“Today we see a form of selfishness…. people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. This denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity.”
Pope Francis spoke those words earlier this month. It seems somewhat audacious that an 85 -year- old man who has never had children is suggesting women need to get pregnant more often. But even aside from that irony, the Pope’s statement is troubling on many fronts.
I provide support for a 99- year -old single aunt of mine. Aunt Viola never had children but contrary to what the Pope suggests you’d be hard-pressed to meet someone with more humanity. A dedicated elementary school educator for over four decades Aunt Vi spent her retirement years volunteering with all kinds of church and community organizations. Since I take care of her finances I am well aware of the many charities she gifted generously with donations.
Helping my aunt move several years ago I packed up a stack of guest books signed by the literally thousands of people she’d entertained in her home over the past sixty years. Aunt Vi took my elderly grandmother into her home when she required support and cared for her till she died and then she opened her house to university students in need of affordable housing. I would never call my aunt selfish or lacking in humanity just because she didn’t have children. The Pope’s statement does a disservice to people like my aunt.
I know couples who have struggled with infertility. This is such a difficult and heartbreaking experience for those who hope to become parents. Their situation is certainly not made any easier by pronouncements like the Pope’s.
Might I suggest he sell some of the billions of dollars worth of art at the Vatican and donate the money to fertility clinics so they can help every couple who wants to have children? Right now, at least in Canada, the services of fertility clinics are financially out of reach for many people.
Pope Francis has been a champion of the poor, so it is surprising that he is not connecting the dots and realizing women have to be able to limit the number of children they have if we want to eradicate poverty around the world. Being able to control their family’s size makes it possible for women to be more independent so they can contribute to the family income or further their education.
Limiting the number of children they have, allows them to properly care for, feed and educate the children they do have. It is so important women have access to contraception so they can plan their families. The Pope’s words could discourage that.
Raising children is hard and families need support. Parents in Canada are fortunate because their country is currently instituting an initiative to provide affordable, accessible daycare for young children. We have generous paternity and maternity leave plans but many countries, including our neighbours to the south do not.
Here in Manitoba where we have the distinction of being the province with the highest child poverty rate in the country and the highest number of children in foster care it would be far more prudent for the Pope to be urging our government to provide additional support for families so they can care for the children already in this world rather than encouraging them to add more to the population.
Pope Francis has a reputation for being a forward-thinking religious leader who listens to people. On the issue of having children however he appears to be tone-deaf and mired in ideas and attitudes from the past.