Hurting in the Church

A priest takes an honest look at the wounds Catholics inflict on one another

HUNTINGTON, Indiana, February 9, 2017 – In his new book, Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics (Our Sunday Visitor, 2017), Father Thomas Berg writes from his own experience with the pain, confusion and anger that resulted from a destructive scandal that rocked the religious community he belonged to for 23 years.

“There were moments when I was utterly numb, feeling at times as if I no longer loved the Church,” writes Berg. “In particular, I struggled profoundly with the sense that I had been hurt by the Church.” As he learned — and guides his readers to see in their own experiences — this is not the truth.

His own experience and his struggle to move past his emotional devastation, anger and sense of betrayal were the genesis of his exploration of the many and varied forms of hurt that Catholics, non-Catholics and former Catholics have experienced—and how those affected can find healing.

Sexual abuse in the Church, which occupies much of Berg’s attention, is, as he puts it, “a singular, maximal, and grotesque form of hurt.” Yet, Berg writes for Catholics who have suffered a plethora of other forms of hurt along their journey of faith: an altar server criticized by his priest; a new Catholic treated with indifference by his parish family; a Latino Catholic who feels like a second-class citizen in her white suburban parish; a person with same-sex attraction who is conflicted about Church teaching on homosexuality; a Catholic widow who is lonely and ignored by her parish. He sheds an unrelenting light on a dimension of the Church that most would prefer to ignore: throughout our ministries and in our parishes, the daily actions and inactions of Catholics, especially those in leadership, cause pain. This pain is the result of intolerance, prejudice, harassment, gossip, deception, manipulation and much more. In many cases the hurt has been so traumatic that these individuals have simply opted to walk away from the Church. This book is especially meant for them.

Hurting in the Church examines this vast topic and offers pastoral guidance in three parts. Using Berg’s own story as well as those of others, Part 1 looks at the many ways we are hurt by members of the Church and the suffering of those who feel alienated by Church teachings, particularly as they relate to marriage and sexual morality. Part 2 provides insight into personal healing, and invites the injured to rediscover the beauty of the Church as a key step toward forgiveness and a renewed life with Christ. Part 3 goes beyond personal healing to healing of the Church as a whole. Berg invites Catholics and the entire Church to a radical, Christlike charity in which healing can be accomplished.

Throughout, Berg shows that our hurts can actually be used by God. “He can turn your hurt into compassion,” Berg writes. “He can turn your hurt into tenderness for others.”

“Hurting in the Church provides a psychologically wise and spiritually profound path forward for Catholics who have been abused, traumatized, or wounded by other Catholics—especially those in leadership. Father Berg writes out of his own and others’ personal experiences of finding surprising and powerful grace and healing in the darkest of places. Chapter ten, on how to recover one’s belief in and love for the Church, is worth the price of the book alone!”—Sherry Weddell, best-selling author of Forming Intentional Disciples

“An honest and much-needed book that addresses one of the most important problems in the Catholic Church today: the many Catholics who feel marginalized, ignored, hurt, insulted, and even abused by the Church. In his new book, Father Berg, who shares his own painful experiences with the Church, offers moving stories, helpful perspectives and healthy ways forward.”—Father James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

“Father Berg … writes with astonishing candor about his experience of hurting in the Church and how it brought him to seek to help others who have suffered from the sins of the members of the Mystical Body. Hurting in the Church is poised to become one of the most important works of pastoral theology of the twenty-first century. It is a must-read for Catholics as it shows us how to live up to our identity as a Church that goes out proactively to bring Christ’s healing to those who are wounded—and first among them are those whom we ourselves have harmed.”—Dawn Eden Goldstein, STD, author of Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories

“Here is an unflinching examination of the Church’s brokenness— from insensitive bureaucracy to the deep scars of sexual abuse—along with practical advice and the promise of hope for the challenging path forward. Fearless in his assessment, Father Berg is equally confident that in Jesus and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can move toward healing and wholeness. This is essential reading for a hurting Church.” —Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York

“It took courage for Father Berg to write with such honesty and transparency, including about his personal hurts. And his courage will give you courage—the courage to not only confront the facts of sin and weakness within the Church, but also the courage to give God another chance to allow you to discover him once again within the embrace of Mother Church, despite the failings of her members.”—Father Jonathan Morris, author of The New York Times bestseller The Way of Serenity