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Out of Wedlock Birthrate Continues to Soar. Nothing Less than the Future of Our Country is At Stake

February 21, 2012

The breakdown of the traditional family is at the heart of what Daniel Patrick Moynihan once called a “tangle of pathologies.” The image I have often used is that the breakdown of the nuclear family is in fact a kind of nuclear fission. For the family (not the individual) is the basic unit of society. Splitting the family is like splitting the atom, it leads to a destructive chain reaction that, if not somehow controlled and contained, destroys just about everything in sight.

So many of our national ills are show a strong connection to the breakdown of the family: poverty (the highest correlation to poverty is single motherhood), juvenile crime, teenage suicide, promiscuity, teenage pregnancy, lower SAT and other academic scores, higher dropout rates, authority and trust issues, abortion (85% of abortions are performed on single women), a demonstrated lower capacity to make and keep commitments, delayed maturity, and a whole array of other things in a “tangle of pathologies.”

Clearly God, and nature provide that a child should have the influence of both a father and a mother, both a male and a female influence. It makes sense that proper human formation would require both male and female influence, which is both complimentary and diverse. There are important things that a child can learn from his father than he cannot learn from his mother and vice versa.

In a recent article, author Doug Patton does a good job setting forth some of the numbers and the things that ought to cause us serious concerns. While his article is essentially political, I here use the non-political aspects to  frame our discussion. As always, the Original Text is in bold black italic typeface and my comments are in plain red text.

In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Labor Department official, released an alarming report about the number of black children born to unwed mothers. The percentage at that time was 25 percent. In the years that followed, Moynihan went on to become a United States Senator from New York, and the percentage of out-of-wedlock births among African-American mothers soared to today’s level of 73 percent.

If alarms were being sounded at 25% surely now with the rate approaching 80% merits a major national outreach. But what do we have? Silence. To speak of single motherhood is politically incorrect, and most leaders in the Black community, while privately lamenting the huge problem, consider public discussions of the issue to be “off message.” The preferred message is one which emphasizes poverty and racism. These are not insignificant issues but more attention must be paid to the “self-inflicted” wounds. And while some would like to trace illegitimacy to racism and poverty, the fact is, that when both were far worse back in the 1950’s and 60’s, the out of wedlock rates were below 20%. There are simply other factors to consider, and understanding these wounds as self-inflicted restores personal responsibility and overrules the “victim” card.

Some years ago I was at a meeting of inner city church leaders, both Catholic and Protestant. Out topic was how to lower the poverty rate. After many of the usual solutions were trotted out (e.g. job training, Government outlays etc.) I suggested that we ought to vigorously teach and encourage chastity. Well, heaven forfend, did the room ever grow quiet and icy stares come my way. It was clear that I was “off message” and that such “moralizing” was an unkind. Someone quickly changed the subject.

In my own African American Parish we do speak a lot about this problem. I have met with the men especially, and called them to account. We are currently planning to view the movie Courageous and prepared the men to make public promises to live and act responsibly toward the women and children in their lives. We are also ramping up to provide more vigorous marriage preparation and marriage enrichment. Among the High School students, yours truly speaks quite clearly that fornication is a mortal sin and a huge barrier to success. Progress is slow but steady.

Indeed the marriage numbers are grave. In the African American community only  37% of women college graduates have ever been married. And at any given time, only 33% of black women are married. [1] Grave numbers. Until such things are addressed, the soil grows ever thinner and the taller growths among our children are less and less likely.

Hard though it is, accepting personal responsibility is essential to human dignity.

As we shall see the Black Community is not alone in demonstrating serious issues with sexual promiscuity. The White community too is mired in promiscuity and irresponsibility.

That [out of wedlock rate in the African American community] is higher than the rate during the years when parts of America still practiced slavery. Ponder that fact for a moment. In 1850, when black men, women and children in several of the states could be ripped from their loved ones and sold as property, a higher percentage of their children were being born and raised in marriage-based, two parent families than there are a century and half later, in 2012. – Exactly. And now author Patton widens the conversation.

This troubling fact is reflective of what Moynihan once called “a tangle of pathology.” Indeed. And in 2012 that tangle has ramifications for every aspect of society, as the percentage of unwed white mothers has risen sharply to rates higher than the ones that so alarmed Moynihan about blacks in the 1960s. In fact, the combined rates for unwed American mothers of all races have climbed to a staggering 41 percent. In the case of women under age 30, the rate now stands at 53 percent.

Yes, it is too easy for White America to point to the Black and inner city community. I was once confronted by a brother priest who asked me, in effect, “What is wrong with those Black folk you serve…having all those illegitimate births?” I accepted his concerns for the illegitimacy rate but warned him that the White community was not far behind and that in his suburban affluent white community he might be surprised if he actually did the math and saw the actual rates.

In a certain sense the African American Community is like the “Canary in the mine.” In the old days, miners brought down canaries into the mine. If there was gas, the sensitive canaries died first signalling the miners that there was trouble.

