Editorial: Get the facts straight

  • January 13, 2022

Mainstream outlets and social media players had kittens last week over remarks attributed to Pope Francis about the “selfishness” of people keeping pets in place of raising children.

A single tweet by CNN reportedly generated 50,000 comments and replies in the wake of the Holy Father’s purported Jan. 5 comment. Most were condemnatory. They typically questioned what business a celibate 85-year-old cleric has talking about having babies anyway.

Here at home, a column by the National Post’s Sabrina Maddeaux epitomized the flying fur, chastising Francis for making “culprits” of childless Millennials. Accusing the Millennial generation of having a preferential option for pets, Maddeaux wrote is “as ludicrous as the idea they prioritize avocados over housing.”

Of course, columnists and Twitter tweeters alike are entitled to their opinions. They are not, as the old saying goes, entitled to their own facts. Factually, Francis never targeted Millennials because he never once mentioned them during his General Audience, which was a catechesis on the relationship of St. Joseph to Jesus as Our Lord’s foster father.

In fact, as is obvious from a transcript posted on the Vatican website and made easily available on Google by the Snopes Media Company, the pontiff’s only reference to any generation in the history of humanity was to the “genealogy (of the) ancestors of Jesus” in Matthew’s Gospel. The reference was to Matthew presenting Joseph as “the husband of Mary” rather than the biblical “father of” formula for ancestral naming. The importance is that Joseph is recognized as naming Jesus even though he knows the Son’s name has come from God.

What follows in the Pope’s catechesis isn’t a jeremiad against contemporary non-reproduction. It’s a profound meditation on the beauty and obligations of both biological and spiritual parenthood in which love and care for children is placed at the heart of human vocation. It is an apologetic for adoption as an equally valid and desirable mode of family life. It is a call for erasure of orphanhood so little kids do not grow up isolated and denied the vital source of security and charity that is the parental duty to provide.

In a quasi-humorous aside, Francis glosses the modern paradox of couples who believe they can afford two dogs or cats but cannot find room in their homes or hearts to adopt one child. But the selfishness to which he refers is of a world that blithely accepts the condition of orphanhood for its youngest and most vulnerable.

Modern media, even amid its mania for catcalling and derision and the confecting of crises, still has an obligation to report and comment on what occurs, not on the fantasies and fabrications that feed its own pet causes and peeves. Catholics, like adherents to most faiths, are long accustomed to the world getting things wrong about what we believe. No obligation ensues to tolerate outright lies.

More in this category: « Editorial: Getting it right

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