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Do religions sometimes forget the childfree?

By Victoria Fryer 

I was raised a staunch Catholic (even if I didn’t necessarily always feel like one). I was baptized, had my First Communion, and was confirmed before I graduated high school. But some statements by Pope Francis, would, I imagine, make many couples who choose to be childless feel forgotten by the church.

Earlier this year, while speaking to a crowd in Italy, he called the choice to remain childfree “selfish.” And the previous year, he said, “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.”

The issue is not, of course, with the Catholic faith alone. Some people in the Jewish faith have noted a kind of “otherness” at their own services. In this article, Deborah Muller writes, “[S]o many aspects of Judaism revolve around family and domestic life… which form the strong pillars required to support the Jewish religion and culture throughout consecutive generations. But that same strength easily turns into a weakness when the religion ignores the needs and emotions of those without a family or spouse.”

It is frustrating to think of all the people who dedicate their lives to a religious teaching only to feel excluded from their faith. And if any place should be accepting of an often difficult and fraught decision, we hope it would be our place of worship, finding solace in our congregations and in our faith.

These incidents don’t reflect all of religion, and certainly don’t trickle down to every place of worship. So perhaps it’s easy for people of these faiths to look past the occasional exclusion. And I do believe things are changing. As our faiths evolve, places of worship have become more inclusive of all types of people, and lifestyles that were once looked down upon have become welcome.

Religion’s roots in the family unit go back so far, and it’s hard to turn a ship. And I think we as humans have generally become pretty good at making our religions something that complement instead of complicate our lives. But I do hope that childfree people—coupled or single—of all faiths are finding healthy ways to reconcile their perfectly valid life choices with the statements of some religious leaders, or some inadvertently exclusive traditions.

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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