In a recent speech, Pope Francis criticised couples who choose not to have children, claiming it was a ‘selfish act’. The Gryphon asks: is not having children by choice selfish?
Pope Francis has caused some controversy with this claim. In a progressive, 21st century democracy such as Britain, such bold assertions will automatically offend liberal sensibilities. Yet, although the statement is certainly candid, given the overt conservative views of the Catholic church on contraception and abortion, it is hardly a revelation to hear the Supreme Pontiff make such a claim. What’s more, when we put to one side the religious dogma and the offensive language, is it possible that the Pope is on the right lines? Is there a moral duty to have children?
To make such a statement may seem outrageous, but from a pragmatic perspective, there is a case to be made. If the percentage of couples who decide not to have children increases, eventually the proportion of working age people paying taxes decreases, and the proportion of retired people claiming pensions and in need of public health and social care services increases. Or in other words, tax revenue falls and public expenditure rises.
In fact we are on the precipice of such a phenomena. A downward trend in the birth rate since 1964 has meant that for the first time in our history, Britain now has more citizens over 65 than under 16. Granted, these figures may not be the cause of a widespread sense of foreboding. However, their practical implications are already impacting on the society we live in and shaping the society of tomorrow.
If the percentage of couples who decide not to have children increases, eventually the proportion of working age people paying taxes decreases
The two most obvious examples of this are the slashing of social service budgets and thievery of public sector pensions. Even more worryingly, if re-elected, the current government’s fiscal prudence is set to continue. So from this angle, maybe the Pope has a point!
Yet those who make the above argument seems to assume that couples who choose not to have children, do so because they don’t want the hassle or because they want more holidays, bigger T.V’s and flashier cars. This is certainly the Pope’s own view. However, this position completely fails to appreciate the pressure that young people face in Britain and indeed, across the world.
If the Pope wants to encourage people to have families, he should concentrate on addressing the inequality in our society
Parents in Britain, which has supposedly been expertly guided into a strong economic recovery since the 2008 global crisis, have experienced an 8% fall in their real earnings, seen Sure Start and other developmental services cut by 20 % and have been encumbered by a 38% rise in childcare over the last parliament. Under such circumstances, it is unrealistic to expect financially overburdened couples to have children. What’s more, it is absolutely wrong to vilify couples that make the undoubtedly heartbreaking decision not to have them.
If the Pope wants to encourage people to have families, he should concentrate on addressing the inequality in our society. Most people want children, but due to the disparity in wealth across the globe, an increasing number of people simply cannot afford to have them.
Last week, Pope Francis criticised couples who choose not have children, claiming it was a “selfish” act. He said having children brings joy to families and society as a whole and that “life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: it is enriched, not impoverished.”
I am not averse to the new and improved Pope, but this seems to be neither relevant nor correct. How can a childless, 70 year old religious leader who advocates celibacy tell ME that it is selfish to not have children?
I can understand where the Pope is coming from; in a world where huge value is placed on material goods, there is a need to consider what we most value in life. Materialism is a problem. We are a “greedy generation” and we do live in a society where the amount of ‘stuff’ we own is what validates our existence: do we have the new iPhone or do we have those shoes that everyone else is wearing?
Becoming a parent is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly. It requires sacrifice and hard-work, but this does not mean you are selfish if you don’t feel you are up to the job.
However, having children also should not be the prime validation of our existence. Children are joyous, but they are not the answer to a materialistic society. Becoming a parent is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly. It requires sacrifice and hard-work, but this does not mean you are selfish if you don’t feel you are up to the job. In fact, I would say it is an altruistic move and selfishness has little to do with the decision. The Pope should be advocating sensible decision making when it comes to having children instead of supplying a ‘one-fits-all’ rule to be blindly followed.
Pope Francis’ statement is an attempt at a simple, generalised solution for an extremely complex problem. Is the Pope condemning those who are unable to have children for biological reasons, as well as those who are perhaps choosing to further their career (which may well be helping the “depressed society” he speaks of) instead of having children? Is he insinuating that these childless individuals are worthless?
There is also the obvious problem that we live on a planet that is already pushed to its limit on resources such as water and food due to overpopulation, with growing man-made environmental problems. Encouraging couples to have more children seems to be the complete opposite of what is needed.
The problems the Pope is addressing the fact we live in a “depressed society” based on personal happiness instead of community values and “inter-generational harmony”, but branding couples who don’t have children as “selfish” surely cannot be part of the solution.