A reader asks about a pregnant neighbor

He writes:

I have a question I thought you might be able to help me with. An acquaintance of mine — someone I see regularly but don’t know intimately enough to consider a friend — recently announced that she is pregnant. She is not, however, married nor has she given any indication that she intends to marry the father of her child.

I found myself simply not knowing how to react to this news or how to behave. Obviously, I was pleased for her, as she is genuinely happy at the prospect of being a mother. However, part of me nevertheless cringes at the fact that she’s not married and sees no need to be. Maybe I’m terribly old fashioned and out of step but that doesn’t sit well with me.

At the same time, I most definitely do not want to be a Christian who’s more concerned about propriety than I am about the fact that this woman is not only about to become a mother but is doing so in a culture where many women in her situation would choose otherwise. I want to be supportive of her decision to give birth but I also don’t want to be condone her decision to do so unwed (I should add that she is a Catholic).

Am I straining at gnats here? Is this something worth worrying about or am I tying myself in knots over a problem that doesn’t exist? I know only too well how many well-meaning Christians come across as scolds rather than as conveying the joy of the Gospel. I don’t want to do that, but her decision to have a child with a man she doesn’t intend to marry doesn’t sit well with me.

I think the thing to do is affirm what can be affirmed here: the decision to choose life and to love her and her child.  If she asks (which she won’t) if you approve of having children out of wedlock, you can tell her the truth: that it’s not so much about Breaking Rules as it is that single motherhood is tough on her and her child, which is why your faith urges marriage.  The law was made for man, not man for the law.  But lots of moderns, Catholic and non-Catholic, imagine it’s the other way around and fear that God wants to punish our sexual sins for the sake of The Rules.  But the truth is the rules are there, not because God wants to punish, but to protect us.

That’s important for you to bear in mind because the primary thing she and her child still need is love and protection, not a scolding (as you note).  I may be wrong, but chances are pretty good she would marry the guy if she could.  Most women are not Murphy Brown.  They seek and are built for relationship.  So focus on the good of her and her child and encourage them however you can.  If the morality of fornication comes up in conversation, don’t hesitate to say what the Church teaches.  But remember that it’s all about her good and the good of her kid in the loving plan of God, not about Rulekeeping.


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