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Bible Encyclopedias

The Catholic Encyclopedia


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As generally defined, and as understood in this article, illegitimacy denotes the condition of children born out of wedlock. It should be noted, however, that, according to the Roman law and the canon law, an illegitimate child becomes legitimate by the subsequent marriage of its parents. This legal provision has been adopted by many European countries, but it does not obtain in England or in most of the United States. Illegitimacy is probably more general, more frequent, and more constant than the majority of persons are aware. Owing to the absence of statistics, no estimate can be given of its extent in the United States and Canada. The following tables show the percentage of illegitimate births (that is, the proportion which they form of the total number of living births) in the principal countries of Europe at different periods during the last thirty years. The figures in the first column are taken from "Der Einfluss der Confession auf die Sittlichkeit" by H. A. Krose, S. J.; those in the second are derived from the "Statesman's Year Book" for 1908: -


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Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'Illegitimacy'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.

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