Pope Francis, Breastfeeding, and Breaking with Catholic Tradition


We now know the answer to a question no one in the entire world was asking: What does the bishop of Rome think about breastfeeding in public?

Our Lady of La Leche, Pray for Us!

Sometimes it’s fairly easy to predict how a certain anecdote or even a certain phrase from Pope Francis will get reported by the media. Not surprisingly, the secular media’s reporting often reveals more about the media, than it does about the Pope. Put “Pope Francis” and “Breastfeeding” in the same news item and all bets are off.

First, the set-up. In a recent interview with La Stampa, Pope Francis spoke about child hunger and told the following story in that context:

At the Wednesday General Audience the other day there was a young mother behind one of the barriers with a baby that was just a few months old. The child was crying its eyes out as I came past. The mother was caressing it. I said to her: madam, I think the child’s hungry. “Yes, it’s probably time…” she replied. “Please give it something to eat!” I said. She was shy and didn’t want to breastfeed in public, while the Pope was passing. I wish to say the same to humanity: give people something to eat! That woman had milk to give to her child; we have enough food in the world to feed everyone.

The Holy Father’s remarks garnered more than a little attention, often with troll-baity headlines like “Pope Francis’ Stance on Public Breastfeeding Might Surprise You,” or “Pope Francis backs public breastfeeding! And that makes him traditional…

But my favorite part about this whole story has to be this penetrating bit of reportage from the New York Daily News:

“Time’s Person of the Year appears to have broken with staunch Catholic tradition by encouraging the feeding of newborns whenever it’s needed.”

Let’s just say the New York Daily News needs to update the software on their Pope Francis News Story Generator Bot.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Stephen P. White is a fellow in the Catholic Studies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. His work focuses on the application of Catholic social teaching to a broad spectrum of contemporary political and cultural issues. Since 2005, Mr. White has been coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society: a three week seminar on Catholic social teaching, with an emphasis on the thought of Blessed John Paul II, which takes place every summer in Kraków, Poland. He studied politics at the University of Dallas and philosophy at the Catholic University of America. He is a graduate of the St. Patrick's Evangelisation School in London, England.

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