Animal Conservation

Is it selfish for a childless family to have a pet dog?

Source: Catholic Church (England and Wales), licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Pope Francis has recently sparked a storm of negative comments in the press and social media because of some statements he has made recently. What triggered his statements: Over the past decade, birth rates have declined in many of the most developed Western countries and surveys have indicated that it is because some families have chosen not to have children . Additionally, some research found that many millennial women said they were content with having a pet dog or cat instead of having children. The pope has suggested that this is an act of selfishness.

Pope takes aim at childless pet owners

The pope’s comments came during a general audience at the Vatican in Rome as he spoke about parenthood.

“Today…we see a form of selfishness,” he told the audience. “We see that some people do not want to have children.

“Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that stand in for the kids.”

He goes on to say, “And this denial of paternity or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity. And so civilization becomes aged and without humanity, because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood. And our homeland is suffering because it has no children.

Pope Francis has said people who cannot have children for biological reasons should consider adoption, urging people to “not be afraid” to embark on parenthood.

This is not the first time that Pope Francis has vilified people who prefer pets to children. In 2014 in an interview with the Roman daily Il Messaggero he was asked if he believed that some people in society valued pets more than children. He said it was a reality that reflected a “sign of cultural degeneration”.

“It’s because an emotional relationship with animals is easier, more programmable,” he said at the time. He added: “Having a child is a complex thing.”

A complicated story

The Catholic Church has a long history of negative views on animals. The rise of Christianity seems to have ushered in the belief that animals like dogs didn’t deserve any special treatment and wouldn’t go to heaven. Despite the fact that the word animal is derived from the Latin word “anima” which means “soul”, Christianity has traditionally taught that dogs and other animals have no more consciousness or intelligence than rocks or trees. According to the religious doctrines of the time, anything with a conscience also had a soul, and anything with a soul was capable of love, should be treated humanely, and could be admitted to paradise. Admitting that animals had souls was simply unacceptable to the Catholic Church. Later, they would claim the support of certain scientists and philosophers, such as René Descartes, who described your dog as a kind of machine, filled with the biological equivalent of gears and pulleys. This machine does not think but can be programmed to do certain things. Machines don’t have souls, so there’s no need to let a Beagle-shaped automaton or a mechanized Maltese through the pearly gates of paradise.

These views were firmly held, and Pope Pius IX, who ruled the church longer than any other pope (1846-1878), actually waged a heated campaign to try to prevent the founding of the Church. Italian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on the grounds that animals have no souls. Additionally, he cited Thomas Aquinas to prove his case, since Thomas Aquinas often noted that animals are not beings, but just “things”. However, Thomas Aquinas seems to have had some doubts since he warned, “we must use animals according to the Divine Purpose lest on the Day of Judgment they should testify against us before the throne”, which would certainly suggest that the animals would be around us. life after death.

Interestingly, Pope Pius IX (who created the doctrine of papal infallibility) was later contradicted in 1990 by Pope John Paul II who said that “animals also have souls and men must love and feel solidarity with smaller brothers”.

There is also the case of Pope Pius II, who lived during the Renaissance and wrote about his dog, Musetta. Once he even said that he loved her like he was a child.

A stormy response

Following the publication of these most recent statements by Pope Francis, there was an immediate flood of comments on social media – the vast majority of them condemning the pope’s position. One of the most common themes involved people pointing out that the pope, Catholic priests and nuns had all made a conscious decision not to have children themselves and therefore the statements he was making were hypocrites.

Another criticism that appears in various forms is reflected in a tweet from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel: “Having done a lot of work with the foster care system, I can tell you that nothing is more ‘selfish’ than to have kids you don’t want just bec the Pope thinks you should. Your kids will know they weren’t wanted, and this leads to terrible results for kids and parents alike.

Some commentators have pointed out the irony of the pope’s suggestion: if people can’t have children of their own, they should adopt. It is a contradiction when the vast majority of Catholic adoption agencies prohibit the adoption of children from non-traditional families such as those in the LGBT community. This leaves pets as the only option to meet the psychological need to feed these people.

The pope seems to have forgotten that the feelings people have for animals and children are very similar. Historically, Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was also the founder of the first major child welfare society. He was to be called the American Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. However, in over 300 societies in North America, the child welfare and animal welfare movements were linked under one banner, and many still are to this day.

As a psychologist, I am saddened by what I believe to be an underlying assumption in the Pope’s comments. It seems that Pope Francis considers the love in our lives to be limited in quantity, suggesting that giving it to someone, like our pet dog, takes it away from others.

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