Children born of adultery

What is the Church’s position on children conceived through an adulterous affair? I know adultery is not a justifiable reason for an annulment, but what happens if a spouse conceives through adultery, what should the other spouse do?

Love and raise the child as his own, and allow the biological father to be a father as well, if that’s what is decided for the child. The child has done nothing wrong, and cannot help the circumstances of their birth.

As a child of just such a situation, my biological parents were married to other people, I will tell you that the shame and psychological trauma of a child in such circumstances is almost unbearable.
My Mother’s shame, fear of what everyone would think of her, and ambivalence-hostility to me were immediately felt. My legal father never said a word and treated me well, amazingly so now that I understand the circumstances. My biological father, while he continued the relationship with my mother for 40 years, staying married to his wife because he was such a “devout” Catholic, never acknowledged me as his daughter. I was almost a foot taller than my legal dad, which further angered and shamed my mother as it made her guilt even more obvious.
When I look back it seems like I was the only person in our part of town who didnt know who my real father was. I had a horrible childhood, left “home” at 17, my mother had divorced her husband when I was 9, and I was stuck with a neglectful and abusive situation. I didn’t figure any of this out until I was in my 20’s.
My biological father left an estate worth millions of dollars to his four legitimate children and nothing to me or my five children.
A child conceived under these circumstances should have counseling from the age of 7 or 8 if possible, and it should be ongoing as they are likely to have serious self-esteem and identity issues. It is easy to say the child is innocent, but this is one case where the innocent bear the weight of the guilt and shame, and it is a heavy burden. My husband has been helping me to carry it for more than 30 years, since we were 18. I am still affected by it.

We have a family member who was the result of a husband (not my blood relative’s) infidelity. She’s well loved by the whole family and considered to be just as much a member of our family as any of the other children. She’s been raised by her non-biological mom.

Obviously it’s not ideal (or even close to ideal), but if the partners can overcome their problems and recommit themselves to the marriage it is possible that the child can be raised in a loving environment.

Believe me, I get that, Eleanor. While my parents weren’t ‘married to other people’, they were both children in high school. My father left when I was four, leaving me with a mother who blamed me for what went wrong in her life. As was oft repeated in my house “If only you hadn’t been born…”

I agree that the child should get counseling.

What rubbish. How can a man be expected to raise another man’s child as his own?
In old Israel Moses commanded adulterers to be stoned. That was a very good system but today we go all soft on adulterers. What a shame and a disgrace for a man to be expected under some false sense of religious mercy to not only raise an adulterers child but to allow the adulterer access to that child?

I understand that there is no divorce in the Catholic church; but the church does not prevent the putting away of a wife/husband for adultery. The church merely prevents divorce and remarriage.
These issues are discussed here

If a spouse commits adultery and falls pregnant then the woman should be put away and the man should live a single life. But if he decides out of his own will, and not under any false sense of duty, to keep her as his wife then I agree he should raise the child as his own and deal with whatever consequences comes of that decision. However that is his own free decision and he must not be condemned if he chooses not to take back the mother and take on the child.

I can tell you for free that I would be taking the former course. Adultery is a despicable act specificallly because of the shame, disgrace and family destruction that it causes. Spurned illegitimate children are a consequence of adultery, not the consequence of a cheated husband who refuses to raise another man’s child.

Eleanor and mandajane, I am so sorry for what your parents put you both through. You were both innocent children and not deserving of the attitudes and treatment you both received. It was your mothers and biological fathers that made mistakes in their lives, not either of you. If you have not had any counseling, I would suggest you get some so that you will be able to move on to a happier place in life. If you reach the point where you can forgive them in your heart, it will be better for you. Forgiveness does not mean it never happened, or that you have to act that way. But it is a gift to yourself that may allow you to lead a happier life. May God bless you and guide you both.

I am sorry…Putting away? I don’t understand what this means.

Consider adoption. For the sake of the child, and for the sake of trying to repair a very damaged marriage.


“Put away”
What is that?
People raise other children as their own all the time.
Just because a family tries to take care of this situation in a civil manner, with love of the innocent child in mind, doesn’t mean they are “going soft” on the adults in question. It means they are trying to be mature and adult about it. They do things to try and keep the family together. There is such a thing as forgiveness. Much better than stoning.

My two youngest are adopted, and while they have identity issues, particularly my bi-racial teen, I do believe that this is a valid suggestion. Adoption does leave the adoptee with some definite issues to work through, but I think it must be healthier than being raised in a situation where you are constantly reminded that you are the source of guilt, anger, shame, bitterness, and the breaking up of one home and who knows what damage to the other. I have two half-sisters, who were made to lie and cover up my Mother’s activities and take over almost all the care of me as they were young teenagers when I was born. They have been very damaged by all this as well.

Our adopted children have brought great joy into our lives, and I think they know this and feel loved. It is not something I ever felt as a child.

Do not misread reality for a lack of forgiveness. I have discussed this at length with priests and I do not harbor grudges or think about this often. I cared for my mother in her old age for as long as I was able, physically and psychologically to bear it. I have some compassion for her, none for him as he was a liar and user, selfish to a degree seldom encountered. Really they were both very selfish people, but she was also easily victimized because of her need for constant attention. Forgiveness does not have the power to magically erase the past or to fix people who are seriously broken. It simply frees one from the need to sit in judgement, rehearsing old wrongs. Believe me, I have forgiven to the extent that my confessor thinks possible.

