Why not take his cue from the late Pope John Paul II, himself an actual beloved global figure, who once comforted a small boy grieving his dog with the reassurance that yes, all dogs go to heaven?
“Animals,” John Paul II said, “are as near to God as men are.”
Or perhaps we look to a potentially even greater spiritual leader, the late Mahatma Gandhi who famously said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
And need I remind all that Dog is God spelled backward? Coincidence or divine intervention? What say you, Pope hypocrite?