Pope Francis: Childless Marriage Leads to Solitude and Bitterness

Pope Francis (2013)Originally published by Vatican Radio.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican on Monday morning, with a group of married couples at various stages on life’s journey in attendance. The focus of the Holy Father’s remarks following the readings of the day were the faithfulness, perseverance, and fruitfulness of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church—three characteristics that are also at the heart of Christian marriage.

Fifteen couples, with between 25 and 60 years’ experience in marriage, were gathered in order to give thanks to God for the milestones they’ve reached. After the readings of the day, Pope Francis shared some reflections on the three pillars of spousal relationship in the Christian vision of things: fidelity, perseverance, fruitfulness. The Holy Father said that Christ, Himself, is the model and measure of these, which the Pope called the “three loves of Jesus”: for the Father, for His mother, and for the Church. “Great” is His love for the Church, said Pope Francis, adding, “Jesus married the Church for love.” She is, he said, “His bride: beautiful, holy, a sinner, He loves her all the same.” His way of loving set the three characteristics of this love in relief:

“It is a faithful love. It is a persevering love. He never tires of loving his Church. It is a fruitful love. It is a faithful love. Jesus is the faithful one. St. Paul , in one of his Letters, says that, if you confess Christ, He will confess you, before the Father; if you deny Christ, He will deny you; even if you are not faithful to Christ, He remains faithful, for he cannot deny Himself! Fidelity is the essence of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ love in His Church is faithful. This faithfulness is like a light on marriage. The fidelity of love. Always.”

Always faithful, and also indefatigable in its perseverance – just like the love of Jesus for His Bride:

“Married life must be persevering, because otherwise love cannot go forward. Perseverance in love, in good times and in difficult times, when there are problems: problems with the children, economic problems, problems here, problems there – but love perseveres, presses on, always trying to work things out, to save the family. Persevering: they get up every morning, the man and the woman, and carry the family forward.”

Then the Holy Father discussed the third characteristic: fruitfulness. The love of Jesus, says Pope Francis, “makes the Church fruitful,” providing her with new children through Baptism, and the Church grows with this spousal fruitfulness. “In a marriage,” said Pope Francis, “fertility can sometimes be put to the test when the children do not arrive, or are sick.” The Pope said that in such times of trial, there are couples who look to Jesus and draw on the power of fertility that Christ has with His Church. There are also other things that Jesus does not like – such as marriages that are sterile by choice:

“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.”

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14 Responses to Pope Francis: Childless Marriage Leads to Solitude and Bitterness

  1. Pope Francis makes a lot of assumptions when he speaks of marriages without children. There are many variables and other ways couples may seek fulfillment in their lives besides the mundane examples he puts forth. A childless couple may offer the time and disposable income they have in service, etc. At some point every marriage becomes childless in the sense that for the majority of time one is a parent, they are a parent to an adult. Then what?

    This idea of service in any situation seems to fit better with the analogy given of Jesus and his life of sacrifice. Not sure how the Pope comes to the conclusion, “There are also other things that Jesus does not like – such as marriages that are sterile by choice.” The suggestion to draw on Jesus’ power of fertility with his Church is an interesting one.

  2. This reminds more of the karma-marga where “fruitfulness” is an expected aspect of one’s belief system. I have heard rumors stating that this “fruitfulness” is also a part of why Roman Catholicism rejects the use of contraceptives so that there would not be such a loss of the the catholic population over time. Interesting read.

    I do believe that it is more accurate to say that “Kṛṣṇa-less marriage Leads to Solitude and Bitterness.”

    I wonder where that leaves Jesus. How many children did he have?

  3. I find the Pope’s comments so disrespectful to both humans and animals. No human being has a right to discuss openly about the private lives of others in such a disrespectful manner.
    What about the pain individuals have to go through who cannot have children and those who did not meet a suitable life partner.

    Every one on this earth follows a different path and their journey should not be treated and commented upon with such cold criticism. It is certainly not the Christian way to treat people and certainly not a way to invite people into the Church. Education has taught us to be more inclusive and sensitive to the needs of others at every level.There are multiple reasons why individuals have not children. I find the Pope’s comments offensive given that priests do not have children.

  4. Pope has reason and this pope is a great person. Love Jesus who brings the love for poor people

  5. make children is a duty and natural. If you dont have children you will have problem to understand life and you can become strange and obsessive in spiritual question.

    if you dont have children you can stay in a black hole. Pope speak right

  6. i mean…I’m not talking about monks or nuns or sannyasi, these people are married with God (even if it is a few for a few, special people). I’m talking about a man and a woman who have decided to get married. wedding is to take a family (marriage comes from the Latin “mater” meaning mother) and couples who do not have children often become strange or they absorb themselves in religious matters in a wrong and excessive and this brings confusion. the dharma of those who are married is different from the dharma of religious people. Those who can not have children should adopt them, the pope is right.

    • Sati, although in general what you have said is true not all married couples should have children. If for example a married couple is fully engaged in the service of the guru then to have children would be a step backwards rather than a progressive step toward selflessness.

    • It is said that Mahaprabhu taught by example the life of a prefect householder—grihijana siksaka. He fathered no children.

  7. Chaitanya mahaprabhu was God and he lived in a period where marriage was decided by parents. If a couple lives in ashram and serve the guru is ok, but if you take marriage and live in a house with your wife or husband is correct have children. To make spiritual life we need to born in the human form. It is a divine service. God is children

    • Sri Caitanyadeva is God but living like a devotee, just like the rest of his associates. Gaura-lila is sadhana siddha bhumi, the land of perfected practitioners showing us how to be devotees. Your basic argument that we cannot “imitate” God does not hold in this instance because Mahaprabhu and his associates demonstrate the decorum of devotees for us.

      In addition, there are many practical reasons why some couples should not have children. Some couples have older parents who, like children, must be taken care of. Some couples would not make good parents for psychological reasons. Some couples cannot have children, including same-sex couples. There are also good environmental reasons not to have children.

      Still, some couples need children to feel fulfilled in their lives. There is nothing wrong with this just as there is nothing wrong with couples who do not share that specific need.

  8. Actually, I believe that raising children is one of those ultimate tests in life. Society which neglects proper upbringing of children is pretty much destined to fail. Vedic also culture placed great emphasis on properly raising children. It is important for the individual parent’s spiritual and material life, as well as for society in general as it ensures continuity of culture and biological survival of any given population. Of course the religious escapists prefer to focus on their own escape from this material world.

  9. One couple who’ve been married for many years I look up to a lot.
    They have no children for whatever reason, but the wife is a brilliant artist and paints Krsna art. Her husband is a respectful hard working man and devotee.

    I almost suspect that Krsna made such a childless arrangement just for the wife to have such free time to keep up her wonderful paintings of Him and His eternal associates.

    She also lends most of her time making jewelry and decorations for New Raman Reti’s Deities and painting gorgeous life like backdrops for Their altar.

  10. Thanks God me and my wife are childfree! I see couples who have children usually don’t have time to do sadhana or go deep in the study of Shasta. So why bother at all to have children if you can choose? In the end many child of devotees don’t become practioners of bhakti.

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