“Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission – to be of service to them whenever they require it. If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
“The charming relations I have had with a long succession of dogs results from their happy spontaneity. Usually they are quick to discover that I can not see or hear. Considerately they rise as I come near, so that I may not stumble. It is not training but love which impels them to break the silence about me with the thud of a tail rippling against my chair, or gambols round the study, or news conveyed by expressive ear, nose, and paw. Often I yearn to give them speech, their motions are so eloquent with things they can not say. Truly, as companions, friends, equals in opportunities of self-expression, they unfold to me the dignity of creation, and in their joy smiles the blessing of St. Francis.”
– Helen Keller in A Tribute to a Dog
Helen Keller with Phiz (a Boston Terrier). Photo courtesy of Perkins School for the Blind
I was warming up to Pope Francis and his papacy until last week. Vatican Radio reported that fifteen couples, with between 25 and 60 years’ experience in marriage, were in attendance to hear the Pope decree that part of their duties were to abide by fruitfulness – that is to have children. He said:
“These marriages, in which the spouses do not want children, in which the spouses want to remain without fertility. This culture of well-being from ten years ago 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 care-free…it might be better – more comfortable – to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or is this not? Have you seen it? Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fruitful, it does not do what Jesus does with his Church: He makes His Church fruitful.”
Pope Francis seemed to be warming to the role of dogs in our lives with the blessing last year of a guide dog owned by a visually-impaired radio journalist…
But this latest directive is a step backwards. I think in a world that is overpopulated by humans, this attitude is misguided. There are many people (some with, and some without, children) who devote their lives to the care of God’s creatures. We should not pass judgment on their life choices.