Catholic priest releases memoir focused on spiritual abuse, healing

The News Herald [Morganton NC]

March 29, 2023

By Jason Koon

Morganton native Jeffrey Kendall no longer works as an active Catholic priest, but that doesn’t mean he has given up looking for God.

“I’m always going to be Catholic – I can never change that,” Kendall said. “I’m not anti-church. I’m anti-abuse.”

Kendall left his post as in the Diocese of Charleston due to what he calls “a culture of cruelty.” He said the abuses of power and mistreatment he experienced left him broken and distant from God.

“I went back, and I tried to heal in the Catholic Church,” he said. “But healing was impossible in the Diocese of Charleston. That’s a damning statement.”

In his new memoir, A Walk to the End of the Earth, Kendall, a Freedom High School graduate and the first Catholic priest to hail from Morganton, recalls the abuse he endured and his journey away from the priesthood. The book recounts his anger at God, his dysfunctional relationship with a heroin-addicted prostitute named Anna and, ultimately, his decision to leave his post.

“(Being a) Catholic priest is a character sacrament so I’m always going to be a priest,” Kendall said. “But I’m not an active priest anymore.”

The story centers on his walk down El Camino de Santiago, the only medieval Christian pilgrimage route people still walk today. Along the 100-mile journey, Kendall said he finally came to an understanding with God. As he walked, the memoir tells his story through flashbacks told in reverse chronological order.

“It was the only way that really made sense,” Kendall said. “As I walk down the trail, the deeper we go into my past.”

He said he hopes his efforts will begin to shed some light on the problem of spiritual abuse.

“The abuses of power I went through were rather severe and they did a tremendous amount of damage,” Kendall said. “I really go through the impact and the consequences of the abuses of power in the book.”

Kendall said he knows this kind of spiritual abuse is an all-to-common experience and hopes his book will be a source of comfort for others who have been victimized.

“If people who have gone through that find peace and healing that would be a great thing,” he said. “That’s what I was searching for, and if they can get some of that by reading my book, I would just be overjoyed.”

So far, the memoir has already helped at least one person find some peace. Kendall said publishing the book has been a source of healing for him.

“I had nightmares for years – bloody, violent night terrors,” he said. “About a week after I published the book, my nightmares disappeared … I was carrying so much emotional pain for so long and publishing this book has relieved me of it.”

He said he is not the only priest he knows who has suffered like this.

“I talked to another priest who I haven’t talked to in a while, and without me telling him, he started telling me about him having nightmares for years as well,” Kendall said.

He hopes his story coming to light will sound the alarm about the prevalence of spiritual abuse and the serious consequences it can have.

“These are pretty systemic abuses of power,” Kendall said. “It’s just not dealt with … one of the problems is, they’ve been getting away with this for years because nobody’s speaking up about it. But I’m not going to let them get away with it anymore.”

A Walk to the End of the Earth is available on Amazon and through select local booksellers.

Jason Koon is a Staff Writer and can be reached at or 828-432-8907.