Having pets instead of children 'takes away from our humanity': Is Pope Francis right?

CBS News

Fact Box

  • On January 5, 2022, Pope Francis spoke to the general audience at the Vatican in Rome, asserting that people who have pets instead of children “is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity.” 
  • The Bible expresses the importance of childbearing in Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” In the Christian faith, this idea is debated among denominations regarding birth control, infertility, and celibacy.
  • The average global birth rate was 18.5 births per 1,000 people in 2019. In 2021, the country with the lowest birth rate was Monaco at 6.5 and the highest, Angola at 43.7. The United States ranked 12.4. 
  • Statista reported the global dog and cat household pet population in 2018 at 470 million dogs and 370 million cats.

Tyler (Yes)

Pope Francis has accurately asserted that couples choosing to have pets instead of children is inhumane. While animals can serve as comforting and often adorable pets, not to mention blessings to many families, there is a stark difference between raising a child and taking care of a pet. 

Most obviously, a pet is not the same as a child. A child possesses genetic relations to his or her parents and is able to carry forward ethnic and heritage qualities from their family, which pets cannot. A benefit of natural reproduction revolves around extending one's bloodline, advancing the family name. Likewise, there are also over 20 million orphans waiting to be adopted worldwide. By choosing to raise pets instead of children, these orphans are losing the opportunity to be adopted into caring and open homes. 

Pets don't live nearly as long as humans, cutting memories short, and not providing time for a family to grow. In contrast, the lifetime of a family spans generation after generation. An average-sized dog has a lifespan of 10 to 13 years, while the average human lives to 72 years old. People cannot witness second, third, and even fourth generations of their family if they choose to only care for animals.

Lastly, pet owners can not instill morals into animals the same way parents can into children. While pets may be able to grasp basic training and respond to reprimand, it is not the same as watching a young person blossom into a grown adult. Pets serve as adequate companions for a family but should never take the place of giving birth to a child for adoption. Children are the best way a family invests in the future and sees them, hopefully, bettering the world.

Morgan (No)

Animals teach us compassion and empathy. Because humans must exercise more control over animals, which remain more dependant on their families than children do, they teach their owners how to use their humanity for good and how it's our duty to protect living things. In addition, animals also serve as protection and service animals for their guardians. About 80 million Americans are helped by service animals. 

Not everyone wants, should, or even can have children. In fact, according to the Office on Women's Health, 'About 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant'. For those people, having a pet can fill the void that can't be filled with children, and pets provide them with a meaningful life raising another creature and giving it a good life. 

The last person who should be commenting on what couples do or don’t do in regards to children is the Pope. He made his decision not to have children when he entered the priesthood and should not comment on the matter when he himself has exhibited a 'denial of fatherhood,' as he puts it. In addition, someone named 'Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals' should encourage humanity to love and care for animals, not turn them away. Shaming the decision to love God's other creations is what really takes away from humanity. Respecting everyone's choices—having children or having pets—and not shaming someone for having a certain lifestyle is what will benefit humanity the most.

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