“Plants have replaced pets. Pets have replaced children. And children are basically for people who are elitist, wealthy, rich, and those are the people who are privileged enough to have kids,” began Timmerie. That is the philosophy that permeates today’s family culture. In response to Pope Francis’s recent comment about the way people treat pets versus children, Timmerie welcomed Father Tim Grumbach onto Trending to discuss biological and spiritual parenthood.
While many pet owners were upset over Pope Francis’s comments, Father Tim joked, “If you didn’t like what Pope Francis had to say, you’re really going to hate what St. Thomas Aquinas had to say.” That’s referencing the eternal back and forth about whether an animal’s soul survives death or not, and Thomas Aquinas fell firmly on the latter side of that argument. “…the life of animals and plants is preserved not for themselves but for man. Hence…by a most just ordinance of the Creator, both their life and death are subject for our use.” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica)
Timmerie read directly from some of Pope Francis’s statements to give some context to the rest of the conversation. “‘Many couples do not have children because they do not want to or they have just one, but they have two dogs, two cats. Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. Yes, it’s funny, I understand, but it is the reality…This denial of fatherhood and motherhood diminishes us. It takes away our humanity and, in this way, civilization becomes aged and without humanity because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood.’”
People across social media were upset at these comments because they felt targeted, perhaps because they were choosing to have pets instead of children. As Timmerie pointed out, it’s very ironic because based on many things that Pope Francis has said throughout his papacy, the media has been favorable in the way they have portrayed him. Now, because of some brief comments about the important role of children in the family, people are extremely offended.
“You’re going to get the headlines of what he said, but what he says underneath that comes from a place of deep love for people who may be struggling to have children, for people who don’t have children but really want to have children. So, this all has to be understood within the context of – I think he was giving a Catechesis about St. Joseph and St. Joseph’s fatherhood and how it’s a real fatherhood,” said Father Tim. He went on to point out that while there is sympathy for those who cannot have children, those who voluntarily give up their roles as parents are missing something “fundamental and important.”
Pope Francis is absolutely correct about the dehumanization of civilization. If we begin replacing our children with lower lifeforms, we are degrading people and glorifying animals. As Thomas Aquinas said, animals and plants have been put onto this earth to serve us. Some animals produce food, some perform labor, and some, like cats and dogs, are charged with providing companionship. That is a wholly noble purpose. But we cannot put this form of instinctual companionship on a pedestal. Animals perform actions based on survival instincts and what they can get out of a relationship. Humans are the only creatures capable of unconditional love.
After wading through the feedback and criticism online, Timmerie concluded that the one thing she continued to hear from mothers and fathers is that Pope Francis is right about children and their role in the family. Motherhood and fatherhood are extremely challenging, but it is the most fulfilling part of their lives. Caring for a pet is a responsibility as well, but the very reason it is easier is that there are no requirements for fatherly or motherly behavior. Setting a good example for your dog will bear no fruit. Reading good books and watching good movies with your cat will not convey wholesome entertainment to them. Praying with your hamster will not help that hamster reach heaven.
Father Tim retold the story of how he was at a friend’s house one time and his friend was holding his daughter upside down by her ankles (safely) and smiling at her. From the outside looking in, one might imagine that the baby should be freaking out. This new orientation and the strange feeling of gravity reversed must be terrifying. But looking into her eyes, Father Tim could see how calm she was.
“You have these parents who are learning this beautiful lesson of holding their children and seeing their faces and saying, ‘You know, this kid has something to teach me about being a son or daughter of God.’ And so, I’m never going to forget the face that that little baby was making being hung upside down like, ‘Yeah, I’m in my dad’s arms and everything is perfectly okay.’” That is how we should all be in the face of any struggle. God Our Father is holding us. Be not afraid.
Listen to the full conversation below:
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