Chris Selley has criticized Ted Byfield
for referring to an "illegitimate" child ("I say, you there -- boy! What year is this?"
), and is being taken to task in the comments
for everything from being excessively PC to apologizing for the downfall of civil society. I threw in my two cents, and figured that would be the end of it: mainly because "what Ted Byfield thinks" ranks pretty low amongst my concerns in life.
However, partly because I have some personal experience with this topic, I feel the need to make two points about what I believe is a twisted, fuzzy, and un-Christian view of morality put forth by Byfield and those who would defend his comments.
Firstly, and Selley makes this point in down in the comments, if you're looking to accuse an adult of immoral acts, you're hitting the wrong target:
My only complaint is that Byfield calls Trudeau's daughter "illegitimate". It's pejorative, archaic and unfair, since it's no fault of hers, and it's used simply to make her father look bad (which, in a Catholic context, he deserves).
Colby Cosh replies that "it is still conceptually convenient for us to have an adjective for 'born out of wedlock'..."
-- how so? Why? Do we really have a need for a concept, or rather a convenient word, that differentiates a child born to unwed parents from one whose parents divorce when she's six months old, or from one whose parents are married for life? Even if we do, why a pejorative one? A hundred years ago, the bastard/illegitimate tag was most certainly a slur on the child, not merely the parents, and was one that stuck her in a lower class of child. Am I really a PC thug to wish that nonsense away?
There is also a second point here that is just as important, and that is the broad unfairness of stigmatizing, as a whole, parents who have children out of wedlock. I will happily stipulate Christian morality for the purposes of explaining this point.
There is only one immoral act underlying all unmarried parenthood, and that is that the parents had pre-marital (or non-marital, or extra-marital) sex. Putting a further stigma on all women
who become pregnant as a result is a strange and unwise thing to do, since you can't make any assumptions about their intent or their precautions.
Once a woman does become pregnant outside of marriage, then certainly the ideal outcome is a prompt marriage where both mother and father plan to lovingly care for their baby-to-be. But often this doesn't happen, and again, it is strange and unwise to further stigmatize those for whom it doesn't.
Perhaps the father becomes physically abusive - surely no one would advise the mother that the moral thing to do is to get married nevertheless. Perhaps the father loudly and clearly proclaims that he has no interest in being a parent, or moves to another country. How could this possibly reflect on the morality of the mother?
The next most moral option has got to be the mother giving birth to the child and caring for her as best she can, seeing as how the remaining alternative is abortion. (Yes, I have skipped over adoption here, but I can't take seriously anyone who believes that it is uniformly
more moral, or immoral, for an unwed mother to give her baby up for adoption than to raise her herself).
(In fact, you can plausibly argue that unwed mothers should be assumed to be more moral than women who have had non-marital sex but never become pregnant: the former have proved themselves uninterested in abortion, whereas for the latter, it is mere theory).
In sum, the only assumption of immorality you can safely make about all mothers (or parents) of illegitimate children is that they had sex outside the bounds of holy matrimony. If you are inclined to look down your nose at all such women, go ahead, I suppose.
Which brings up the question: why don't we have a common adjective for "person who has/had sex out of wedlock"? Wouldn't that be especially conceptually convenient
, to have a pejorative word that applied to all such people, regardless of the circumstances (or frequency!)? After all, there are a lot more people who fit that description than there are children whose parents weren't married. Surely, any pain resulting from the common use of such a word would be no worse than the broad stigma associated with the act, which is between microscopic and nil. Kathy Shaidle seems to be suggesting "bimbos" in Selley's comments: should we roll with that one?
Again, you (or Ted Byfield) are welcome to criticize Pierre Trudeau's Catholic-ness, or Deborah Coyne's morals. But when Byfield lists off the much younger women PET shagged, then adds "mother of his 15-year-old illegitimate daughter", he clearly believes that this statement on its own is further evidence of Trudeau's immorality. It isn't, and to believe it is betrays a weird and indefensible moral compass. It may be conservative, but it isn't right.