Trauma, Moral Injury, and Whose Moral Order?
Jesse Perillo, DePaul University
If the institutions and structures of medicine are understood to be products of a nation and economy or if they are foundational elements of a political and economic system, then they would naturally seek to reproduce and reinforce the norms and patterns of life of those systems. One often wants to heal so that one can re-enter society but there exists a role for religious reflection on the individual that stands in, outside, and beyond political and economic systems which might attend to iatrogenesis caused by trying to “heal” a person back into an unhealthy society. Following Ivan Illich, liberation psychology, and liberation theology in the Christian tradition, this paper will look at how this concern can be witnessed in attending to some instances of trauma and moral injury. An analysis of a wound tells one about the wounded but it also may tell something about that which does the wounding. A religious body and practice which no longer dominates society, and does not seek to do so, allows for an important deeper reflection on what bodies, minds, and “disorders” that the society produces. Indeed, as this paper will argue, maybe in some cases those who are wounded by trauma and moral injury are those who are having a healthy response to an unjust ordering of the world. Thomas Merton, who was deeply engaged with the public life while also seeking an eremitic life outside of it, once declared that in “a society like ours the worst insanity is to be without anxiety.” This paper will follow this thought and it will develop an argument for how a religious tradition that stands in, outside, and beyond political and economic systems allows for such an important analysis to develop.