How military chaplains strengthen the moral resilience of soldiers and veterans: results from a case studies project in the Netherlands

Carmen Schuhmann, T.T.J. (Theo) Pleizier, M.N. Walton, Jacques W. G. Korver

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Abstract

In spiritual care research, studies on military chaplaincy are underrepresented, and most available studies center on moral injury. This article contributes to the existing literature on spiritual care in the military by presenting a study of 13 case descriptions of spiritual care provision by military chaplains from the Netherlands. These were analyzed using the framework method, a qualitative method of systematically searching for patterns in data sets, in order to answer the question: How do military chaplains contribute to the moral resilience of soldiers and veterans experiencing moral stress? The analytical framework was constructed on the basis of Doehring’s (Pastoral Psychology, 64(5), 635–649, 2015) conceptual understanding of moral resilience as the outcome of processes of spiritual integration of moral stress in caregiving relationships. This study shows that soldiers experience moral stress when core values associated with ‘being a soldier’ conflict with expectations or actions of soldiers themselves or of others, with the way the military organization functions, or with the spiritual notion of ‘being a good, loving and loveworthy human being’. In their responses to moral stress, chaplains contribute to moral resilience by engaging in co-creating spiritual orienting frameworks which accommodate a sense of goodness of self and others and allow for nuanced, biographically rooted moral views. Soldiers experience conversations and brief encounters with chaplains as relational ‘moments of goodness’, which may also contribute to moral resilience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPastoral Psychology
Issue numberonline
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2023

Keywords

  • military chaplaincy
  • moral stress
  • moral injury
  • Spiritual Care
  • moral resilience

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