Albert Mohler, a prominent author and theologian with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, discusses Pope Francis' recent comments in part three of his The Briefing episode from January 10.
At the New York Times headline, "Pope Scolds Couples Who Choose Pets Over Kids," in one of his weekly audiences, the Pope argued that it was a moral error that so many contemporary people were adopting dogs as their family, rather than having kids.
Several major media outlets throughout the globe reportedly blasted Pope Francis for invading private spaces by declaring that having children and nurturing them is theologically and ethically superior to not having children and choosing "furbabies" instead.
Mohler pointed out that the Pope has spoken out on this issue previously. In 2014, Pope Francis referred to the trend toward pet ownership as "a sign of cultural degeneration."
"That's quite a strong statement coming from anyone," remarked Mohler.
"But it's really, really interesting to note, not so much what the Pope said, which by the way is profoundly true, but the response to what the Pope said, which is coming not only in terms of the substance of his comments, but also in the fact that the claim is that the Pope has here transgressed on territory, that has to be conceded to personal autonomy, to individual choice, and one choice is as good as any other."
According to Mohler, the cult of personal autonomy, which holds that no one has the right to tell anybody else what's right and wrong, what life's purpose is, or how to live a decent life looks like based on any external authority, is once again in the works.
"We see here once again, the cult of personal autonomy," said Mohler.
"This idolatry raised its head in such a way that basically, so many people in the West complained. It's as if they're asking, who does the Pope think he is, the Pope? Now of course, the Pope is the Head of the Roman Catholic church, which includes hundreds of millions of people."
Pope Francis allegedly said: "Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. I know that's funny, more or less. I understand, but it is the reality."
The Pope, noted Mohler, made it quite apparent that this is not a desirable scenario.
"So many others in the West basically said, 'This is up to individual choice,' which we just need to note, was never a part of human experience until very modern times," said Mohler.
He then pointed out that it's not a fact that conforms with Catholic dogma but rather a statement of biblical theology that God's aim in creation is that human beings would marry and have children.
Citing the first command given to human beings in Genesis 1:28, which reads, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth," Mohler said that Western media conjecture over whether or not the Pope owns a pet or enjoys pets accounted for a significant portion of the contemporary era's misunderstanding. The Vatican, he said, has made it clear that the Pope has no plans to have a pet. In the past, he owned a cat, as did his predecessor.
"That's a highly cutting-edge concept. It's a completely illogical notion, "Mohler concluded. "It's a hazardous concept, and it's also a contentious one. Ask the Pope about it."