"What I'm Reading" Wednesday: Hurting in the Church

Allyson Kenny

September 5, 2018
CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters
The pain I’ve felt over this “summer of scandal” in the Church has left me, like many, profoundly disturbed.  Painful memories from my childhood have surfaced, ones I thought I’d dealt with long ago. And the prayers I’ve offered for victims and the Church itself have felt utterly futile and inadequate, like a drop of fresh water absorbed into the vast oceans of the evil being uncovered.  
I looked up the symptoms of grief one night, and found this list:
  • overwhelming tiredness and exhaustion
  • restlessness - feeling unable to sit still
  • aches and pains, e.g. headaches, backache, neck pain, rib and chest pain
  • anxiety attacks
  • difficulty breathing
  • loss of appetite
  • comfort eating
  • finding it hard to sleep or fear of sleeping
  • difficulty concentrating.
….I’ve been batting nine for nine.  What about you?
Maybe because of these symptoms of grief, capturing my thoughts in writing has felt impossible, something akin to dragging nails against the chalkboard of my heart.  So instead, I’ve sought comfort in the words of others. These are the books that I’ve turned to in this time of difficulty and that I want to share through this blog series over the coming weeks.  My hope and prayer is that we would read them together in order to find healing for ourselves, so we then would have the strength to provide solace and comfort to those who are hurting in our midst.
So, to start off, let’s revisit an excellent book that was featured on the second season of Subject Matters.
The topics and themes dealt with in Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics (Our Sunday Visitor, 2017) are more relevant today than ever.   And though the book is written by a priest, Berg’s insights are applicable to all members of the Body, laity included.
Fr. Berg is no stranger to the feelings many are dealing with towards the Church right now; betrayal, shock, frustration, anger, disgust.  As a member of the Legionaries of Christ for 23 years, revelations of both the scandalous behaviour of founder Marcial Maciel and the concealment of the truth behind decades of accusations against him left Berg feeling his entire adult life had been caught up in a lie. He describes the situation as a “massive deception of unprecedented proportions” in the Church, words that could well ring true to members of the faithful at present, albeit in a slightly different context.
Berg’s own journey of moving through pain towards healing was the catalyst behind this book. His example is one we would all do well to learn from, myself included: that our suffering can bear fruit when we put it at the service of loving others.  
Leonard Cohen once sang, “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” When we become aware of our own wounds, acknowledge the fact that we ourselves are profoundly wounded, that awareness leads us on an inner journey that is painful, yes, but will ultimately bear untold gifts.  
Fr. Berg’s book is a gift itself because it helps build this awareness among us.  Yes, our pain is legitimate. Yes, the hurts we have suffered are real, and the damage they have caused cannot be minimized, dismissed, or swept aside.  We must own our hurts. And our wounded Saviour, who carried all of the hurts, pain, sin, and sorrow that ever existed (or will ever exist), will help us on this road.  Because, after all, this path belongs to Him.
Day after day, hurt after hurt, one scandalous revelation after another, we tread the path worn by countless holy men and women before us.  
At the head of the procession, Christ.
Heavy upon his back, the Cross.  
Borne within His wounds?  Each one of us, united with Him now in suffering.  
But soon? Glory.

Favourite quote (p. 161):

My God,
You are infinite Mercy, you are Love itself.
I love you, and I believe in you,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And because I believe in you, I believe everything you have revealed.
I believe what you have revealed about this great mystery
which is the Church.
You know how I struggle. Help my unbelief.
Help me to rediscover the beauty, and goodness, and holiness
within the Church,
which is sometimes obscured and hidden by the moral
failings of its members.
Help me to love the Church not in spite of
But precisely because of her many human weaknesses and
Allow me to be you instrument
to help heal your Church.