MORAL INJURY by Father Nathan Castle


We need you religious and spiritual leaders to step up your game. There’s not a pill for everything.”

I wasn’t sure why I was attending this conference on the needs of military veterans and their families until those words rumbled through me.

The keynote speaker at the front of the assembly hall was Dr. William Nash, Director of Psychological Health for the U. S Marine Corps. And I’m Father Nathan Castle, OP, a Catholic priest with very little knowledge of military anything. I have worked with young men and women the age of many who are currently deployed during a long career in campus ministry. I believe I’m an expert in healing the hidden wounds of the soul. That day last April, at the opening session of the symposium of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, I wanted to enlist on the spot in the effort to bring peace to soldiers’ hearts.

Have you heard that phrase before, Moral Injury? Less than a year ago it was new to me; now it’s a new direction in my life’s work. Here’s how the VA introduced the term in 2009:

Moral Injury is disruption in an individual’s confidence and expectations about his or her own moral behavior or others’ capacity to behave in a just and ethical manner… The lasting impact of moral injury in war remains chiefly unaddressed.”

 I’ve also heard it put this way, describing the experience of combat veterans:

You used to believe the world was good. But now you don’t.

You used to believe that you were good. But now you don’t.

You used to believe that God was good. But now you don’t.

You used to believe that your future would be good. But now you don’t.”

 Isn’t this what PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) is all about? I asked that question. Dr. Nash explained that only 15% of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get that specific diagnosis. He explained that only a psychiatrist like himself can officially make that diagnosis, and that there are as many as six behaviors which must be evidenced. Many veterans’ suffering doesn’t rise to that level or is not manifest in dissociative breaks with reality that can plague PTSD sufferers. But something is behind the loss of 22 veterans a day to suicide, many of whom were not diagnosed with PTSD.

Some are now speaking of a “soul wound” and a need for “soul repair.” If you think there could be something to this, check out the Soul Repair Center at the Brite Divinity School, part of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. Here’s the link to their website: I’m at work on what I’m calling “The No Place Like Home Project.” My first public event,

“The Spiritual Path to Peaceful Sleep” for survivors of trauma was held on January 4, 2016 at La Mariposa Resort in Tucson. If you’d like to know more about that, email me at or check out my websites and I’m planning to attend the Arizona Coalition for Military Families 7th Annual Statewide Symposium in Phoenix, April 20th and 21st. I’d love to meet you there.