“To those who have been hurt by the Church, we must acknowledge their pain and be a witness to Christ’s tenderness,” Father Thomas Berg wrote in a recent article published in The Priest Magazine. Fr. Berg is a Priest in the Archdiocese of New York, and Vice-Rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. He is also the author of “Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics,” which he wrote “as a guide to healing for those who have been hurt in the church, and an examination of conscience for the rest of us.”
The reasons why Catholics (especially young adults) become disaffected with their faith might be attributed to multiple, complicated issues, many of which have been well documented in the past including: discomfort with organized, institutional religion; loss of faith; the perception that faith is incompatible with our scientific culture; the clergy sex abuse scandal and traumatic life events.
Fr. Berg’s article however, calls attention to another reason Catholics leave the faith – a hurtful experience in the church. Fr. Berg commented: “Personal experience leads me to believe that this portion of the Catholic population is much larger than we would care to imagine.” He continued: “the sad reality is that there has been plenty of hurt to go around in our parishes, schools, chancery offices and ministries. And we need to acknowledge the ugly truth that the hurts – and the consequent disaffection with the church – are more frequent that we might want to admit. To recognize this and call a spade a spade is not to be judgmental; it’s just to be honest.”
There is no “quick-fix” technique to return disaffected Catholics to the faith. However, Fr. Berg suggests possible long-term solutions parish leadership and the laity can undertake to welcome our “wounded” sisters and brothers home. Included in his suggestions is Pope Francis’ concept of our local churches acting as “field hospitals,” ready to heal the wounded.
Click here to review Fr. Berg’s full article in The Priest – published by Our Sunday Visitor