“Not to have children is a selfish choice” were the words used by Pope Francis as he praised big families on Wednesday at a gathering in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City.
Pope Francis told the crowd that having children is a blessing and a joy, “Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished!”
The pope argued that European nations and societies are in a depressed state due to their low fertility rates.
“They are depressed societies because they don’t want children," he said. "They don’t have children. The birth rate doesn’t even reach 1 percent."
Make no mistake, although the pope praised children as being the “joy of family and society” and often mentioned the importance of family, he did make sure to stress that having more children should be done with great care and responsibility. Having more children “cannot automatically become an irresponsible choice,” he said. According to the Huffington Post, he added that it’s a myth “that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits.”
“The joy of children makes their parents hearts throb and reopens the future,” he said. “Children are not a problem of reproductive biology, or one of many ways to realize oneself in life. Let alone their parent’s possession. Children are a gift. Do you understand? Children are a gift.".
His comments promoting childbirth and family will surely not make as many headlines as his comments last week, where he essentially said it is okay to spank your child to discipline them as long as their dignity is maintained.
"One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say, 'I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them,'" Francis said at the time. "How beautiful! He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on."
The pope was not advocating violence or cruelty against a child but rather was promoting “helping someone to grow and mature,” as explained by Rev. Thomas Rosica, who is involved with the Vatican press office. His comments raised some eyebrows all around the world as corporal punishment is a highly controversial and much debated issue.
According to the Huffington Post, 39 countries, including Sweden and Germany, prohibit corporal punishment in all settings. In the United States, parents can legally hit their child as long as the force is "reasonable."
The Vatican later clarified the remark, saying the pope did not endorse any form of violence or cruelty against a child.