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Pope: Having a child is a risk; not having one is even riskier

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 01/05/22

I ask of Saint Joseph the grace to awaken consciences and to think about this: about having children. Fatherhood and motherhood are the fullness of the life of a person. Think about this.

St. Joseph’s role as the adoptive father of Jesus invites us to reflect on our “age of notorious orphanhood,” says Pope Francis. “Because we live in an age of notorious orphanhood, don’t we? It is curious: Our civilization is something of an orphan, and this orphanhood can be felt.”

The Holy Father explained how adoption was a more common part of the Jewish culture than it is today, and also the importance of the legal father giving the child his name.

And this led to his reflection on adoption, infertility, and the children who are suffering the lack of a family.

“May Saint Joseph, who took the place of the real father, God, help us to understand how to resolve this sense of orphanhood that is so harmful to us today,” he prayed.

Citing his apostolic letter on St. Joseph, Patris corde, the Pope reiterated that bringing a child into the world is not enough to be a true father or mother. One must also accept the responsibility for that child’s life.

He praised those who are open to adoption, which he called “such a generous and beautiful, good attitude.”

Joseph shows us that this type of bond [of adoption] is not secondary; it is not an afterthought, no. This kind of choice is among the highest forms of love, and of fatherhood and motherhood.

The Holy Father also noted the pain of infertility, as well as those couples who already have children but want to “share their family’s affection.”

“We should not be afraid to choose the path of adoption, to take the ‘risk’ of welcoming children,” he said, lamenting that so many children “are waiting for someone to take care of them.”

Demographic winter

The Pope recalled how he mentioned Italy’s demographic winter a few days ago. This theme – of the reproduction rate being below replacement level – is an issue he has brought up several times.

“Many, 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,” he said. “Yes, it’s funny, I understand, but it is the reality.”

But the “denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity,” the Pope warned.

“In this way civilization becomes aged and without humanity, because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood.”

Again noting another “somewhat humorous” side that people find, he mentioned the comment of “who will pay the taxes for my pension?” People say it with laughter, he noted, “but it is the truth.”

I ask of Saint Joseph the grace to awaken consciences and to think about this: about having children. Fatherhood and motherhood are the fullness of the life of a person. Think about this.

The Holy Father acknowledged the spiritual motherhood and fatherhood of those consecrated to God, but urged married couples, “Think about having children, of giving life, which they will take from you for the future. And also, if you cannot have children, think about adoption. It is a risk, yes: having a child is always a risk, either naturally or by adoption. But it is riskier not to have them. It is riskier to deny fatherhood, or to deny motherhood, be it real or spiritual. But denial, a man or woman who do not develop the sense of fatherhood or motherhood, they are lacking something, something fundamental, something important. Think about this, please.”

Making adoption accessible

At the same time, the Pope alluded to the many difficulties couples often find in trying to adopt. He said he hopes that institutions will “always be ready to help regarding adoption, by seriously monitoring but also simplifying the necessary procedure so that the dream of so many children who need a family, and of so many couples who wish to give themselves in love, can come true.”

I pray that no one feel deprived of the bond of paternal love. And those who are afflicted with orphanhood, may they go forward without this unpleasant feeling. May Saint Joseph protect, and give his help to orphans; and may he intercede for couples who wish to have a child.

ChildrenPope Francis
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