Pope Francis has labeled couples who choose pets over children as “selfish,” while advising people to have more children in the face of declining populations.
The Pope made the remarks on Wednesday at the Vatican while speaking to a general audience about Saint Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.
When Francis veered into the topic of adoption and orphaned children today, he was praising Joseph’s decision to bring up Jesus as “among the highest forms of love.” He then shifted his attention to couples who prefer animals to children.
“Today … we see a form of selfishness. We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats … Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children.
Yes, it’s funny, I understand, but it 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.
Francis also stated that couples who are unable to have biological children should consider adoption:
How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them. Having a child is always a risk, either naturally or by adoption. But it is riskier not to have them. It is riskier to deny fatherhood, or to deny motherhood, be it real or spiritual.
During his pontificate, Francis has had several run-ins with animals. In 2014, he made similar remarks about couples prioritizing pets. Commentary he made in 2016 was interpreted as a declaration that animals go to heaven, but that interpretation was later called into question.
The Pope, on the other hand, has been photographed with a variety of animals over the years. He’s been spotted petting dogs, koalas, and tigers, as well as holding birds and carrying a lamb on his shoulders.