Couples who choose to have pets instead of children are selfish, Pope Francis has suggested.
During his usual Wednesday address at the Vatican in Rome, the pope emphasized the importance of parenthood and childbearing, and lamented the “egoists” who reject parenthood. He accused them of making human civilization poorer, to the detriment of both individuals and nations.
“We are witnessing a form of selfishness today. We see that there are those who do not want a child at all,” he told the audience.
“Sometimes they have one, but they have two dogs, two cats … Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. You may laugh at this, but that is the reality. 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 said
The pope’s remarks come amid reports that a population crash is a growing threat to humanity, and a Lancet paper that argues that the global fertility rate will be cut in half by the end of the century.
To those couples who are unable to have children, Pope Francis encouraged them to adopt.
“Having a child is always a risk, but there are more risks in not having a child, in rejecting a parenthood,” he said.
The Vatican press also reported that the previous day the Holy Father had prayed for the persecuted Christians around the world and encouraged his followers to do the same.
The pope has previously spoken out several times against what he calls a “demographic winter” and warned of a dramatic decline in birth rates, especially among developed countries which are becoming devoid of children. Most recently, on Dec. 26, in a speech on the occasion of the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, he called on parents, children, the Church, and civil society to support, protect, and preserve the family.
“Many people seem to live without children, many couples prefer to be childless or have only one child, and this is a tragedy,” he told the audience at the time.