Pope Francis has some pretty strong opinions about couples who choose to have pets instead of children.
While speaking with a general audience at the Vatican, the 85-year-old said that living a child-free lifestyle is "a form of selfishness," as first reported by The Guardian newspaper.
"We see that some people do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh but it is a reality,” he said.
It's no secret that pets become important members of the family and that many pet owners treat their fur babies like children. But the pope equated pet ownership with “a denial of fatherhood and motherhood (that) diminishes us (and) takes away our humanity.”
As a result, he said, “civilization grows old without humanity because we lose the richness of fatherhood and motherhood, and it is the country that suffers.”
The pope's comments left many people wondering what he thinks of couples who can't have biological children, and he suggested adoption as an alternative. Francis also encouraged couples to put any fears they may have aside when considering becoming parents.
“Having a child is always a risk, but there is more risk in not having a child,” he argued.
The pandemic offered some couples the perfect opportunity to spend more time at home and build their family, but overall birth rates are still down across the country. In 2020, rates dropped for the fifth year in a row, reaching a 35-year low, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, the child-free lifestyle has been enticing more and more millennials in recent years as many couples have begun to embrace the freedom that comes along with not having children.
This is hardly the first time that Francis has been outspoken about a divisive topic. Last year, he urged people across the world to get vaccinated against COVID-19, calling it "an act of love." In 2020, he also made headlines when he endorsed gay civil unions.