Revisiting “Moral Injury” in light of “Traditionis custodes”

It seems like just moment ago that I revisited the topic of Moral Injury.

But now we have Traditionis custodes.

Originally Published on: Jun 9, 2020 

From a reader…

I am a physician and have had the opportunity to work with several burnt out priests over the years. I am concerned about the emotional well being of priests during the current situation because of a stressor being called moral injury.

This injury comes from a situation when a person cannot take an action that he feels to be morally right, or is forced to do something morally wrong, by the order of a superior. I am concerned that priests are experiencing this as there bishops have prohibited the sacraments.

I am keeping this in prayer but I am hoping by alerting you to this condition it might be get into some hands who are in a position to work with priests with moral injury to at least recognize this reality.

This is very interesting.  I am grateful for the information and tip about “moral injury”. Since I received this, I’ve done some reading and thinking about moral injury.  For example, good starting point summary of main points HERE

Consider this:

Moral injury can lead to serious distress, depression, and suicidality. Moral injury can take the life of those suffering from it, both metaphorically and literally. Moral injury debilitates people, preventing them from living full and healthy lives.

The effects of moral injury go beyond the individual and can destroy one’s capacity to trust others, impinging on the family system and the larger community. Moral injury must be brought forward into the community for a shared process of healing.

In the context of a soul, with respect to the diversity of beliefs and religious perspectives held by those involved with moral injury, consider this:

Moral injury is damage done to the soul of the individual. War is one (but not the only) thing that can cause this damage. Abuse, rape, and violence may cause similar types of damage. “Soul repair” and “soul wound” are terms already in use by researchers and institutions in the United States who are exploring moral injury and pathways to recovery.

One writer defines moral injury as resulting from a betrayal of what is morally right by someone who holds legitimate authority and in a high stakes situation.

For example, priests who really believe in the cura animarum, and who are ordered, bullied, threatened by authority above them to go against what they believe is right and good for themselves and their people.   Application: being virtually forbidden to provide the sacraments to the faithful during the COVID-1984 lockdown.


In many cases tradition-inclined priests have been treated savagely by their bishops and other priests.  Traditional Catholic have been too.  They have been for years, even for decades, prevented by authority (usually through bullying) from doing what their consciences tell them is the right thing to do.  They are forced, year in and year out, to do what they think is, if not outright wrong, at least inferior to what could be done with a little leeway and compassion.   They are in a perpetual bind, caught between the desire to be a good member of the presbyterate and one with the bishop, while knowing that they can’t stand your “rightful aspirations”, as John Paul II called them.


I’ve been in contact with priests who are ready to take early retirement if their bishops clamp down on the TLM.  Let the bishop figure out how to replace him in the parish when there are hardly any vocations.  Watch the contributions dry up.

I’ve been in contact with seminarians, and prospective seminarians, who are really anxious, because they think that they are going to be denied their heritage that they have grown up in, many of them, or have come to love.

I’ve been in contact with lay people, parents of young families, who are really concerned about what they are going to do, are worried about their priests.

So much pain for nothing.   Moral injury for nothing.  Particularly because, I suspect, Traditionis custodes is going to fail in the long run.

Who is it again who is causing division?  At least the Motu Proprio made who is on which side clearer.

The fact is only a tiny fraction of Catholics who desire Tradition have any sort of serious qualm about Vatican II or doubt the validity of the Novus Ordo.  This is an artificial problem only in the fever-swamp imagination of progressivists, modernists who think that their goal might be in sight: turn the Church into an NGO.

I invite you all, please, to take part in this Custodes Traditionis project.    HERE

Please give that some prayerful consideration.

Today I read about a US bishop who has forbidden priests to say the Traditional Mass PRIVATELY.


When you lack the sort of power that bishops have to inflict whatever they want, will to power, you have to use those vectors of power that are open to every believer: prayer, fasting, works of mercy for the sake of opening the hearts of those who are imposing their unnecessary restrictions, so very contrary to the spirit of the Church’s interpretation of law.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  2. donato2 says:

    The concept of moral injury applies also to vaccine mandates. I’m vaccinated but am horrified by the idea of vaccine mandates. I am even more horrified by the callous and vindictive cruelty of many who are so eager to impose them.

