A research team from Xavier University in Cincinnati has created a tool that measures the “moral injury” caused by clergy sexual abuse and its concealment by officials in the Catholic Church.
In a report on the pilot study, released Dec. 12, moral injury is described as persistent psychological and emotional distress, spiritual anguish, moral confusion, social isolation, and distrust for institutions. It results from a betrayal of trust or violation of deeply held moral values.
“When the perpetrator of sexual abuse is a priest — someone ordained in persona Christi — and represents the holy, the sacred or the entire church or even God, the trauma of abuse takes on an added weight,” said Marcus Mescher, a principal investigator for the study and professor of Christian ethics at Jesuit-run Xavier. “I thought the concept of moral injury would be a helpful hermeneutical lens for understanding the many ripple effects of harm caused by clergy sexual abuse.”
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