On Fruitfulness

I’ve been lit up all day over this article which I read over my first cup of coffee.  It began:  Pope Francis told married couples that dogs and cats are no substitutes for children—and marriages without children end with “the bitterness of loneliness.”

Do we need the Pope, or anyone, to tell us that dogs and cats are not “substitutes” for children?

I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, but I’m a fan of The Church’s new leader, the down-to-earth Pope Francis — the pope who calls himself Francis after Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals?  Maybe I’m touchy because I haven’t given birth, but I’m a mother and maybe it’s primarily because of this that I found his comments especially disturbing.  And out of touch.  And hurtful.  Does someone need to explain to the pope the many definitions of “family”?

My kids are grown and gone, and now I have 3 dogs.  And yet I have never, never in my whole life, seen my dogs as children, nor as children-replacements.  I just love animals.  I would like to tell the pope that I am not “bitter,” nor am I “lonely.”  I love animals and I’m doing what I can to care for them.  That care brings me joy.  Since when is that “sinful”?

“He emphasized three qualities that are important in Christian marriages—faithfulness, perseverance, and fruitfulness.  Pope Francis said Jesus does not like marriages that are sterile by choice and such marriages end in solitude.”

Excuse me, but is he kidding?

What about the couple who adore each other but can’t have children, or choose not to, for whatever their reasons, but have a dog?  Or a cat?

What about my friend Deb who dedicates every single day of the week to helping families place pets they can no longer care for?  Her life’s work is finding homes.

What about the man who has children — he’s “fruitful” — but isn’t raising them … at all?  What does the Pope think of him?

What about the woman who is running a business, or just loves animals, or is the primary caregiver for her extended family?

When I was in Florida last week, we went to dinner the first night and found Animal Control in the parking lot.  Someone had left their dog in their car.  It was 97 fucking degrees.  Thank god for the man from Animal Control.  And for the person who called them.

My stepbrother is a teacher and coach and all-around incredible guy.  He and his wife chose not to have children.  Not an easy choice.  They have dogs, and — in his words — “a few hundred children a year” to coach and teach.  Their home, and their life, is open to all.  What would Pope Francis think of them?

A family man I grew up with had a dog. He’s had many many dogs.  The man has abandoned his children.  Plural.  His dog was hit by a car, but clung to life.  He took the dog to a remote farm, dumped him from his truck bed, and drove away.  The farmer found the dog suffering and helped him to die.  Bless the farmer.

Yesterday I was walking my dog with a friend and we passed by a family’s house.  The family were in their driveway, loading up, on their way to the vet to put their 14 yr old golden retriever to sleep.  He was just diagnosed with cancer 3 weeks ago, and just that morning had not been able to stand.  It was time.  They loved him.  I have thought about them since.

It’s a big world out there, Pope Francis.  Maybe we need to redefine “fruitfulness.”  And kindness.






22 thoughts on “On Fruitfulness

  1. Joe Ponepinto

    Well, no wonder they call it “dogma.” Despite his slightly more modern positions on some social issues, the Pope is still the champion of many ideas that haven’t changed (and haven’t even been questioned) for centuries. My wife and I married late and have no kids, yet as CEO of a United Way much of her career has been spent in efforts to help children and their families. The Pope sounds like he would prefer that Dona stay home and risk her life to have kids in her late forties, rather than make a difference in the lives of thousands of kids who have already been born. Such an arbitrary and rigid philosophy, one based on ancient male-dominated values, makes it hard for a thinking person to accept the church as a place of hope and solace.

    1. Teri Post author

      Thank you for being so much more eloquent than me, Joe. This whole thing makes me nuts on so many levels, it’s hard to harness it all.

      And yes, at one point I wrote something like “well, the Pope is a man,” but deleted it. Doesn’t make it any less true.

    1. Teri Post author

      The crickets are chirping on the Catholic-side of things around here. Does that mean they disagree and wish I’d shut up, or that it’s not proper to speak against the pope? Hmmmm.

    1. Teri Post author

      Someone recently told me that just because I have an opinion, doesn’t t mean I have to express it. I guess I’m also not good at taking advice.

  2. Suzy Vitello

    It’s so disappointing to hear that the “cool” pope, the in touch Jesuit pope is clanging the “be fruitful and multiply” bell. I can only guess that the fear that we’ll one day peter out still has the church’s undies in a bunch. I mean, where’s the logic? Hey Francis, do your testes work? Then why not spread your seed? Leave my womb the fuck out of it.

