I try to refrain from commenting (publicly, at least) on Pope Francis’ off the cuff remarks. You know the ones. They are usually outrageous on the surface and are the source in some way or other for many salacious headlines. These are the comments that set my Facebook and Twitter feed on fire. There is very little point in responding to any of the remarks made my friends or acquaintances who use half correct misquotes that based on hearsay and are then the basis for attention grabbing headlines that seem to say the pope of all people is against Church teaching. It would be maddening to even try. At most, I might remind people to “simma down now,” read the actual transcript, and hold fast to the Faith, while I mutter something about not everything being ex cathedra for a reason. The Holy Spirit will always win.
Here, I will make an exception to my normal rule.
I read the headlines and saw the blurbs: Pope Says Catholics Need Not Breed Like Rabbits! and Mother of 8 Irresponsible!
I was offended and hurt.
Then I read the full transcript of the Holy Father’s remarks — and I was still offended and hurt.
A couple truly married in the Catholic sense can never “be like rabbits”
because their love is a choice, not something that is solely in the heat of
passion, but in the reason and the intellect as well as the emotions.
The problem with his comments, whether he used the word breed or not (and the general consensus is that he did not, in fact use that word) is the assumption that a mother, having had 7 c-sections and being pregnant with her 8th, is being irresponsible. Why? How is it irresponsible to trust that you made a promise to God to be totally open, and not knowing His plan, to go about your normal married life, coming together with your husband in good times and bad, to love and comfort each other, and accept that God would send (or not send) children on His time, and that He would sustain you throughout it all? A couple truly married in the Catholic sense can never “be like rabbits” because their love is a choice, not something that is solely in the heat of passion, but in the reason and the intellect as well as the emotions. Trusting that God has a plan for your life and that “all will be well” whether you survive childbirth or not is not, in my mind at least, irresponsible. It is, in essence, being faithful.
Let me give you, in case you don’t know me, a bit of background. I have 6 children here (all by c-section), 3 saints in heaven (2 vaginal, 1 c-section), and during my last c-section I had a partial hysterectomy. My childbearing days are over by the age of 33. I was saddened by this, as was my husband, but we know it was all in God’s plan for us and for and our family. How do we know this? Because we trust that we discerned God’s will for our lives, in good faith and good conscience, according to Church teaching, and did our best to follow it. Everything that came after our marriage vows, so long as we were genuinely trying to live up to those vows, we see as being part of God’s plan.
I get it. He wasn’t trying to tell people to stop having children. He was, in all likelihood, trying to encourage the use of Church approved child spacing methods over the use of other means of contraception. But instead of saying that the Church has never had a set number of children that a family is required to reach to be in good standing, or that no one is expected to risk their lives to have as many children as is humanly possible, or even that God sends children on his time and no one should be either proud of their own “accomplishment” of a large family or ashamed of having a small family or no children at all because it is all in God’s most capable hands, he chose to compare people with large families to rodents (albeit cute, fluffy rodents) with no self-control or reason.
The long and short of it is, in my own, very humble, and completely personal, opinion, that Pope Francis needs to stop playing to the people who don’t believe for cheap laughs. His comments seem self-effacing on the surface, and this is part of his charm, but in reality, they come across as cheap shots at people like my family and many others who are trying to live a Catholic lifestyle according to our marital promises. Put simply, there was a better way for him to word the statement, but that way would not have been “cool” or elicited the admiration and affection of the media.
Please, Pope Francis, one of your faithful “rabbits” would beg you to consider your words and your audience a little more before speaking to liberal reporters who will only distort your meaning and cause all of us a great deal of strife.