'Many of these girls need our help and support because if you have young children you can't get out and get a job. We must not beat them with big sticks,' Dr Carey said in Edinburgh.
He was amplifying remarks he had made in a sermon on Sunday when he warned that the lack of a father in many families would in time breed another generation with little idea of what a loving father can be.
He praised yesterday's editorial in the Independent which argued that many single parents - almost all women - were 'heroic' in difficult circumstances and most wanted to work and not draw benefits.
His remarks will be taken as criticism of the changes in housing benefit rules disclosed at last week's Conservative Party conference, which will prevent single mothers from moving to the front of the housing queues.
The Archbishop, two of whose children have had their marriages break up, has consistently mixed praise for the family with attempts to support the victims of family breakdown. Last week in Birmingham he took most of the day off from official engagements in order to meet poor parishioners. 'He was extremely touched by the resilience and courage of single parents in extraordinarily difficult circumstances,' an aide said last night.
John Redwood, Secretary of State for Wales, who has been outspoken on the issue, said: 'There are a lot of single mothers who deserve our co-operation and support. But I hope the Archbishop agrees with me that there is a small minority who need encouraging to form stable relationships before they have children. That, I would have thought, is also good Christian doctrine.'
Terry Dicks, Tory MP for Hayes and Harlington, said: 'Dr Carey is preaching immorality and irresponsibility by encouraging girls to have babies out of wedlock. I thought Christianity was about rights and responsibilities. If a single teenage girl wants the right to have a child, she should also accept the responsibility to bring it up.'Reuse content