CNN Opinion Piece: The Pope is wrong. Choosing to have few or no children is the opposite of selfish. (A Clarification)
How the Church balances the call for life and protecting the environment.
The Pope was recently in the news for a controversial statement made during a general audience: “People do not want to have children, or just one and no more. And many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one because they do not want anymore, but they have two dogs, two cats . . . Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. Yes, it is funny, I understand, but it is the reality. And this denial of fatherhood and motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity.”
CNN’s opinion piece brought up a concern that can sway the mind of a Christian who may not understand the importance of the reverence of humanity within the life of the family. CNN’s journalist writes, “Project Drawdown, a major analysis of all available climate policy solutions, found that achieving the medium projection instead of the higher projection by 2050 (a difference of 1 billion people) would result in emissions savings of 85.42 Gigatonnes of CO2 -- making it one of the most powerful actions we can take in limiting global warming.”
This seems to be a contradiction within the Catholic Church, but I argue, and the Church will argue, that this opinion piece does not take into consideration the Church’s teaching on the fullness of the faith. Pope Francis was highlighting the need for a deeper understanding of the necessity of men and women to reach the pinnacle of masculinity and femininity through fatherhood and motherhood whether by familial birth or through adoption. He used Saint Joseph as an example of a man who lived his fatherhood in selfless service to his wife and his foster son.
This example of a holy family gives rise to a contemplation of what a Christian family should look like: A faithful and loving marriage rooted in Christ and built up in the Church – one that is open to the teaching of life. A marriage such as this fulfills every virtue and draws the family towards the innocence and purity that God originally intended when He established His creation.
When men and women understand their masculine and feminine value through the eyes of motherhood and fatherhood, they seldom treat each other as objects or means to an end. This dignity that is bestowed on each other is then bestowed outward into the community, first through children, and then into the greater society. For from these holy, foundational marriages come children with the engrained reverence for humanity: Children who have learned to choose others instead of reverencing self.
This is why Pope Francis highlights the need for families to have more than one child. The selfless giving, the courage, the love and the hope that raising children demands is a far better quality of humanity than the humanity that selfishly and timidly has one child and/or pets. (As a side note, Christians must realize that this message is a message of Truth directed to those who know if they are living courageously or not. This message is not a license for families to look around and decide for themselves who is or is not living this call. Our eyes must remain fixed on Jesus while His eyes remain fixed on us.)
In conclusion, the environmental issues that we are facing can be resolved through humility, sacrifice, and selflessness. What better way to practice these virtues than by nurturing life through adoption or by bringing life into this world and fulfilling our call to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Gen. 1:28) Trusting in the Creator’s wisdom must overshadow the trust we bestow on human reason which has lost the hope which human life brings.
Copyright 2022 Kelly Tallent
Photo by Jill Suave on Unsplash
 Pope Francis, General Audience on Saint Joseph, Jesus' foster father (5 January 2022).
 Alistair Currie, “The Pope is wrong: Choosing to have few or no children is the opposite of selfish,” CNN, January 10, 2022, 4:46 a.m. EST, Opinion/Political Op-Eds/Social Commentary, at www.cnn.com.
 Pope John Paul II, General Audience (13 February 1980), in Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006), 18:4, p. 200.