Pope Francis is here, bearing a message of mercy and forgiveness for all. He cares about the poor, the unborn, those alienated by church, those “living in sin,” the elderly, immigrants, and the environment. But even for a man as compassionate and understanding as Francis, there are some vulnerable groups who not only slip through his net of mercy—they are actually targets of his criticism.
Beyond the obvious—faceless corporations, greed, capitalistic exploitation, and so on—there is another group that Francis thinks is selfish: childless couples. In fact, during his tenure Francis has directly described those who choose not to have children as “selfish” and as obsessed with material things. He regularly uses sterility as a pejorative metaphor and fruitfulness as the primary image for that which flourishes. In so doing, he appears unaware of how this language alienates those without children and empowers others to negatively judge them.
Even the socially powerful are affected by this kind of perspective. When she ran for Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel faced scrutiny from German media and the broader public merely for not having children. Her choice was interpreted as a calculated career move. Some questioned whether she was a good representative of womanhood, or even of humanity in general.