There's No Reason to Feel Offended by Pope Francis

I think I've finally been able to pin down why I'm so bothered about the reaction to the Pope's infamous "rabbits" comment.

Hypothetically*, let's say a generic Christian minister made the following comment during a news interview:
"Some women think that, in order to keep a boyfriend, they have to have sex. No. Responsible sexual behavior."  
The next day, the media reports, "[Pastor] states women shouldn't have sex! War on Women!"

It'd be ridiculous, right? Anyone could look at the actual comments in context and see that's clearly not what the pastor said, or meant. He clarified his words with "In order to keep a boyfriend"; clearly, his statement was not directed to all women - only those who believed that they had to have sex in order to keep their boyfriends.

As a woman, I wouldn't be offended by his words, since I agree with him that women shouldn't feel like they have to have sex in order to keep their boyfriends (since any boyfriend who won't respect your choice to abstain from sex prior to marriage isn't worth keeping).

Compare that to what Pope Francis said:
Some think that -- excuse the language -- that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. 
Clearly, Pope Francis' comment was not meant to include all people with children across the board; rather, he was only talking about the specific people who believe that in order to be a good Catholic, you have to reproduce without recourse to human reason, just like rabbits do.

That's why I'm so puzzled by all of the parents of many who were so offended by his remarks. I don't know any mom or dad of many who thinks that they HAVE to have a certain number of children in order to fulfill some kind of "good Catholic" quota. They have the number of children that they do because they discerned that they should, and that's precisely as it should be. Unless you're a person who honestly believes that in order to be a good Catholic, you have to reproduce without recourse to human reason, Pope Francis wasn't talking about you or your family. There's no reason to feel offended.

And if you DO believe you have to reproduce without recourse to human reason in order to be a good Catholic (I personally don't know of any Catholic who thinks this, but there are many non-Catholics who are under that impression), Pope Francis was explaining that such a belief is in direct opposition to actual Catholic teaching.

Not to mention that if Pope Francis really thought large families were a bad thing, he wouldn't say this only a day or two later:

"It gives consolation and hope to see so many large families that welcome children as a true gift of God. They know that every child is a blessing."

*Not a perfect analogy, obviously, but it's the best I could come up with after a long day at work and a long evening dealing with a three-year-old's histrionics. If you can think of a better one, or if you'd like to buy a three-year-old, please leave a comment!


  1. Bingo. His words aren't loaded toward anyone's ego. No point in willfully taking offense. As long as he's passing along the faith as Christ gave it, which he is, we should take it for what it's worth...and commence "chilling out".

  2. I love this quote by McGill! So very true and I love this post!

  3. Ouch! I'm a woman who has had 6 previous c-section. I've read the Pope's whole comments in context. Every time I reread what he said about a woman who had only 1 more c-section than me it hurts. His comment stings. I'm obedient. I love the Pope. I'm doing the best I can by consulting my priest and my doctor and my husband and my prayer life. It's still hard. The answer is unclear.

    So please don't blithely say "There is no reason to feel offended."

    I don't feel offended. I feel disciplined. I feel scolded. It doesn't feel good. This pro-life walk is hard. At 6 c-sections, I'm now the Pope's official church example of "irresponsible parenthood" if we accidentally have another pregnancy within the next 5 to 7 years until I hit menopause.

    1. Abigail, can you show me where the Pope said, "All women who have more than 7 C-sections are irresponsible?" Because unless he said those exact words, you are taking offense where none is offered. This is what I wrote about his C-section comments yesterday:

      "We don't have all the details because Pope Francis did not give them, but we know he was concerned enough about her situation to use her story as a caution to others.

      It seems safe to assume that she had some health problems that made deliberately achieving another pregnancy very imprudent, or lived in an area of the country that made having a C-section much more dangerous and risky than it is in the United States.

      I say "deliberately" because I doubt Pope Francis would have used her story if she'd been trying to avoid pregnancy but was victim to the failure rate of NFP; he speaks of "tempting God," which seems to imply that the woman in question became pregnant deliberately, and rationalized her decision by stating she would trust God to save her from the consequences of a poor choice.

      It seems also safe to assume, given that he prefaced the remark by stating that Christians do not have to have children "in series," that this woman was of the providentalist mindset (e.g., couples who make no attempt to space pregnancies because they feel it is inherently wrong to do so).

      As Pope Francis expressed concern that this woman would lose her own life as well as orphan her seven older children, it seems he was reminding the Catholic faithful that our discernment must, as Gaudiem et Spes says, "...thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring.""

    2. I also encourage you to read the following, which I saw on Facebook a few minutes ago:

  4. I don't feel offended. I feel disciplined. I feel scolded.

    I'd just add that feeling disciplined is a *good* thing because God chastises those he loves. Maybe if you feel 'disciplined' that is God's voice you are hearing.

    "Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the Lord your God disciplines you." Deut 8:5“ and "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Heb 4:7

    The Pope wasn't meaning to reduce your pro-life walk to anything less than heroic. He was urging us all to use our faith and our reason as far family size and bodily are tied together. It wasn't a blanket statement for all women. Why name yourself his 'official example' when even he hasn't done so?


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