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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

4/17/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

How the Catholic Church Responds in Love to a Still Worrying High Number of Pregnant Teens

"The church's response is total charity. We do everything to convince a teen they have other options than abortion.  We as a church respond to the pregnancy with love."

Michael Six displays Bethlehem Catholic High School's handiwork.

Michael Six displays Bethlehem Catholic High School's handiwork.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

4/17/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: teen pregnancy, Catholic, homes for unwed mothers, love, charity

FOUNTAIN HILL,PA (Catholic Online) - According to an April 2012 data brief released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth rates for American teens have reached historic lows for all ages and ethnic groups.

The Data indicates that the U.S. teen birth rate declined nine percent from 2009 to 2010, reaching an historic low at 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19; the rate dropped 44 percent from 1991 through 2010.

Fewer babies were born to teenagers in 2010 than in any year since 1946.

We just might want to place the celebration on hold.

The decline still leaves the United States with having one of the highest teen pregnancy rates of all industrialized countries.

There is much ambiguity regarding the cause of the decline in teen birth rates. Abortion as a possible cause for the decrease cannot be ignored.

According to the Guttmacher Institute which is the "research arm" of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, eighteen percent of U.S. women obtaining abortions are teenagers; those aged 15-17 obtain six percent of all abortions, teens aged 18-19 obtain 11 percent, and teens younger than age 15 obtain 0.4 percent.

Of course, trusting the statistics offered by a front organization for Planned Parenthood is dangerous. However, even if these statistics are accurate, they do not and cannot ever justify the taking of the life of any innocent child in the first home of the whole human race -- their mother's womb.  

Studies on teen contraception use are ambiguous at best. There is much debate in some circles, especially those which favor contraception and abortion, concerning the effectiveness of abstinence-only pregnancy prevention. They often fail to consider that such programs, if they are any good, also present a view of the dignity of human sexuality, sexual expression and marriage.   

Catholic doctrine teaches that abstinence is the only appropriate behavior for unmarried couples. Most Catholic high schools promote abstinence in a variety of ways including offering abstinence speakers, such as Pam Stenzel.  

As reported in a February 2, 2007 "Catholic Online" article, Stenzel warned teens that,  "Sex involves not just body parts, but also one's heart and soul," Stenzel said. "This entails finding the right person who is willing to make a lifelong promise of love."

So what happens if teens fail in attempts to be abstinent and gets pregnant?

"We teach abstinence, but once a teen gets pregnant, it is no longer a moral issue," said the Rev. Scott Ardinger, M.Div., M.A., S.T.L., Pastor, Incarnation of Our Lord Parish, Bethlehem, PA.

"The church's response is total charity. We do everything to convince a teen they have other options than abortion.  We as a church respond to the pregnancy with love."

That love can be experienced in many ways.

For decades, probably centuries, the Catholic Church has provided refuges for unmarried pregnant women. 

Sister Clarice Vresk, of Bethlehem, PA, was in charge of one of those homes in Hoboken. NJ.  Now one of the Good Counsel Homes, co-founded by the Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR and Christopher Bell, it had been St. Francis Home for Unwed Mothers, when Sister Clarice was there.

"Having homes such as the Good Counsel ones available for pregnant women helps the girls choose life for their unborn children," said Sister Clarice.

"While I was working at the St. Francis Home, I was happy to drive one young mother and her infant from the hospital to our home. I knew that the baby would be blessed with extra love during his first months of development."

Some teenagers are becoming part of the Church's response to teen pregnancy.

"As soon as I found out there was a Pro Life Club, I knew I would join," said Cassidy Flynn, a freshman at Bethlehem Catholic High School, Bethlehem, PA.

The club has sponsored one of the rooms at the newly-opened Mary's Shelter, Cay Galgon Center, a home for unwed mothers, located in the former convent at St. Simon and Jude Parish, Bethlehem.

The group designed, selected colors, picked out furniture and accessories, and then painted the room.

Cassidy feels especially passionate about pro-life causes.  She is the big sister to Delaney, 13, and Bailey, 11.  Bailey has Down Syndrome and Cassidy is painfully aware that most parents on finding out their unborn child has Down Syndrome, choose to kill their baby.

A tour of the newly-renovated Bethlehem home showed a residence bouncing with the love of all those involved in providing a nurturing alternative to abortion.

The Bethlehem shelter is one of three homes, two Mary's Shelters, and one Mary's Home. The other shelter and home are located in Reading, PA.

"Michael Six, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, is careful to point out that Mary's shelter is an independent organization, not affiliated formally with the Catholic Church.

The fact that it is located in a former convent with the vast majority of volunteers being Catholic, speaks loudly of a real, though not official, connection to Catholicism.

"The response has been tremendous," said Six.  Each of the rooms available to a mother and her child has been sponsored by pro-life groups.  There is visible evidence of the participation.

Six can't keep from sharing his warm smile as he opens door after door of renovated rooms ready to welcome pregnant women.

He proudly displayed the room that Cassidy's Pro Life Club decorated.  "They even painted the bands around the ceiling lights and the inside of the medicine cabinet!"

One Boy Scout troop took on the monumental task of organizing the numerous donations the shelter has received.

There is a huge emphasis on education at the shelters. Many of the girls in the program have no experience with life or parenting skills. 

Popular television shows like "Teen Mom" and  "16 and Pregnant" have certainly brought the phenomenon of teen pregnancy to the forefront. Viewers are invited into the soap opera-like lives of teen moms. The effect of these shows on teen pregnancies is yet to be determined. Just watching a smattering of episodes of "Teen Mom" showed much drama and little substance.

One 64-year-old Easton, Pennsylvania woman, who chose not to be identified, had a more realistic view of teen pregnancy.  She was 15 when she got pregnant

"I just about finished tenth grade," she said.

"Are you kidding me!" she said when asked whether she was scorned by a society less accepting of teen pregnancy.

"I lost my friends and my freedom but abortion was not an option I would even consider."

She married the baby's father and both committed to giving the baby the best life they could.   

"My mom didn't have that talk with me! She said when discussing abstinence.  Her mom did support her though in her decision to marry and keep the baby.

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