What are the consequences of the fact that 40% of babies in the United States are now being born out of wedlock?

They aren’t good, according to a wealth of sociological data, not for adults and especially not for children. And this entrenchment of non-marital childbearing should be particularly disturbing to Catholics, according to Helen Alvaré:

For Catholics, the possible “normalizing” of out of wedlock childbearing is of particular concern, not only because of the diminished well-being of vulnerable children, but also because it calls into question the very necessity, the very centrality of the male-female relationship, for the lives of individuals and society. If, as we believe, the relationship between Christ and the Church is glimpsed in a special way in marriage, and if human beings come to understand God’s love in a privileged way as spouses, what does it portend if marriage is no longer understood to be the keystone of a good society?

Furthermore, all of this is happening in the teeth of increasingly well-known empirical findings about the disadvantages suffered by children reared outside of married, two-biological-parent households. It is literally “unreasonable.” It trudges on as if facts don’t matter. Adult sexual choices have everything to do with the well-being of the children they make; yet bad choices go uncensored by society.

Alvaré, a professor at George Mason University School of Law and the former director of information and planning for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, offers her thoughts on the subject in this commentary published by the Culture of Life Foundation.

She concludes her essay about the manifold problems associated with raising families without the foundation of marriage by calling on Catholics to take the lead in making the case for why marriage is so important to the well-being of children.

Catholics have special gifts and thus special responsibilities here. We have remarkably and uniquely developed moral and systematic theologies touching on the meaning of human sexuality. We are also required to exercise an option for the vulnerable as imitators of Christ. Therefore — on the grounds of our profound understandings of the relationships between marriage and child well-being, and between marriage and our ability to glimpse God’s love — Catholics ought to feel especially responsible to be involved in the search for the right contents and mix of legal and religious efforts to re-valorize marriage and marital childbearing.