Rules Are for Schmucks: Pope Versus Puppies

Photo by Edgar Jiménez via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone loves Pope Francis, TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013. That’s due in part to the heroic efforts of his PR guy, Greg Burke, who learned his trade at fair and balanced Fox News.

Poor Mr. Burke may have his hands full dealing with the latest blast from His Holiness, though. Here’s what he had to say earlier this month to a group of couples celebrating their 25th, 50th, and 60th wedding anniversaries:

“In a marriage, this fruitfulness can sometimes be put to the test, when children don’t come or when they are ill,” he said. Couples who have to cope with infertility or loss can still look to Jesus and “draw the strength of fruitfulness that Jesus has with his church.”

What they cannot do, according to longstanding Catholic doctrine, is use modern science to help the conception process along, through techniques such as in vitro fertilization. Five million babies have been born this way—that’s five million terrible sins in the eyes of the church.

That’s old news. The new sin, according to Francis, is that “there are things that Jesus doesn’t like,” such as married couples “who don’t want children, who want to be without fruitfulness.” This “culture of comfort,” he said, “has convinced us that it’s better to not have children! That way you can see the world, go on vacation, have a fancy home in the country and be carefree.”

According to Francis, people think it is better or easier “to have a puppy, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the puppy. Isn’t this true or not? Have you seen this?”

This is real news. Jesus hates puppies! Or, being fair and balanced, Jesus can only abide puppies in families with children—presumably the more the better. So long as they’re Catholic.

Digging deeper into the story: is there any connection between the war on puppies and new legislation in Ohio to ban insurance coverage for certain forms of contraception, including the Plan B pill and IUDs? This is not Hobby Lobby-type employer choice we’re talking about – it’s an absolute ban on any Ohio insurance company offering this kind of coverage to anyone. Once the bishops win their Hobby Lobby “freedom” argument, the next logical step in the path goes rather in the opposite direction. No more puppies! You’re gonna have children whether you want them or not.

Some of us are all in favor of a “culture of comfort,” the kind Epicurus was talking about, 2,400 years ago, which teaches that the whole point of life on earth is to be happy. For most people, being happy does involve having children, and church teaching against using scientific methods to solve physical problems preventing child-bearing is viciously cruel. A significant minority, though, really don’t want to have children, for lots of perfectly valid reasons. Francis, who must claim a special psychic power to read Jesus’ mind since nothing in the Bible records what Jesus had to say about puppies, puts this squarely in the category of “things that Jesus doesn’t like.”

Dear PR guy Burke: Your client would do a lot better staying on-message by sticking to the “Who am I to judge?” line than by wandering off into a campaign against puppies, or by championing what can only be viewed as a “culture of discomfort” over an anti-Jesus “culture of comfort.”

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