Pope Francis Photo 1Pope Francis has been making headlines continually since his election nearly two years ago. And I’ve blogged about a lot of them. Some of his remarks have been reasonable — remarkably so, given the institution he heads — but others border on, or are, irrational and weird. An example of the latter, as the (UK) Guardian reports, is a statement he made just a few days ago (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis has chided couples who choose not to have children, saying the decision is a “selfish” act. The statement, made in his general audience in St Peter’s Square, will be seen as especially controversial in Italy, which has recorded a steady drop in its birth rate for decades.

“A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pope said. “The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”

As is usual for religious figures, the Pope seems to think his own subjective notions apply to everyone on the planet. He compounds this by making subjective judgements about people who don’t do what he thinks they should. The premise that everyone on the planet is obligated to live in the way he personally prescribes, is of course laughable and absurd. Couples do not, in fact, have to have children. They’re free to decide to do so, or not, whatever they wish. Yes, even Catholic couples. And contrary to what Francis said, there are many reasons couples might choose not to have children; they might, for example, not wish to pass on some genetic problem; they might not think they have the economic wherewithal to raise a family; and, of course, they simply may not wish to have any children. Those choices aren’t necessarily predicated on the childless couple being “selfish” or part of “a greedy generation.” So the Pope has no reason to assume so.

What’s also remarkable about this statement is that it appears to contradict something he’d said a few weeks ago, as the National Catholic Reporter explained at the time (cached):

The pontiff has also made what appears to be an unprecedented statement that Catholics may have a moral responsibility to limit the number of their children, while reaffirming Pope Paul VI’s ban on artificial means of birth control.…

… Francis made a statement that seems without precedent for a pope, suggesting that parents may have a responsibility to limit the number of their children, saying: “This does not signify that the Christian must make children in series.”

Telling the story of a woman he met in a parish in Rome several months ago who had given birth to seven children via Cesarean section and was pregnant with an eighth, Francis asked: “Does she want to leave the seven orphans?”

“This is to tempt God,” he said, adding later: “That is an irresponsibility.” Catholics, the pope said, should speak of “responsible parenthood.”

One wonders, then, exactly what it is that Pope Francis thinks about couples having children? Maybe he thinks each couple must have one or two kids each, but no more. I can’t really say, but that sort of thing seems to be what he was veering toward, taking both statements together.

I suppose this weird shuffle is a natural product of the fact that Roman Catholicism encourages couples to have children — due to its doctrinal presumption that sex is solely for procreation and its prohibition on contraception — in light of the fact that children are an economic and societal burden, so that having too many can create a lot of problems (both within families and societies at large). The result of this is that Catholic leaders like the Pope can’t help but swerve back and forth on the topic, because there’s no logical way to resolve the paradox (which, I note, they have constructed for themselves).

I won’t even touch the inherent ridiculousness of a celibate man doling out life-instructions to normal couples. It goes without saying that — by definition as well as by choice — they haven’t a fucking clue what they’re talking about … and that’s all one needs to say about it.

Hat tip: RationalWiki.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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