Pope Francis has urged couples to have more children, rather than pets, and called for family-friendly government policies. So he raised eyebrows Tuesday when he revamped the Vatican’s family leave policy with a new benefit giving new dads a mere three days of paid paternity leave.
The Vatican’s policy sets out the benefits for Vatican employees who have children or must care for disabled family members.
Under the policy, mothers already were entitled to six months’ maternity leave at full pay, which they can extend by another six months at half-pay. Parents who adopt a child are entitled to a similar benefit.
The new law sets out a three-day leave for new fathers at full pay. In contrast in Italy, fathers can take 10 days paid leave while mothers get five months.
The comparatively paltry Vatican policy for dads drew criticism on social media, with one person saying that three days was about the time needed to learn how to properly install a car seat.
While the Vatican employs priests and nuns who don’t have children due to the nature of their religious vows, the city-state in the center of Rome also employs hundreds of lay people who work in the Holy See bureaucracy, at the Vatican Museums and tend to the city state.
Francis has frequently lamented the ‘demographic winter’ in Italy, where birthrates are among the lowest in the world. He has urged couples to have more children and lamented that many opt instead to have pets.
“Cats and dogs take the place of kids,” he lamented during a recent general audience. “This denial of paternity and maternity diminishes us, it takes away humanity. And this way the civilisation becomes older and lacking humanity because you lose the richness of paternity and maternity. And the country suffers.”