Lawyer Says Men-Women Relations Need Healing

Analyzes US Out of Wedlock Birth Rate

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 12, 2009 ( Catholics have a particular capacity and responsibility to help society recapture the waning value of bearing children within marriage, affirmed a consultor to the Vatican’s laity council.

Helen Alvaré, a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity and a senior fellow of law for the Culture of Life Foundation, affirmed this in an essay on the foundation’s Web site.

She commented on the “nearly 40% out of wedlock birth rate in the United States” recently reported by the Centers for Disease Control.

“The implications for our society loom large,” Alvaré affirmed. “According to empirical data published over the last several decades in leading sociological journals, these children, on average, will suffer significant educational and emotional disadvantages compared to children reared by their married parents.”

She continued: “They are likely to repeat their parents’ behaviors. The boys are more likely to engage in criminal behavior and the girls to have non-marital children.

“There is also the fact that American society is becoming increasingly segregated by different marriage and family patterns.”

The lawyer noted that for Catholics, “the possible ‘normalizing’ of out of wedlock childbearing is of particular concern, not only because of the diminished well-being of vulnerable children, but also because it calls into question the very necessity, the very centrality of the male-female relationship, for the lives of individuals and society.”

She added, “If, as we believe, the relationship between Christ and the Church is glimpsed in a special way in marriage, and if human beings come to understand God’s love in a privileged way as spouses, what does it portend if marriage is no longer understood to be the keystone of a good society?”

Scientific data

The law professor underlined “increasingly well-known empirical findings about the disadvantages suffered by children reared outside of married, two-biological-parent households,” and noted that for many people, these facts to not seem to matter.

“Adult sexual choices have everything to do with the well-being of the children they make,” she stated, “yet bad choices go uncensored by society.”

Alvaré reflected on the question of whether religion, law or another element would “influence single women and men to think about the long-term well-being of children.”

In her research on the phenomenon of out of wedlock childbearing, she noted an “absence of moral-type thinking about sexual intercourse.”

The lawyer observed that “there is room for a lot of improvement in religious communications about morality and sexual behavior.”

She added: “This is bad news in the sense that churches have failed to do this in the past. It is good news if it is possible that a really stepped up effort in this regard might make a difference in the future.”

Alvaré underlined another point, that “the deep well of mistrust between men and women and the resulting loss to children has to be addressed.”

“The relationship between men and women must be healed,” she said. “If not, everyone suffers, perhaps most poignantly, the children.”

She affirmed that “both law and religion” have “important roles in influencing citizens’ ideas about marriage stability.”

“Catholics have special gifts and thus special responsibilities here,” the lawyer stated.

She explained, “We have remarkably and uniquely developed moral and systematic theologies touching on the meaning of human sexuality.

Therefore, Alvaré said, “on the grounds of our profound understandings of the relationships between marriage and child well-being, and between marriage and our ability to glimpse God’s love, Catholics ought to feel especially responsible to be involved in the search for the right contents and mix of legal and religious efforts to re-valorize marriage and marital childbearing.”

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