It’s no secret that the Catholic higher-ups really, really like procreation, and think that anybody who’s having sex should absolutely be making babies in the bargain. Birth control is selfish, right? But Pope Francis, loving and generous soul that he is, wants to look out for your interests by reminding you that you’ll never be happy as long as you waste your time raising kitties instead of kiddies.
During Monday’s daily Mass, the pontiff spoke to an audience of decades-married couples, many of whom had been together long enough to make the question of procreation entirely academic at this point. He said:
This culture of well-being from ten years ago convinced us: it’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free… it 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.
Wow, that’s a paragraph that would really sting if any members of Francis’ audience have struggled with unwelcome infertility. And, of course, in the digital age, Francis should know by now that his audience is global, and you can pretty well guarantee that couples who’ve suffered infertility will be hearing — and be hurt by — this message. No babies? Well, your marriage is just a depressing, worthless mess. And it’s not Christlike. Sorry.
The Church is usually pretty careful to mention that it has the greatest sympathy for people who haven’t chosen to be childless, but have medical reasons for being unable to conceive… (though that doesn’t stop them from being hurt by the stigma of childlessness that he’s building up when he calls childless couples selfish and lonely.)
But if you’re a couple who’s childless because you’ve chosen not to procreate? The Catholic hierarchy has put a lot of time and effort into the message that you’re selfish and shallow, probably acquisitive, and doomed to a sad end.
Oh, and you also don’t really love your spouse; they’re just an object to you. From the original anti-birth-control document, Humanae Vitae (written by Pope Paul VI in 1968):
Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Call me a sinner — you won’t be the first — but I feel more respected by a man who isn’t making a fetish of my fertility to the detriment of my love for cats, rabbits, and other small furry things. And yes, I’ve also encountered my share of men who treat me as an instrument, but that’s not because of birth control, it’s because they’re jerks.
Amanda Marcotte wrote a great piece taking down the Pope’s assertions using, y’know, actual facts — like studies that show that couples with adult children are no less lonely than the childless and that marital satisfaction starts to decline at the point when the first child is born.
But, as usual, the Pope isn’t interested in the lived experiences of people who are in a position to actually make real-world decisions about the advisability of becoming parents.
The Church has elderly celibate men to teach you everything you need to know about that.
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