The Bully Pulpit

The Bully Pulpit

On Oct. 6, the preacher at evening Mass used his time at the pulpit to discuss Respect Life Sunday with great passion.

That seems logical enough, but the homily took a turn for the insulting—at least to this parishioner—and I’ve been struggling with going back to Mass ever since.

Part of the preacher’s premise in his vociferous decrying of our modern culture was that everything started to go downhill in the 1960s and ’70s. The “Culture of Death” began to take root when Americans started doing any number of things in a long list of sins. Among his litany of ill deeds was this phrase: “children being born out of wedlock.”

That was Game Over for me.

Part of the problem?

I am one of those children. I’m also a practicing Catholic who serves in ministry to my parish and tries, with varying levels of success, to be a good person of whom Jesus is at least occasionally proud.

That day at Mass, I was in the choir loft, where I sing in our music ensemble. I stayed after to water the plants in church, because October is my plant-care month. I’d run up to church at 9 a.m. that day to drop off a lasagna on behalf of the bereavement committee. And yes, I put in my monthly monetary contribution.

Yet, according to this preacher, I’m part of The Problem. I am part of What’s Wrong with the World.

Reality check

Now, I suspect if I confronted him, he’d tell me he certainly doesn’t blame us children. But then, what of our parents? Perhaps it’s not my fault I was born to a single mother, but then how would this preacher relate to my mom? I guess she’s just another one of those ne’er-do-wells who’s contributing to the hastening decline of the world as we know it.

In a perfect scenario, every child would be born to two adoring parents. Every baby would be planned and welcomed with joy and delight. But that’s not reality.

Some people make mistakes. Some people are victims of crime. Some people wish they could take back one brief moment, one poor decision, that changed their life forever.

Many, if not most, of those people go forward and do the best they can. They make the best of a situation they might not be ready for, and their children do the same.

Hurtful words

What I wish the preacher would have understood is how hurtful his statement was. How his words came across so mean-spirited and cold. How many of us out-of-wedlock children spend our lives trying to make up for something we couldn’t control, perpetually apologizing because we know we’re not really supposed to even be here. And how we sure don’t need anyone, publicly or privately, to remind us of that.

As a Church, we have to do better. We have to welcome everyone who comes to the table, regardless of how they got there. We have to extend Christ’s love to all our brothers and sisters, regardless of who their parents might be.

After all, I might not have grown up with a father, but I continue to grow with my Father.





About the Author

Jennifer Scroggins works in Marketing in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Finley

    I think the message he was trying to convey was the cultural acceptance of “children being born out of wedlock.” as perfectly OK when it shouldn’t be.Nontheless, It sounds like he may have portrayed his message in too harsh a way and for someone like you who is sensitive to this situation, it came across as a personal attack.. We are all children of Christ regardless of how we were brought into this world, and may I suggest to you that you approach this person and let him know why you think he was wrong .

  • kellie

    I too was born out of wedlock and am a practicing Catholic. I believe however rough our past or our situation we cannot be sensitive to what others might say. WE know we are worthy of God’s love and that is all that should drive us. However, I do think we as a church need to be more welcoming, but we also need to speak the truth and not tiptoe around it. Babies out of wedlock is a sin. That is not to say that good cannot come out of it, we are living proof. Speaking from my past, I have been hurt before and tormented as a child because I did not grow up with a father in my house, but as an adult I know I have one who loves me and each day as I walk closer to him, he protects me and shields me from past hurts. Your priest is a man who speaks the truth, with probably no intention on hurting.

  • Sarah

    I appreciate this. Thank you for publishing. Dorothy Day was an unwed single mother and she was one of the most truly holy people and did an amazing amount of good in her lifetime. Our Saints will come from broken homes and single parent families. I love the Church but sometimes its people hurt my feelings.

  • pgw64

    Jennifer I understand your perspective completely. While you were the child born out of wedlock, I was a mother who conceived a child out of wedlock. The moral decline of society cannot be denied and unfortunately we have a personal perspective. I think that one can hate the sin but love the sinner. It is not that your preacher was trying to hurt you but wanted to open the parishes’ eyes to the choices that we made as a society.

