September 18, 2009


Sex outside of marriage

One of our readers, Joseph M. Mucha of Pittsboro, has encouraged us to editorialize about men’s role in the mounting number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

He wrote, “Today, only the unmarried woman is admonished for getting pregnant: ‘How could she do this? Why did she let this happen? Didn’t she take precautions? I hope she’s not thinking of having that baby.’ Why is it that we aim our liability lasers at the woman, rarely at the fellow?”

Obviously, Mucha has put his finger on one of the problems of our society. Yes, men are just as much to blame for the rising rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, which has now reached 40 percent overall and 70 percent in the black community.

But that is only one of the problems.

Mucha also wrote, “In earlier years in my neighborhood, if an unmarried woman was with child, no one slept until the father’s name was affirmed and he took responsibility, or else.” That was “in earlier years.”

Today, neither the man nor the woman sees anything wrong with having a baby out of wedlock. It is no longer a social stigma. Sex outside of marriage is taken for granted, as is cohabitation.

Helen Alvaré recently wrote a series of columns on this subject for the Culture of Life Foundation’s Web site. (We do, by the way, recommend that Web site located at

She noted that this past Father’s Day President Barack Obama asked fathers to step up to their fathering responsibilities, and that’s important because “a robust father-child bond is a crucial piece of the puzzle of a healthier future for U.S. children.”

However, Alvaré said, what is missing is the father’s relationship to the mother: “Forgetting that everything related to fathering begins with the mother is foolish.” And, she says, “Sex, marriage and parenting take place in the context of the hopes and beliefs of men and women about intimate heterosexual relationships.”

Studies that Alvaré quotes show that unmarried couples with children spend little time making the decision to engage in sex with the other parent: “It is almost as if it is not worthy of discussion or debate. It is not a decision bearing moral significance for them. There is rather an attraction to the other person, and then there is sex [fairly soon, too] as part of this.”

Here, then, is the biggest problem in this area that we are experiencing today: “By the lack of discussion about the decision to embark on a sexual relationship, and by the frequent practice of having multiple sex partners even during their adolescence, both males and females are saying that they don’t see sex as a terribly significant decision.”

What, we ask, has happened to the whole concept of chastity?

The Catholic Church still teaches that fornication (sexual intercourse between unmarried persons) is sinful because, as the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults says, “it violates the dignity of persons and the nuptial meaning and purpose of sexuality, which is ordered to the unitive and procreative goals of married people” (p. 406).

Is it too late for our society to return to that concept, one that was accepted nearly universally until about 50 years ago? Then came the development of the birth control pill, which made the so-called “sexual revolution” possible.

Today, not only is there no thought of marriage between sexual partners, but there is also no thought of commitment to each other. That is despite the fact that psychological studies show that sex has significant emotional and intellectual effects, especially for young women. Often, they really don’t want to have sex with their boyfriends, but think that it is expected of them.

We’re under no illusions that we can change society’s attitude toward sex, but we should be able to convince our Catholic young people, both males and females, that the way to their happiness can best be found by following the teachings of the Church regarding sexual morality. They will never be sorry if they wait until marriage before they have sexual relations.

That’s why the archdiocese’s A Promise to Keep: God’s Gift of Human Sexuality peer mentor chastity education program is so important for the teenage presenters and the early adolescents who learn this positive abstinence message at a young age.

—John F. Fink

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