(CNSNews.com) – Speaking to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Wednesday, Pope Francis said a society that spurns children, viewing them as a burden or “a risk” is a “depressed society,” and added that “the choice to not have children is selfish.”
“If a generous family of children is viewed as if it were a burden, there is something wrong,” said Pope Francis in his Feb. 11 General Audience. “The choice to not have children is selfish.”
“Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished!” he said. “Children learn to take charge of their family, they mature in the sharing of sacrifices, and they grow in appreciation of its gifts. The experience of joyful fraternity animates the respect and care of parents, who are due our gratitude.”
The Pope also discussed the Fourth Commandment, that children honor their father and mother, stressing its importance following the first three commandments that concern “God Himself,” and that respect among family generations “is at the root of every other kind of respect among men.”
However, a “society of children who do not honor their parents is a society without honor, when you do not honor your parents you lose your honor,” said the Pope. “It is a society destined to fill itself with arid and greedy young.”
Further, “a society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” said the Pope, who grew up in a family with five children.
“Just think of the many societies we know here in Europe,” he said. “They are depressed societies because they don’t want children, they don’t have children.”
“The birth rate doesn’t even reach 1%, why?” said the Pope. “Everyone should think about that and answer it personally.”
In many Western countries couples are not having enough children, at least 2.1 on average per family, to replace their existing populations. Italy’s current fertility rate is 1.42 children per woman; Germany, 1.43; Spain, 1.48; France 2.08; Switzerland, 1.54; and Britain, 1.90. The United States is on the line, with a fertility rate of 2.01 children on average per woman.
Pope Francis also mentioned the 1968 encyclical (letter) by Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), which explained in detail the Catholic Church’s teaching against artificial birth control, sex outside of marriage, and abortion, and also explained why all married couples should be open to the possibility of creating a new life.
As Humanae Vitae makes clear, said Pope Francis, “having more children cannot be automatically viewed as an irresponsible choice.”
In the encyclical, Pope Paul VI wrote, “Conjugal love reveals its true nature and nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God, who is love, ‘the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.’ Marriage is not, then, the effect of chance or the product of evolution of unconscious natural forces; it is the wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind His design of love.”
“This love” between husband and wife “is faithful and exclusive until death,” said Pope Paul VI. “Thus in fact do bride and groom conceive it to be on the day when they freely and in full awareness assume the duty of the marriage bond. A fidelity, this, which can sometimes be difficult, but is always possible, always noble and meritorious, as no one can deny. The example of so many married persons down through the centuries shows, not only that fidelity is according to the nature of marriage, but also that it is a source of profound and lasting happiness.
“And finally this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising up new lives. Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents.”