Bearing Witness When “They” Are Us:

Toward a Trauma-Informed Perspective on Complicity, Moral Injury, and Moral Witnessing at Jesuit Institutions and Beyond


Project Description

This project engages three related but to this point largely separate areas of concern: trauma, moral injury, and the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis. The purpose of this research is to develop a trauma-informed ethic of witnessing as a framework for a lived practice of taking responsibility in Jesuit institutions and other contexts affected by the clergy sexual abuse crisis. This includes grappling with a rhetoric of abhorrence and condemnation that can serve to gloss over unacknowledged complicity and failed witnessing. Through a trauma-informed, relational psychoanalytic lens, this project will mine the concept of moral injury for insight into the individual and collective impact of the abuse crisis, including the difficulty in owning our personal and institutional complicity in it. Building on theories of betrayal trauma in conversation with clinical and philosophical explorations of the role of the witness, this project will propose a theoretical and practical frame for transformative moral witnessing in Jesuit institutions and beyond.

Principal Investigator

Lisa CataldoLisa Cataldo, M.Div., Ph.D., is associate professor of pastoral mental health counseling and clinical director at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education. She also serves as faculty and supervisor at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies Training Institute. Lisa’s teaching and research focuses on the intersection of psychology and religion, spirituality and faith, informed by relational psychoanalysis and clinical practice. Her work engages trauma and multiplicity, intersubjectivity, and experiences of the other, and her recent efforts center on the effects of trauma and dissociation on the development and ongoing experience of faith and spirituality. She is the author of several articles and book chapters, including “I know that my redeemer lives: Relational perspectives on trauma, dissociation, and faith,” and “Where God is between us: Religious experience, surrender, and the third in clinical perspective.” Lisa is the co-chair of the psychology, culture, and religion unit of the American Academy of Religion, and maintains a small private practice in relational psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in New York City.