Earlier this month, Pope Francis sparked controversy with comments in which he said people have pets to “take the place of children,” citing population declines in Western countries that have caused some alarm.
Many observers criticized the pope for his take on parenting and pets, including theologian Lisa Fullam, a Bondings 2.0 contributor who also happens to be a veterinarian.
Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, Fullam examined his controversial remarks (and suggested he might benefit from a pet, too). “The pope’s address is so riddled with odd or wrong-headed statements that I wonder if he thought it through before launching in,” Fullam opened. Then she raised a point about LGBTQ people as parents:
“If not raising children ‘diminishes us, takes away our humanity,’ why does Francis tolerate magisterial opposition to adoption by LGBT people? Since there is no credible evidence that LGBT people are worse parents than cis and heterosexual couples — and some evidence that gay parents do a better job raising kids than straight parents — why wouldn’t Francis demand that Catholic adoption agencies serve all who present themselves with the generosity and grace to raise kids in need? If parenting is a matter of human dignity, then Francis should not tolerate groundless exclusion of qualified would-be parents.”
Pope Francis has made some interesting comments about parenting and children, critiquing both the childless and those Catholics who breed “like rabbits” with too many children. When it comes to LGBTQ questions in regards to family, he has been quite supportive of parents with LGBTQ children, and of those children themselves. He supports civil unions for same-gender couples, affirming their right to legal protections. And when it comes to LGBTQ parents, the pope’s record seems positive, as when he called a gay Italian couple to express the church’s welcome to their children.
But, as Fullam notes, there is still much institutional opposition to adoption and foster care by LGBTQ parents, particularly in the United States, and particularly from Catholic leaders. A public show of support by the pope for LGBTQ parents would do much to counter this opposition, and it would make his comments on parenting in general more meaningful, too.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 18, 2022