The World Is on Fire, and the Pope Is Troubled by Your Pet

The pope has issues with your dog. And your cat. And your guppy, though he didn’t specifically mention your guppy. He was focused on pets in general — and on how, according to him, we’re rerouting our procreative and protective impulses toward them.

Where you see a cockatoo, His Holiness apparently sees a baby who will never be.

That was the gist of remarks that Pope Francis made two weeks ago, and while I perhaps missed my proper moment for outrage and should be moving on, I haven’t quite shaken the pointlessness and presumptuousness of it all. The world is on fire, democracy is on the ropes and he’s troubled by … your budget for kibble?

“Dogs and cats take the place of children,” he said, calling childless people with pets selfish and saying that their — excuse me, our — “denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us” and “takes away our humanity.”

He referred to the “demographic winter” of declining birthrates, rued the precariousness of pension plans in societies with too few toddlers and boldly identified the culprit: Fido. Or, rather, your adoption of Fido rather than your propagation of a Francis or Frances. Because, of course, that’s the coin-toss way of the world: Heads, I get an account with Buy Buy Baby; tails, with Chewy.com.

That’s actually more insulting to parents than to non-parents, inadvertently trivializing their commitment to a child by suggesting that it could be exchanged for commitment to a cat. And it tells me that the pope doesn’t get around much. When asking childless people about their lives, I’ve never heard, “I decided on a Labradoodle instead.”

Did he get up on the wrong side of the Vatican? As popes go, he’s usually an affable one. He’s lighter on the moralism than many moral leaders. There’s often humility in his infallibility — an oxymoronic triumph if ever there was one. And if he hasn’t quite tugged the Roman Catholic Church into the 21st century, he has moved it partway into the 20th. That’s a two-century improvement on its archaic lot before him.

Pet pique isn’t some papal peculiarity. As Elisabetta Povoledo noted in her article in The Times about Francis’ little fit, his predecessor, Pope Benedict, “was such an avowed cat person” that there’s a children’s book about him with a feline narrator. According to that same article, Pope Paul II had a pet monkey, and Pope Sixtus IV a pet eagle. According to a subsequent article in Salon, Pope Pius XII had a pet goldfinch, and Pope Leo X a pet elephant, while Pope Leo XII “kept ostriches, deer, goats and African gazelles in the Vatican Gardens.”

Francis needn’t frolic with big game, but a big pooch might soften him. For the pontiff, a mastiff?

And where does a man who has committed himself to a childless life — by which I mean a Roman Catholic priest — get off measuring the humanity of others in terms of their fecundity? Francis went down this road before, back in 2014, when he groused that “an emotional relationship with animals is easier, more programmable,” while “having a child is something complex.” I’m not sure how he’s an authority on this.

And I question his strategic sense. I mean, I get the general be-fruitful-and-multiply encouragement. That has been the church’s way for a very long time, and religions are largely about presenting certain ideals to their followers. They also survive on replenished ranks.

But cheerleading is one thing, browbeating another — and it’s among the explanations for organized religion’s diminished sway in many parts these days. Four-legged creatures aren’t a drag on Catholicism. But closed-minded ones just might be.

Source: The World Is on Fire, and the Pope Is Troubled by Your Pet – Puff Nachrichten

  • 1,338