    The cruelty of TC is much the same and, not coincidentally, within the Church there is subtantial overlap between those who support TC and those who support vaccine mandates. Pope Francis was one of the first to impose a vaccine mandate when he imposed one on employees of the Vatican.

  3. JBBIII says:

    I think injury is inevitable given the hostile and unpastoral concerns of our clerical leaders, and everyone in the organization is going to be hurt if they have not been so already. For me, I am trying to just accept my lot as a traditional catholic, accept my pastor’s decisions, accept my Bishop (of Boise) for what he is, and minimize my engagement with people who clearly want to hurt me. Loving my church, my priest and my bishop does not obligate me to stand in the road in front of their irresponsibly driven behemoths. But, when the inevitable wreck occurs I will be there to help.

  4. prayfatima says:

    Donato2, I agree with you that there is some kind of overlap or similarity with people who praise TC and want vaccine mandates. It’s a strange thing. The timing of TC during the end(will it ever end?!) of covid is also peculiar. Just when society was thoroughly beaten down and used to having rights taken from us, out comes the TC. There seems to be a definite connection between covid and TC. It’s almost like it’s just another covid restriction…except not.

  5. Matto says:

    About most people who go to TLMs not rejecting Vatican II, that is not good enough. People who go to the TLM accept Vatican II in the hermeneutic of continuity. That is not what they want. They want to force the hermeneutic of rupture on everyone, the so called Spirit of Vatican II that wants to destroy everything that reminds them of the pre-conciliar Church.

  6. defenderofTruth says:

    I was on the fence about V2 for a while, until TC. We’ve all heard the phrase “lex orendi, lex credendi”, and we should know what it means. Pope Benedict, in his 2018 Letter to the German priests, admitted that in the 1960s there was an attempt to establish a new church. Paul VI supposedly welcomed the Novus Ordo with the phrase “a new Mass for a new church”. The Hermeneutic of Continuity only works when the TLM and NO exist together. The Law of Prayer commands the Law of Belief. Remove the TLM, that link to the ancient past, and you have, in the wake, and entirely new creation, without any of that old “baggage”.

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  8. TonyO says:

    Today I read about a US bishop who has forbidden priests to say the Traditional Mass PRIVATELY.

    Fr. Z, this is a serious question: could you think about a post devoted to the question of: where and how far should a good priest accept such directives and comply, versus repudiate them and do otherwise?

    It is not in the least obvious – to me, at least – when a priest will be making the holy choice by submitting to these unjust demands, and following them even though they are hurtful and improperly demanded – a choice made out of love for God and obedience to his superior … versus when he will be making the holy choice by refusing to comply with such unreasonable demands upon him, and lovingly accepting as God’s will whatever punishments the bishop sends in consequence.

    Let us admit that there will be room for some (relatively) more obvious distinctions, e.g. when the bishop’s orders are quite literally outside of his own competence qua bishop. If the bishop simply doesn’t have any authority over a specific action or inaction, then (it seems likely) a priest refusing comply wouldn’t be disobedience (even if the bishop thought it was). It might still be imprudent, if the consequences of such non-compliance were catastrophic to the priest’s career (or the parish) and if the specific action at issue were trivial…but that’s more of just successfully weighing the different consequences against each other.

    It seems more problematic when the action at issue is something about which the bishop might, at least in some cases, have a say over, even if clearly his orders for the case in hand are clearly out of line – such as demanding the priest not to say the Novus Ordo in Latin, or not to say it ad orientem. Since the bishop does in fact have authority to rule the diocese’s worship within the constraints of what the missal and rubrics permit, these two sorts of orders seem closer to something the bishop could legitimately order if there were a good reason for it. Naturally, there is no good reason for it here and now, which is what makes these orders so odious.

    We have examples of great saints who gained their crowns in part by holy submission to unjust demands on them by superiors, and others who gained their crowns by holy refusal to submit to things they deemed wrong and to be rejected.

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