Coming from the leader of a church that forbids priests and nuns from getting married and having children, this doesn’t seem like something you fully thought through.
Pets make us better humans. They are a constant reminder of some of the most important values in life: love, loyalty, being in the present and finding joy in the small things.
Think: A dog finds transcendency in a fake rawhide bone. They are capable of seeing god every day, as soon as their owners get home. And cats … well, they have their own way of teaching us we’re not quite that divine. Animals give us way more than they take away from us.
Second, my bet is that most households are not choosing between pets and children. Some may not be able to have children. Others may not want them because they find different callings more fulfilling. Look in the mirror for a second: Think of how much good a person can do for humanity if they are not focused on nurturing one single being.
And it is not like we are underserved in the baby department — the planet will reach 8 billion people this year.
Finally, we all make choices. They usually involve trade-offs. You have made such choices. Everybody knows that Pope Benedict XVI, your predecessor, is the definition of a cat man — a single guy without kids who owns cats.
I’m sure that you were not suggesting that Benedict is selfish. Nor are the priests and nuns who must choose between having children and joining the church you run.
The point is: Priests and nuns make a choice. Just like you did. Just like Benedict did with his celibacy and his cats. Just like people who don’t have children do, for whatever reason they hold sacred.
Exercising free will is not equal to being selfish.
Besides, if some people want to say that their pets are their kids, who cares? Sometimes they even look alike …