The truth is, for all the finger pointing, most white children are now raised in single family homes and the number has jumped dramatically in the last ten years. And as for Latinos, especially immigrants, the numbers are also horrible. Among teenagers, who are at the greatest risk for getting into trouble, — 70 percent of U.S.-born teenagers with immigrant parents live in unmarried households.[2]

This is an increasingly illegitimate, irresponsible and immature nation. As always, it is the children who suffer. While adults take care of themselves and refuse to form responsible marriages and stick to their commitments, children are made to endure endless ignominies and conflicts. With dad one week, mom the next, “By the way, mom has a new boyfriend, but he is not as nice as the last one.”

Of course the expectation that these children will have any capacity to form lasting marriages or even have a modicum of human trust, grows ever remote.

Yes, this is the nuclear fission of our culture. And as the basic unit of the family is split and melts down, enormous and uncontrollable chain reactions set in that cause widespread destruction and loss.

Patton concludes:

A 53 percent out-of-wedlock birth rate among America’s young women is unsustainable…. Nothing less than the future of the country and the next generation is at stake.

It is increasingly clear that we need a miracle to save the West, and to save our country. Either that or we need a crisis that will so rock us back on our heels that we will actually have to start sticking together again to survive.

I will say that in this harsh desert there are some oases, some couples who do manage to form and keep stable and healthy marriages. God has worked with small and faithful remnants before to effect miraculous reforms. I pray that we can find enough faithful couples to work with God in this regard, before God’s judgment on the decadent West is final. As a priest I strive to work hard to prepare couples by emphasizing biblical principles and the teaching of the Church. I also strive to preach on marriage a lot. It’s all I can do. But with the culture so far gone, instructions and sermons alone may not be enough.

Help Lord, send us your mercy and heal our hearts wounded by lust and immaturity, hatred and unforgiveness. Help Lord, we need a miracle.

Indeed, an old song says, “In times like these you need a savior….”

Comments (16)

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  1. Gabriel says:

    Dear Monsignore.

    In 1966, Betty Friedan (born Goldstein) wrote her book “Feminine Mystique”. (Notice the title)

    In witch she posed “The question that had no name”.

    The question was “Is this all?”

    And thus she sowed the seeds of discontent into the heart of the American housewife.
    Life as a loving mother and a loving housewife, held no value to Betty.

    Instead, such an existence was, according to Betty “opression of women”.

    Betty would sit a queen and not a widow. And she would have all women act as her.
    As a reporter for Cosmopolitan Magazine, she proclaimed that “A man should be an accessorie in a womans life
    , not take it over”

    In her later book called “My life so far” she ultimately describes her meeting with the Pope.

    First she describes in long tirades and discusses at great length what kind of hat she would wear,
    as she claimed that a veil was the ultimate symbol of opression of women.

    After many discussions with many people she came up with a hat “that was not a hat”.
    Then she describes how opressive the Catholic Church is, and how it must be pushed in her direction.

    Before the meeting she describes “an erie feeling of suddenly taking part in a play written long ago”

    Then, she meets with the Pope and proceeds to hand him “a gift”.
    “The gift” was the upside down cross, attached to a circle, that is the symbol of feminism.

    In the meeting with the pope, she then makes demands that he will not agree to.

    Then she rounds of by claiming that the next step for The Womens Movement was “theological in nature, the coming of Christa” and that “there are no Gods or Godesses”.

    Now Monsignore…

    In the Book of Revelations there is talk of a woman wrapped in scarlet and decked in precious stones (goldsteins)

    This woman sits a queen and not a widow. She sits over over many waters
    Her name is a “Mystery” and she is the mother of harlots.

    Furthermore there is a description of two women.

    One remaining true to Christ, representing the Church ofcourse.
    The other, not so much.

    Towards the end of her life she stated “I have allways been an ill tempered bitch. People say I have mellowed out over the years, but I don`t know….”

    So, without further adoo, I hereby reveal.

    Betty Friedan author of Feminine Mystique is The Whore of Babylon splitting the atom of the family and encouraging women to disobey their husbands.

    Feminism is her legacy destroying families, promoting harlotry and, since abortion was legalized in 1973, has the blood of 50 million babies in her cup.

    She is drunk with the blood of the innocents.
    Denounce her from the rooftops.

    Proclaim Feminism as The Whore of Babylon, and denounce it from every Catholich Church

    and then, Monsignore Pope, proclaim Revelation 18:2 in a loud voice.

    The Archdioces of Washington must proclaim to the world that Mystery Babylon is Betty Friedan and her Feminism is the whoredom of Babylon.

    You must proclaim her fall and have women obey their husbands and end their harlotry at once.

    This is your miracle Monsignore.
    And your destiny.

    Can you do it?

  2. Cynthia BC says:

    I’ve told this story before, but will tell it again because it illustrates Msgr’s point about that out-of-wedlock births have become the New Normal:

    After my mother died, I went through her papers and came across some family birth certificates. The forms introduced the baptized child as follows:

    Ella, Tochter des Daniel und seiner Frau Emma (my grandmother was born in a German immigrant community in Wisconsin)

    Edith, daughter of Chester and his wife Ella

    Cynthia, daughter of Walter and his wife Edith

    Having looked these baptismal certificates over, I then went to my own files, and pulled out my daughter’s:

    Catherine, daughter of Christopher and Cynthia

    (For the record we had been married for nearly two years when our daughter was born.)

