Children born out of wedlock

historically, how was a child treated if they were born out of wedlock? popular portrayal is ostracism and scorn but historical things are always more complex than they seem. what was the church’s attitude?

I understand that simply having a child isn’t necessarily a valid reason to get married and abortion is obviously out of the question.

honestly, if this happens in a catholic circle today, there would be a lot of gossiping and pointing and whispering. the poor child’s life would probably be quite difficult. not to mention the mother. iunderstand not wanting to encourage the sin, but if it does happen, I mean we all commit sins, why are some people treated worse for their sins than others. if the person sincerely repented and is trying to bring the child up catholic, isn’t it pretty horrible for others to keep dragging up the past?

what would be the proper balance in regards to a grave sin committed and being merciful as well as not wanting to cause scandal?

The proper balance is not to assign guilt or blame to he child for the actions of its parents.

I almost never see anyone pointing fingers or looking askance at an unmarried person with a child. Really.
Now, does that happen because society comes to accept this? Or because people are demonstrating mercy toward the innocent child?
Both, I suppose.

But honestly, nearly nothing is said around here. If people think otherwise, they keep it to themselves. One would hope that there are prayers involved, in any case.

Not here, thank God. Too many of us have such children in our families & circle of friends. The worst that happens is my husband & I will, on occasion, ask ourselves, When are they going to get married?

yes, I agree, it’s less today, probably because a lot of people are doing it.

I’m just curious to know how it was in the past.

or maybe it was less common?

Why does it matter?
What are you trying to prove? That people have made mistakes in the past?
I think that’s pretty much a given. We make mistakes now.
We will make mistakes in the future.

I’m not trying to prove anything. just seeing if there is an alternative to the popular media perception

If you think you will change the media’s perception or presentation of Church history…you’re going to be completely disappointed and frustrated. :wink:

The truth is: YES people treated other badly. Some continue to do so to this day on any number of issues. WE are called to not make those same mistakes. Always act in charity, according to the Gospel message. We certainly don’t condone or encourage sinful behavior. Problem is…people seldom ask for Christian advice before embarking on poor life choices, whether intentional, or accidental.

The importance of well formed consciences. Yes. It’s a real thing.

no, obviously, i can’t change the media

I’m just seeing if there are other portrayals or perspective besides the usual ones

I’m sure there are. Many offspring of such situations were adopted by happy Catholic couples through Catholic agencies. :wink:


Well stated.

because the parents didn’t want them?

or because there was pressure from society for a woman to not raise a child on her own?

Probably both.

There was, for a long time, social stigma attached to both having a child out of wedlock (especially for the mother) and being that child. If a woman were from a wealthy family, she might disappear on a mysterious long holiday for the duration of her pregnancy and to recover from childbirth, while the child would be given up. Or the child would be “passed” as someone else’s - the grandmother’s, an aunt, an older sister’s who was already married, etc.

It was also hard for single mothers to be able to raise their children and deal with the harsh realities of work at that time. You might get a sympathetic employer, but you also might not. You might have a sympathetic neighbor or relative to watch your child, or you might not. There was no official “safety net,” just depending on the kindness of family and strangers.

Fathers, of course, could escape a lot of this. And there wasn’t really a difference in treatment if you became pregnant from consensual sex or rape, at least to my knowledge.

Speaking of today, I actually don’t think a woman would receive a lot of harsh judgment today, at least not around here, even in a Catholic community. We know how easy it is (at least in a physical sense if not an emotional one) to get an abortion instead.

it’s a tough topic,

nowadays, people don’t take marriage as seriously, which is probably part of it.

also, you’re right, the whole issue with abortion. but if a woman feels pressured to abandon her child when she could care for it, that isn’t a whole lot better

but due to social stigma attached to it, did it occur less overall? do you think?

I think there’s a variety of reasons. But yes, social stigma probably played a role. It still does for a lot of sins we might otherwise be likely to fall prey to. It’s not the best reason to not sin, but it is a reason. I don’t think it’s a reason that should be brought back, one because that genie’s not going back in that bottle, but more importantly, because shunning behavior isn’t a very effective way to show God’s love and mercy to a fellow sinner.

Unfortunately, the children suffer because of their parents’ sins; not be God’s design but because of consequence of sinful parents. Abortion, child abuse/neglect, single parent family: all because of the sins of the parents. The child should NEVER be subjected to any recrimination because of their parents sins.

WRT to your second topic: why are some people’s sins considered and treated worse than others? Because we are like those self-righteous Pharisees and villagers, gathered around a poor sinner ready to throw our stones. It’s easy enough to condemn others for sins we consider “worse” than our own; it’s also easy to say “well, my sin had different circumstances so I can’t be as bad as he/she!” God does not want to condemn us; He wants to forgive us, to love us, to have us willingly give up our sins.

Many single mothers went off to visit relatives in far off places, and came back 10 month later.
Babies got placed with loving families.
Was it wrong? Was it good for those children? Was it bad for the mothers? You’ll get opinions all over the map on this.
But this has little to do with any one denomination. Social mores were much stricter in the past. There was far more pressure to conform and at least present a picture of morality and respectability. That part of it is nearly gone now. It’s no longer shameful to be a single mom. Not great, of course, because it’s so difficult to raise children solo. But society seldom condemns this any more.

I don’t know, I just feel like, if I commit a sin, I should take responsibility for my actions

obviously once it happens, there’s not going back. better not to do it, but it does happen

if I go to confession and repent and resolve to try and do better, I think it would feel pretty horrible to be ostracized by everyone else for the rest of my life if you then try to do what’s best for the child

but you’re right, times were different, it’s hard to say

Yeah. I’m sure it was tough. I honestly think, back then, that most of those young women probably would have wanted to get married. There was no problem marrying young in those days. Most of them had boyfriends that just vanished or refused to marry them. :shrug:
Giving the children up fro adoption was often a result of pressure from parents.

guess things haven’t changed so much, substitute adoption for abortion and we have our current scenario

but I think on the whole, society had a stronger emphasis on chastity.

perhaps pregnancies outside of marriage were less common?

also no contraception, so much less of “safe sex doesn’t result in babies” mentality, probably

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