The pope always expresses his opinions on and reactions to various issues affecting mankind. After calling for humane treatment of migrants who risk life and limb sailing to Europe or the United States for greener pastures, Pope Francis spoke against childless or single-child couples who prefer to care for pets more than children.
The head of the 1.3 billion-strong Catholic Church described such parents as selfish and said the practice “is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood,” according to AFP.
It was not the first time Pope Francis complained of pet lovers. In 2014, he called it a “phenomenon of cultural degradation.”
Italy’s International Organization for the Protection of Animals reacted by saying that “animal life is less important than human life” to the pope.
Predominantly Catholic Kingdom of Spain also disagrees with the head of the Vatican. On 5 January, a new law that took effect in the Iberian country strengthened protection of pets by laying down criteria on who takes custody of animals when couples who own them separate.
The law “stipulates that owners must guarantee the pet’s well-being and that if either spouse has a history of cruelty to animals, he or she may be refused or lose custody of the animal,” according to AFP.
The law, which amends Spain’s civil code, also requires courts to consider the animal’s welfare when settling disputes over who inherits a pet. It is in line with Spain’s recognition of animals as sentient beings, like France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal.
In the Philippines, which is also a predominantly Catholic nation, there is already a community of animal lovers or owners that can debunk Pope Francis’ position against pet ownership.
Fernando Bote Jr. of Imus, Cavite, for one, has children and cares for them as much as he does for his six pet dogs. And if that doesn’t convince the pontiff, Bote’s mutts themselves may sway him into reconsidering his stance through their unique ability to apply Catholic teachings and values.
A viral video on social media shows Bote’s dogs sitting steady before their prepared bowls of meal as he prays before the pets eat. One of the dogs named Barako is bowing while its front paws are on Bote’s lap in a display of reverence. Only after the prayer is done do the disciplined dogs start eating their meal.
Despite such new breed of Catholic devotees, it remains to be seen if prayerful pets can reverse the papal dogma.