Pope's comments about being selfish for not having kids are tone-deaf and simplistic

·3 min read

Pope Francis doesn't have kids. But he thinks you're "selfish" if you don't.

On Wednesday during a general audience at the Vatican, the head of the Roman Catholic Church criticized people who chose fur babies over toddlers, arguing that a “denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us.”

As a person who has both dogs and kids, I fully endorse being a pet parent over a kid parent. Parenting kids is really hard and expensive, for one. But as someone who occasionally goes to Mass, that isn't the only bone I have to pick with Pope Francis' statements.

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In a discourse about the decline of parenthood, he went on to applaud those who adopt and encouraged making adoptions easier, saying "this kind of choice is among the highest forms of love. ... How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them?"

There are multiple reasons why the Catholic Church runs the risk of becoming obsolete, and this is just the latest example. The continued insistence on contradictory and outdated views on families is a significant threat to the ancient institution.

July 2014, Piazza of the Cathedral of Syracuse (Duomo di Siracusa) at 5 a.m.
July 2014, Piazza of the Cathedral of Syracuse (Duomo di Siracusa) at 5 a.m.

Dogma and disappointment

You may disagree with my reasoning, but it's hard to argue with the numbers. The church is clearly fighting to survive: According to a Gallup poll, it's losing significantly more members than Protestants in the United States. And in countries like Germany, as many as 1 in 3 Catholics say they are considering leaving because of the cover-up of the sex abuse scandals and other perceived missteps by church leaders.

As a girl who grew up going to Catholic schools, thrived at a V university, and had her two daughters baptized in the Catholic faith, I had hoped that his papacy might be different. Clearly, I was wrong.

For starters, sex abuse scandals (and cover-ups) have rocked the institution for decades. Meanwhile, Catholic women worldwide are increasingly seeing themselves as good for more than childbearing or reading at Mass, prompting them to question why exactly women are not allowed to be priests, or decide if and when to have babies. A question that the Catholic Church has responded to with the equivalent of: "Because I said so."

Carli Pierson
Carli Pierson

The pope's statement on adoption altogether ignores the glaring white saviorism rampant in the industry. White saviorism, or the white savior industrial complex, is basically the idea that white people can interfere in Black, brown and Indigenous people's lives in order to "save them", when their help, or at least that type of help, may be unwanted or downright harmful.

There are also plenty of ways in which white saviorism reinforces socioeconomic barriers, albeit often unintentionally, rather than improve them. Notably, groups like Ugandan-based No White Saviors have relentlessly called out the multiplicity of problems in the international adoption industry, as well as the international development industry.

Finally, while the pope has reluctantly endorsed same-sex civil unions, he has also denied the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples – couples who, if given the chance, could presumably provide equally loving families to all of those children in need of a home but who, because of a technicality, should be barred from doing so?

Revalation and rapture

There are so many parts of Catholicism that continue to enrapture me: Rituals I still find mystical, saints (my daughters are named after two), Catholic art and churches. My lips still tremble as I quietly recite the Lord's Prayer in unison with other parishioners at mass.

This is why I say that it is on Catholics to call the papacy back to, what I believe, should be its core mission of spreading God's loving kindness and mercy.

And unless the church wants to become obsolete by the 22nd century, it would behoove its leaders to heed those calls.

Carli Pierson is an attorney, former professor of human rights, writer and member of USA TODAY's Editorial Board. You can follow her on Twitter: @CarliPiersonEsq

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pope's comments about being selfish for not having kids too simplistic