I simply had to post from the child’s point of view when I saw the subject line.

I have forgiven my mother, and I’ve had extensive therapy, for many reasons. Hence my original post, to just love the child, and raise it. Any “man” who would allow his own ego to get in the way of taking care of an innocent child because of his wife’s transgression, doesn’t deserve to be called a man at all.

This thread isn’t about adultery, or what should be done to the spouse. This thread is about the child.

Putting away is the old term for seperation.
I see that you did not bother to read the link I provided but quite happily concluded that I was favouring stoning.

Canon ix decreed: “A faithful woman who has left an adulterous husband and is marrying another who is faithful, let her be prohibited from marrying; if she has married, let her not receive communion until the man she has left shall have departed this life, unless illness should make this an imperative necessity” (Labbe, “Concilia”, II, 7). The Synod of Arles (314) speaks indeed of counseling as far as possible, that the young men who had dismissed their wives for adultery should take no second wife" (ut, in quantum possil, consilium eis detur); but it declares at the same time the illicit character of such a second marriage, because it says of these husbands, “They are forbidden to marry” (prohibentur nubere, Labbe, II, 472). The same declaration is to be found in the Second Council of Mileve (416), canon xvii (Labbe, IV, 331); the Council of Hereford (673), canon x (Labbe, VII, 554); the Council of Friuli (Forum Julii), in northern Italy (791), canon x (Labbe, IX, 46); all of these teach distinctly that the marriage bond remains even in case of dismissal for adultery, and that new marriage is therefore forbidden.

Dismissal of a cheating spouse is permissable, but remarriage is forbidden.

Please reread my post. I conceded that some cheated husbands may choose to accept the adulterous spouse and illegitimate child. I merely insist that this should be their own free choice and should not be induced upon them by a false and incorrect pressure of family and church to “show love to the innocent child”, “keep the family together”, “be a mature adult”. I have heard of too many cases when the innocent and offended spouse becomes the subject of attack from family and church because they are “not showing love”, are “splitting up the family”, “not being mature and forgiving”. So instead of the cheated spouse receiving love and support from the family and church, they receive condemnation when they have done no wrong.

This is such a significant statement - something so many people lack in their lives. I think you have learned it well. God bless you in your continued journey.


I absolutely agree with the adoption suggestion.

My mother was adopted and though we don’t know the circumstances behind her adoption (she was an infant and is now in her 60s) she has no desire to research it, and never has.

Her adoptive parents, my grandparents, ARE her parents…end of story. They are my grandparents…end of story. She was raised well, loved and cared for and was given every thing and every opportunity she could have ever desired.

I understand plenty of adoptive children do want to know who their biological parents are but I know others that don’t.

Every child is a gift from God and should be treated as such. Resentment is selfish…but one of the most selfless acts parent can make is choosing adoption for a child they cannot care or cope with.

I agree it is about the child. The child should be raised by his/her true biological father.

Clearly you are not a husband and a father. It is a matter of simple justice that no man should be required to raise another man’s child. It is immoral to expect a man to raise another man’s illegitimate child.

You know that fathers today are like an underclass of society. You say “it is all about the child” but you could not care less about the innocent husband in your scenario.

Just like fathers the world over. We are here to pay the bills and have become an underclass of society.

The church should stand up for natural justice and not be bent to serve the latest popularist norms of society.

My circumstances were not ideal, but my legal father, who was raising another man’s child as you put it, was a bright spot in my bleak childhood. He treated me as his own, took me with him everywhere, paid child support to my mother when she divorced him (how ironic is that?) bought my school uniforms, lovely gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and was the only grandfather my children had, their much beloved Pop-pop. I see now what a truly superior man he was, and the pain he had to deal with. He would never have divorced my mother despite his suspicions. You are right, it is an awful lot to ask of a man, and I am in awe when I think back on it.

I don’t understand the question. The church’s position on such children is the same for all children. The child’s biological parents have to decide what is in the best interest of their child. This can be any number of solutions depending of the situation. The child can be given for adoption. The couples may agree to raise the child together, if they can. One spouse can be forgiving and generous enough to adopt the child as his or her own. Or the child might join the ranks of a growing number of children being raised by their grandparents. There’s not really point in trying to discern what is the “ideal” solution because it isn’t an “ideal” situation in the first place.Whatever they choose, the child is going to have some difficulty. They have to work with what they have to offer and decide what is best for their families.

If there are already other children, adoption is not without problems. How can the other children feel secure, knowing that their mother is going to give away a sibling? No, the best result is for the woman to stay with her husband, and for the husband to sacrifice and be the child’s daddy. And contrary to petrels’ opinion, many men have done just that. It is actually very indicative of a man’s character to be able to love a child that is not his own. A real man can overcome his own pain and put the child first.

What if the child’s real father objects to this solution? He may intend to gain legal rights to his child. What if the man the woman is married to was a wicked brute in the first place and makes the other man’s child a servant? Not all women who cheat are cheating on a saint. Just as often, they are cheating on a jerk. There are too many possible variables to make a statement that one solution is the “right one”. If we were dealing with solid individuals, the situation wouldn’t exist in the first place.

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