The Pope should know that poverty, not pets, deters people from having children under capitalism – the World of the People

The Pope should know that poverty, not pets, deters people from having children under capitalism – the World of the People

The Pope should know that poverty, not pets, deters people from having children under capitalism – the World of the People

Mary Altaffer / AP

As a pet buddy who often feels like I live in my cat’s apartment and not my own, I was disappointed with the pope’s recent scolding of couples choosing pets over having children or having only one child. It was a missed opportunity that the Pope did not seize.

“Today … we see a kind of selfishness,” Pope Francis said during a general audience in the Vatican on January 5. “We see that some people do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one and that is it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children.

“Choosing pets over children is selfish and removes our humanity,” the pope said.

This reflects a comment he made in 2014 when he described this practice as “another phenomenon of cultural degradation.”

Granted, my worldviews do not hover in the Vatican’s orbit. I do not wait for any words to come out of his mouth, but I appreciate that the Pope has a potential audience of over a billion Roman Catholics, which is over a billion bigger than mine.

Francis’ more measured words and critiques of capitalism have come as a welcome change of tone in relation to Pope John Paul II’s Cold War anti-communism and his critique of liberation theology. Since his inauguration, this special prelate has been shown to advance the thinking of the church away from the 19th century and more in the late 20th century.

Among his encouraging comments since becoming pope, he calls for a “redistribution of economic benefits.” criticizes how “the current model … does not seem to favor an investment in efforts to help the slow, the weak or the less talented to find opportunities in life.” in response to a question about lesbian and gay Catholics, he replied, “Who am I to judge a gay person of good will seeking the Lord?” And he has attributed climate change to human activity.

Louisa Gouliamaki / Pool via AP

But in the way he addressed people who had pets over children and called it selfish and cultural degradation, I thought his otherwise advanced nuance of the 20th century had failed him.

I would have liked a reflection on the enormous pressure the working class is facing, especially women and single parents on the workforce.

In the last generation, when the welfare states of Western Europe dismantled parts of their social safety nets to varying degrees, and as the United States has done much the same with welfare reforms and cuts in housing benefits, working people – married or not – have been forced to see upbringing of children as another great expense and less the joy which the pope seems to imagine.

The choice that this pressure puts on working people is not their own fault. It comes from above through frequent budget cuts or spending cuts, by both Republicans and Democrats. It comes from the austerity measures produced through neoliberalism.

The selfish, soulless are the governments that have increasingly prioritized military spending and give businesses the widest range to ensure profits on all social issues you can think of, including children.

In view of the pope’s other public observations, he must know this. But he does not say that. In 2014, he further warned that not having children would lead to bitterness and loneliness in old age.

Instead of scaring people with a lonely old age, he should have confused the way our public policies treat our elderly, where nursing homes and elderly care are out of reach unless you are distressed or dirty rich. Having children, the pope should have observed, only shares these incredible burdens with your children. It does not relieve them.

The Pope addressed none of these things. It was an opportunity for him to do so, but instead he burdened the working class with this.

If Francis wants to turn around the “demographic winter,” which he calls declining birth rates, he should say what needs to be said: that Western, capitalist countries are serial child abusers of the conditions they produce. Their governments allow policies that have increased child poverty, made their access to their next meals insecure, and undermined their access to free quality education.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the author’s opinions.


Lowell B. Denny, III


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