A story published today by Catholic World News
reports that the Bishop of Killaloe, Ireland has publicly apologized for the Church's
attitude to unmarried parents and those whose love "cannot receive the blessing of
Bishop Willie Walsh was addressing 3,000 people at a national
celebration of marriage and family life at the Marian shrine of Knock in the west of
Ireland. The celebration took place on June 17. The bishop was speaking as president of
Accord, formerly the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council.
Bishop Walsh told the participants that the ideal of family was two
parents loving each other and, through that love, bearing children. But he said the
reality was that families came in all shapes and sizes, including unmarried mothers and
fathers, and parents who were not married in church, either by choice or because they
could not marry in church. He said the event at Knock celebrated "the love of the
unmarried mother/father for her/his child" and "love between partners whose love
cannot receive the blessing of the Church."
"It is all too easy to bemoan and decry the breakdown of
family, to wail against divorce, to lament the ever-increasing percentage of births
outside of marriage," the bishop said. But, addressing those who "do not share
or perhaps find it impossible to meet these ideals", Bishop Walsh said the manner in
which they had sometimes been treated by the Church "has been less than Christian,
and for this, I ask your forgiveness."
Bishop Walsh-- who prefers to be known as "Willie"-- made
no reference at all to homosexual couples in his address.
A story published today in the Montreal Gazette reports that 55
percent of Quebec children are born out of wedlock, compared with 27 per cent in the rest
of Canada, according to a study by the provincial government which provides the first
comprehensive picture of child development in the province.
Once labeled "illegitimate," these children are four times
more likely to face the separation of their parents before they reach their sixth birthday
than are those born to a married couple, the study says. This conjugal instability places
them at greater risk of developing behavioural problems, even before they enter elementary
school, the authors say.
"Starting and keeping a family together - and nurturing it as a
partnership at least until the children grow up and leave home - no longer seems to be a
necessary premise for conjugal life," the study of 2,120 Quebec infants and their
"Indeed, for over 30 years this traditional vision has been
under fire from all sides. The 1970s were marked by an increase in the divorce rate, and
the 1980s by the decline in marriage and the growth of common-law unions.
"More recently still, these 'paperless' unions have taken over
from marriage as the context for starting a family."
Richard Tremblay, an expert in child development at the Universite
de Montreal and one of the researchers who worked on the study, said he was astonished by
the findings concerning parents.
"It seems that young people having children today have lived
with many partners before they start having children," Tremblay said after making
public the voluminous study at Ste. Justine Hospital yesterday.
"There has been a habit of changing partners, and it's really
increasing over time. It's becoming a culture and it's worrisome, because it leads to
family breakups and very complicated lives. It also leads to a lot of poverty, because
single mothers are put in a more difficult position afterward."
The researchers predict that children born out of wedlock will be
"thrust into family trajectories that are often very complicated" at an
increasingly younger age.
For example, they said, the children might have to cope with living
without a father for years, or joining a new family with a step- father and step-siblings.
The story says that the conclusions of the study, which was
commissioned by the Quebec Health Department, are bound to raise the ire of unmarried
couples and single parents who feel that they are raising their children responsibly.