    My daughter was the silver lining born in dark days who helped turn me back toward the Church and better moral choices. It was through her that God worked to save me again. Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I had NOT gotten pregnant out of wedlock. I have made that clear to my daughter many times- she was heaven sent.

  • Jennifer Scroggins

    Thank you all for your comments! Sarah, I couldn’t agree with you more. Kellie, I know we’re supposed to know we are worthy of God’s love. I work every day to truly know and believe that in my heart. But that task is made more difficult when leaders, people we are supposed to respect and learn from, use words or phrasing that seems to place blame and assign shame. Part of me does want to speak to the preacher in question, but having heard his homilies for six years or so now, I’m not sure he would “get” my perspective, unfortunately.

  • Contented

    Wow, absolutely NOTHING has changed with your church!! I was also born “out of wedlock” in 1968. For most of my adult life I tried very hard to be a good Catholic and keep the faith, but I also heard this kind of vitrol from the preacher, no less! (In fact, my mother wasn’t even allowed to give birth in a Catholic hospital, is my understanding, because she wasn’t married.) It’s interesting how the message is always about “single mothers.” Never once have I heard the catholic church (or any other church) call deadbeat dads to task, and yet, my father was the one who bailed on me and my mother! Finally, when I realized as an adult that I no longer believe in god(s), it was also very refreshing to realize I don’t have to put up with this type of verbal abuse or judgment, from people who really are not in a position to cast stones at anyone. (Sure, the rise in children born out of wedlock may have happened in the 60s and 70s. Yet, how many kids before then were born into abusive families, because the parents “had” to get married, if you know what I mean. Nothing’s really changed that much about people. People were just better liars and hypocrites, prior to the 60s and 70s.) Yeah, the church never had a problem taking my money either, and I was very active in a couple of ministries. They never had a problem calling on me day or night when they needed something, and when I stopped going to church, I never heard a word from people who are supposedly Christ’s followers. As far as what’s “wrong” with the world, ask any kid who was raped or molested by a priest, and guess what THEY will say what’s wrong with the world. I suspect it won’t be kids born out of wedlock.

    I don’t know you, and as an atheist my opinion means squat, but it would be interesting if you talked to the preacher about this. I regret not making my feelings known, although it wouldn’t have stopped me from leaving. (BTW, the biggest joke to me as an Atheist, is the “Catholics Come Home” campaign. Come “home” to what? I guess the church wants my money again. LOL)

    • Sarah

      I am sorry. You can choose to work within the Church to be for others what you wish others had been for you.

  • betsylongoria

    Well said, Jennifer.

  • Celso

    Several church members are speaking against the Bishops and Priests for being so soft on issues that are contributing to the acceptance of the culture of death or of sin. Some go to the extent of mentioning Saint John the Baptist’s preaching wherein sinners are lambasted for their sins as a model for our Church Leaders. So let us be kind also and forgiving to our Church Leaders who try to emulate St. John the Baptist. Let us be humble and meek for Christ was humble and meek even if He is sinless.

  • rufaro

    The bottom line is what would Jesus say? He would never condemn or judge anyone, he would forgive and encourage the sinner to live a better life. We are all God’s children, imperfect in many ways, no worse than anyone else : where I may be an unwed mother or the product of such, others also have made their mistakes now worse, no better than me. Our job in the church is to preach and model Christ’s love rather than make a spectacle of those we find easy to scapegoat because society has marginalised. As for me, I no longer listen to the condemners or judges for I have come to know and see that we are all sinners and are in need of God’s love. This way, I will not lash out against those who sin in a different way, but seek God’s grace to become a channel of peace. So, forgive the preacher, the church and pray for Christ’s love to be the stronger power than social correctness.

  • Bill

    It is never right for a preacher to demonize and ostracize anyone because of whatever life circumstances they find themselves in. After all the preacher is human too, as evidenced by the sex abuse acandals rocking and shaking the church perpetrated by the priests of all people. So just who is he to say ill of anyone? Keep your eyes on Jesus, not on any preacher, and you will be strong to face anything.