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Monday, June 09, 2014

Be Fruitful and Multiply: Can Pets Substitute For Children...If It's A Choice?

Photo of animal welfare advocate, Cheri Shankar, by Susan Weingartner for the LA Times.
Cheri Shankar

This opinion piece in a recent Los Angeles Times urges Pope Francis to get with it and consider household pets a "blessing", rather than "urging married couples not to substitute raising pets for children." He claimed that couples without children risk growing old in solitude 'with the bitterness of lonliness' Apparently, the good Pontiff made these comments at a small Mass in a Vatican chapel before 15 married couples.

The author of this opinion piece, Carla Hall, begs to differ, and  eloquently points out that "having children is no slam-dunk hedge against loneliness and bitterness in old age." Hall also pointedly suggests that Pope Francis "meditate on his namesake, Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, who believed they were as much God's creatures as humans..." And Cheri Shankar,  an animal welfare advocate quoted in the article bluntly states: "Clearly the pope has never had a pet or he would know the unconditional love that our animals have for us."

Now, perhaps the pope's remarks were taken out of context, or perhaps he meant that it was perfectly O.K. to have children and pets to round out your life and do God's bidding. But regardless of intent, his admonition struck a chord with us. Not everyone can have children, whether some people are literally unable to bear children or whether they choose to abstain for financial reasons, for example. And others, whether single, married, Catholic or other religion, simply choose not to reproduce. As Hall mentions in closing,  "...people's humanity is well used when they care for dogs and cats. And if they choose to do that and not raise children, that's not a failure to fill their lives with children, that's a choice to fulfill their lives with animals."

Parental Unit's current furkids...she's had others from previous relationships.

But what do you think...not just about the pope's words and this reaction, but the role of pets in our lives? Come on, don't be shy—tell us!


Unknown said...

Well we take The Pope's words with a pinch of salt and we think as already said people's circumstances all differ. Really in the end it was a silly comment by Papa. Pets help humans in so many ways.
Have a terrific Tuesday.
Best wishes Molly

Duke said...

If couple prefers to choose furkids over skinkids - they're okay in our book. To each his own.

Love ya lots♥
Mitch and Molly

Sheltie Times said...

I have a suspicion that as always the comment was taken out of context.

My experience has been there is a spectrum of married adults (which was the target of the Pope's comments) who contimplate the child issue. There are those who are completely commited to children. They will do anything to have them and they form one end of the spectrum. Not all can have them, but they want them. This speech was not directed at them. They have their own challenges.

At the other far end are those who have made the choice for a variety of reasons to not have children. The reasons vary and there really is not need to justify them here. This is the group that felt most insulted by the speech, but I don't think they were the target audience despite the hurt that may have been felt.

In the middle of that spectrum of married adults is a group of people who are kind of unsure of what they want. They've been told lots of things good and bad about having children. In the past they likely would have just done what most everyone else did and had kids. Today, there are pressures around them not to have kids. Honestly, I think this is where the message was targeted.

I know several people among family and friends who fell into this group who in their early 20's really didn't know how they felt about kids, but do to their fears were leaning to not having kids. As they met someone, the fears lingered, but so did the curiosity and interest in having children. To parent or not to parent? Most are parents today, but it took working through the fears and challenges to get there. In several cases they did start with animals first and some were kind of stuck there. The animals filled the void. However, knowing the parents in question they needed a push to move beyond. I frankly was suprised at several that did make the move. However, seeing the results it was the right choice.

So, while I think it bothered those who are childless by choice or circumstance the most, I don't believe they are the target audience. Having witnessed children in very tough circumstances because people felt pressured to become parents or became parents without understanding the emotional, financial, and physical responsiblities I have no problem with people who make the choice not to become parents. I think this speech was targeted at people who just may need encouragement to overcome the real fears that would prevent them from otherwise embracing parenthood.

In this 24/7 media world lots of people could use better speech writers. I also think the media could learn to report the full context of things, but that would keep people from watching and discussing, too.

Bocci said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments all, and to Bailey for your thoughtful analysis of not just the pope's words, but of the entire situation. Keep 'em coming!

The Daily Pip said...

I imagine it was taken out of context, but …I fully support everyone's decisions. There are many ways to live one's life and as long as they work for the individual, I'm all for it. No judgement.

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