I want to discuss a very alarming new study that indicates that over 40% of children are born outside of marriage in this country. This situation is growing very serious and needs to be addressed in our parishes and homes. Here is a brief excerpt of the article:
The number of children born outside marriage in the United States has increased dramatically to four out of ten of all births. Figures show that 41 per cent of children born in 2008 did not have married parents – up from 28 per cent in 1990. Researchers have concluded that although Christian values still play an important role in American society, public attitudes have changed. Having a child out of wedlock does not carry the stigma and shame it once did, they say.
The study also found that in America there is a declining number of teenage mothers and rising numbers of older parents….
The U.S. research, taken from census reports and health statistics by the Pew Research Centre, also outlines a trend of couples in western societies marrying later in life and delaying parenthood until they can afford it.
The share of births to unmarried mothers had increased most among white and traditionally Catholic Hispanic women.
The article can be read here: 41% Of Children Born Outside of Marriage in US
The numbers are really quite striking and increase from 28% to 41% in just 18 years. Note that the article lays the matter clearly at our feet, fellow Catholics citing that we have shown the greatest increase in unmarried mothers.
As a Church we have to do a better job of addressing this very serious matter. It would seem that we should address it by re-emphasizing some of the following things:
- Fornication and cohabitation are serious sins – We need to teach and re-emphasize that fornication (pre-marital sex) and adultery are very serious sins. They are mortal sins and, if one commits them and dies unrepentant, they are excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. This is not the opinion of some grouchy old priest or Victorian parents it is the clear and consistent testimony of Scripture both in the Old and New Testaments. I have written on the Biblical teaching here before and you can read it here: Sober, Serene and Scriptural about Sex. I have also posted a PDF document that summarizes the Biblical teaching about pre-marital sex here: Biblical Teaching on Pre-Marital Sex. To be sure, some commit the sin of fornication in weakness but have recourse to confession and strive to master what is surely a strong passion. That is commendable. Yet to be so bold as to live together outside of marriage hardly demonstrates a contrition or a firm pupose of amendment. We must simply be clear that it is boldly sinful to cohabitate.
- Fornication and cohabitation undermine marriage – We need to demonstrate that cohabitation and fornication undermine marriage. Sex is a gift from God to the married to strengthen the love, loyalty and marriage of man and women. Since they share a great blessing and pleasure together their bonds are strengthened and their union encouraged. From this shared love and pleasure their children come forth quite literally as a fruit of their love. But when fornication and cohabitation and other sexual misbehavior becomes widespread and acceptable in a culture, one of the great and unique benefits of marriage (sexual intimacy) that serves as a kind of glue and incentive for marriage is thus removed. That this true is demonstrated by the sky-rocketing of rates of divorce and further cohabitation.
- Fornication and Cohabitation give scandal– Many people today think that giving scandal merely means to shock someone. But that is incorrect. To give scandal means to cause some one to fall by encouraging them or leading them to sin. One of the most scandalous aspects of fornication and cohabitation is that they NO LONGER cause shock. This means that this bad behavior is now having deep effects by robbing people of their shock and shame. It is very wrong to contribute to something that might cause my brother or sister to fall. Giving bad example or contributing to the notion that there is nothing wrong with premarital sex helps to lead others to this behavior. In the end we will be held to account for causing scandal or contributing to it unless we repent.
- Fornication and Cohabitation are an injustice to children– Many who engage in pre-marital sex say they will contracept (a sin in itself) and so no children will be affected. But that is simply not true. First, as already noted, promiscuity contributes to the overall undermining of marriage which surely harms children. But more specifically, the fact is that high numbers of fornicators and cohabitors DO conceive and this leads to higher rates of abortion and also single motherhood. It is a blessing if a child not aborted but it remains true that children born out of wedlock are born into less than ideal conditions. God has set forth that the best environment to rear and raise children is stable, faithful, heterosexual marriage. A child is best raised by a father and mother who are consistently present and who give complimentary witness. A father contributes to development in a way a mother cannot. A mother contributes to development in a way that a father cannot. To engage in risky and sinful behavior that places children at greater risk of abortion or incomplete homes is an injustice. We don’t often think of sexual sins as sins of injustice but they are. In the end, it is the children who pay.
You will no doubt wish to add to the list or perhaps nuance what I have said. But in the end I think we have to be firm and clear about the wrongful nature of this sort of sexual misbehavior. I will say that the Church was not as clear as she should have been with me when I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s. But I can assure you the fallen angel who is the devil, and our fallen culture ARE clear as to what they think.
It is tragic to think that almost half of the Children born in this country are born into situations that are far from ideal. It is even more tragic that this does not have to be. Many think we really can’t turn this thing around. I disagree. The example of a concerted effort at eliminating smoking has had significant impact. If we come together and agree and are firm and clear I am sure we can make a difference. Even just taking the PDF document on Scriptural teaching I have produced above and sharing it with you teenagers can help. But we need to do more and better. Things are at a critical stage just now.
For further data and research read here: Child Trends Data (NB Though the report written in 2001 indicates out of wedlock births had leveled off, that assertion has been superceded by the more recent data which shows it has now again spiked).
This video depicts an important parental connection in helping young people develop a proper notion of sexuality and how it relates to marriage: