Pope Francis said Wednesday that choosing pets over kids "takes away our humanity" and that couples who do so are "selfish," CNN reports.
"We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats ... yes, dogs and cats take the place of children," Francis said. "Yes, it's funny, I understand, but it is the reality. And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity."
He went on to tie childlessness to the demographic decline in Western nations, saying that when couples have few or no children "civilization becomes aged and without humanity" and the "homeland suffers."
In 2014, the pontiff used similar language to sum up the attitude of many modern couples: "It's better not to have children! It's better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be carefree … it might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats." He predicted such marriages would end with "old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness."
His latest remarks came in the context of one of his weekly general audiences, which offer attendees the opportunity to hear brief catechetical teachings and receive blessings from the pontiff. In Wednesday's audience, Francis focused on the role of Joseph, the "foster father" of Jesus.
Along with his comments urging couples to have more biological children, he also called for adoption processes to be simplified "so that the dream … of so many spouses who wish to give themselves in love, can come true" as it did for Joseph.
Wednesday's audience was also noteworthy because, for the first time, some of the simultaneous translations of the pope's remarks were delivered by a nun and a layman rather than by ordained clergy, Religion News Service reported.