The pope criticized "these marriages, in which the spouses do not want children, in which the spouses want to remain without fertility. This culture of well-being ... convinced us: It's better not to have children! It's better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside; you can be carefree. It might be better -- more comfortable -- to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog."
He is right. More than ever before, young men and women in most affluent Western countries (and Russia) have decided not to have children. Instead, many shower love and attention on dogs and cats. Ask many young women -- married or single -- if they have any children, and if they do not, you are likely to be told, "I have two cats" or "I have two dogs." There are authors whose book jacket photo shows them with their dog or cat.
In much of the West, animals are the new children.
The pope made this declaration for two reasons: one demographic and one religious and moral.
The demographic reason is that the populations of European countries such as the one in which he lives -- Italy -- are gradually disappearing.
--Italy's birth rate is approximately 1.41 children per woman, making Italy 203 out of 224 countries in terms of its fertility rate.
--LifeSiteNews, a religious-oriented news website, reported that Italian demographer Giancarlo Baliga said last year that by 2041, "The age group most represented in the structure of the Italians will become the 70s."
--According to Fred Pearce in the Guardian, "Italy has the world's second oldest population."
--According to population statistics website GeoHive, Italy will have two and a half million fewer people at the end of this century than it had in the beginning. And the only reason it will not far fewer is that so many Italian citizens will be foreign-born immigrants.
--According to Professor Peter McDonald, president of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (2010-2013) and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, if Italy remains at its current fertility levels and does not compensate with foreign immigrants, it will lose 86 percent of its population by the end of the century, falling to 8 million compared with today's 56 million.
The pope knows that Italians and other nations are slowly disappearing.
The question is: Why? Why do so many people prefer to parent pets than children?
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”