    Really upsetting that he equates pet-ownership plus childless by choice as a recipe for doom and bitterness. I have plenty of examples in my own family that beg to differ.

    1. Teri Post author

      When i say I was lit up all day about his comments, I was not exaggerating. I then woke up at 3 am thinking, do we really need to go forth and populate the earth? It is well-populated; some would even say over-populated. So what this really means is that we need to produce more Catholics?

      Ahhh. If that’s the case, statements of this nature do not help the cause.

  3. Lyra

    Ah, yes, the word as brought through the pope.
    Love is love and doesn’t need explanation to people who wouldn’t understand it. I shared my life with a cat for 18 years, longer than I’ve known my children, longer than any lover. I cried not pet tears, but real tears when I put her down.
    I now have three children and two cats. I love them all.
    Your beautiful words need not be wasted on an institution that would dare judge people who bring good into the world. I know many, many people whose lives were ruined by a person of the cloth and preyed upon a young child’s belief that they couldn’t tell. Although there are good and bad among all of us, that is the last group that I’ll let barge onto my beliefs of what is good and right and just.
    In other words, he can kiss it.

    1. Teri Post author

      I don’t get the purpose of his statements. At all. Except, of course, that The Church’s population continues to dwindle, which means power and money dwindle along with it?

      What positive thing can come out of his speech?

  4. independentclause

    I have a dog and a cat and no children. The words “fur baby” makes me want to hurl. I adore my pets, but I treat them like animals (except for the cat, whom I wait on hand and foot, because she is an old lady). I see them as part of my home. My cat and I have lived together for 15 years, and wherever we are, she is always home.

    1. Teri Post author

      I hear you. As much as I love my dogs, I recognize that they are, in fact, dogs. And they like being dogs. You will never find me carrying them around in my purse, or even sleeping on my bed.

      And I was thinking this morning about a woman I know who had 6 children and should not have had any. And my grandmother, who was kept pregnant by her cruel and very Catholic husband as a way to make her stay home. (I’ll stop there, as this list is long….)

  5. amyg

    Taking marriage advice from popes or priests is akin to taking swimming lessons from a bird.

    Every time I see a look how cool this pope was (“Can you believe it – he was a bouncer”) I remind myself that he is also the leader of an institution that has allowed and been tolerant of horrific sex abuse crimes against children throughout its history.

    They’re all criminals standing on a moral foundation that is completely empty. What could they possibly know about marriage or children?

      1. amyg

        So, about five minutes ago, we heard a loud thump on our front window. It was a bird that is now DEAD on my front porch. (Seriously, it apparently flew at top speed into the window beside my front door and is now on its back with its tiny bird legs limp to each side…dead…on my front porch.)

        Did I just piss off the wrong god?

      2. donnaeve

        Yeah, the timing is delicate, right, but …this happens at my house as well. A dove, late last summer, kamikazed it’s way against the window and took 30 seconds to pass. I cried over it, that’s how crazy sensitive I am.

  6. donnaeve

    The pope’s comments are so blatantly, and patently stupid, I was almost stunned into silence, but here I am now, pissed off and in solidarity with your comments and all the others above.

    My mother once said to me, “Donna, you take better care of your dogs than you did your children.” I shrugged. She was joking of course, but what she was talking about was how I would come to her house loaded up with a bag of doggie stuff when I would board “the girls” with “grandma.” I had to explain their eating schedule – each and every time. I had to explain their little likes and dislikes – each and every time. I had to tell her how to give them their medication for itching/allergies – yep, each and every time. There were the various toys, blankets, and dishes. it took me at least 30 mins to get out the door, b/c I then had to kneel on the floor and hug them, and kiss them.

    We joke all the time about our little guy being our child now since the kids are grown and gone. (like yours)

    The pope really stepped in dog doo on this one – and I hope it stinks to high heaven.

    1. Teri Post author

      Maybe in tomorrow’s post we should discuss the possible top 3 qualities of a successful marriage. I keep staring at the word “perseverance” and thinking, does this mean marriage is like a war or famine or some other horrific hardship we are just supposed to survive? So long as we reproduce??

      You can see I’m thinking about this way too much. Which I suppose shows how disgusted I am.

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