    The two words missing from my daughter’s baptismal certificate speak volumes about how our society has changed.

  3. Gabriel says:

    Here is the first chapter in her book “Feminine Mystique”.

    Read it.
    And then you shall know my words are righteous and true.

    http://www.h-net.org/~hst203/documents/friedan1.html

    .

  4. Nick says:

    Msgr., I hope you do an article on the link between marriage and birth rates next 🙂

  5. teo matteo says:

    A 53 percent out-of-wedlock birth rate among America’s young women is unsustainable…. Nothing less than the future of the country and the next generation is at stake. It is increasingly clear that we need a miracle to save the West, and to save our country…

    I tend to think that this is an exaggeration. Our country’s survival may not be the most important thing. The Roman Empire came and went and the Church survived. And on and on… I think that seeing our country as the most important thing to survive is like seeing the climate conditions of today and saying that if it changes then all will be lost. THe world will end if the climate changes. Well step back and look at the big picture. The Church will survive. Souls will be lost and souls will be saved. Christ will return.

    • Well, I am not talking about the Church I am talking about the West, and this country. Believe it or not I actually do love my country (patriotism is a virtue) and would, other things being equal like to see her survive and flourish. If that does not happen I DO understand that the Church will continue.

      • Lilith says:

        I actually think the paper is less important then the commitment. My father passed years ago and my mother recently passed. She was in her late 80s. My brothers were appalled to find out we were all born out of wedlock. I had known for quite some time. I do think the issue is with single parent dynamics and not necessarily those who commit to a family unit sans the marriage certificate.

  6. Ann says:

    The thing is, we’ve always had broken marriages and families. Always. But they were rare and more importantly, it was seen for what it is was, a tragedy. Regardless, the children of such a marriage still grew up in a community where there were intact families, and benefited from the stability that gave the entire community.

    I don’t know why people can’t look at this issue seriously. I guess it makes people feel bad. The issue couldn’t be more clear. But I guess it’s easier to just keep pouring more and more and more money into schools and other programs in a vain effort to replace the lost father. And now we’re learning, the father is priceless.

  7. Bob says:

    Of course this all could be part of a very long range plan by the Communist International to eliminate the West as a counterforce to Russia/China. Destroy the society which leads to the destruction of the state. Which leads to a “new” Great Power arising…..

  8. W. Randolph Steele says:

    I work on the staff of a criminal court and I interact with sworn sheriff’s deputies every day. In my conversations with them, both male and female, I have anecdotally found the same findings as the article. A long time sworn female deputy was off on maternity leave iwth her first child. The father was another deputy and they have NO intention of marrying. Likewise another deputy ios getting married to his long time girlfriend now their son is nearing a year old. Both he and another female deputy told me in NO uncertain terms that niether of them would marry anyone they hadn’t lived with beforehand. In fact, the new father told me that he had lived a couple of other women and discovered that, in his view they were not comaptible with him and therefore NOT marriageable. The female, who recently married her long time live in, said exactly the same thing. I AM NOT bad mouthing law enforcement officers. I depend on on them for my safety every day and they do a very good job. What I AM saying is that they represent SOME of the “working class” whites that I know. My youngest brother and I were lucky emough to go to college. A couple of our other brothers ( there are 6 sons in my family and I am the oldest) were not and they reflect the same view.

    What jumped out at me was the qoute in the NYT article that for many of them, marriage is a merely a piece of paper. I’ve heard this from some of the deputies Iknow as well. Some may decry easy divorce, but I’m old enough to remember the old days along with a few laywers from that time and trust ME, we don’t want to go back to that either. I have NO IDEA what the answer is, but it seems to ME, that if marriage “worked” for them, thy would marry. Apparently, it doesn’t. Until they figure out how to make it work for them, I don’t see this changing.

  9. DevilMayhem666 says:

    Marriage is just a piece of paper and out-of-wedlock births =/= single parent.

  10. MsGoody2Shoes says:

    I’m Catholic. However, I firmly believe in birth control and I DO NOT condone abortion except with some rare exceptions. Humans have sex because that is the “usual” way to procreate AND because it feels good. Folks today are not conforming Catholic church or Christian traditional ideologies. Family dynamics have changed.

    Yes, I agree it is ideal for children to have both parents in a loving home. If that’s not possible it is ideal to have both parents regularly involved in their children’s life. If the onus is relagated to one parent (usually the women) then more likely than not, the parent and their children will in poverty. However, IF the single parent can get support like social services, child care and education the single parent does not have to live in poverty.

    These are changing times. Family dynamics have changed. The Catholic church has to change too.

    By the way, children born out of wedlock and divorced parents’ children are n the same goat.

  11. ERISANation says:

    The stigma removed from out-of-wedlock birth was the Christian thing to do, at least for the person standing in front of you. But having children you cannot care for – whether because you were careless, don’t believe in birth control – natural family planning failed, is wrong. It is not Christian.