Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 55, Issue 4, pp 1218–1245 | Cite as

Moral Injury, Spiritual Care and the Role of Chaplains: An Exploratory Scoping Review of Literature and Resources

  • Lindsay B. CareyEmail author
  • Timothy J. Hodgson
  • Lillian Krikheli
  • Rachel Y. Soh
  • Annie-Rose Armour
  • Taranjeet K. Singh
  • Cassandra G. Impiombato
Original Paper


This scoping review considered the role of chaplains with regard to ‘moral injury’. Moral injury is gaining increasing notoriety. This is due to greater recognition that trauma (in its various forms) can cause much deeper inflictions and afflictions than just physiological or psychological harm, for there may also be wounds affecting the ‘soul’ that are far more difficult to heal—if at all. As part of a larger research program exploring moral injury, a scoping review of literature and other resources was implemented utilising Arksey and O’Malley’s scoping method (Int J Soc Res Methodol 8(1):19–32, 2005) to focus upon moral injury, spirituality (including religion) and chaplaincy. Of the total number of articles and/or resources noting the term ‘moral injury’ in relation to spiritual/religious issues (n = 482), the results revealed 60 resources that specifically noted moral injury and chaplains (or other similar bestowed title). The majority of these resources were clearly positive about the role (or the potential role) of chaplains with regard to mental health issues and/or moral injury. The World Health Organization International Classification of Diseases: Australian Modification of Health Interventions to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and related Health problems (10th revision, vol 3—WHO ICD-10-AM, Geneva, 2002), was utilised as a coding framework to classify and identify distinct chaplaincy roles and interventions with regard to assisting people with moral injury. Several recommendations are made concerning moral injury and chaplaincy, most particularly the need for greater research to be conducted.


Chaplain Moral injury Pastoral care Religion Spirituality Spiritual care 



The authors wish to thank Dr. Neil Pembroke and Dr. David Pitman (School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, University of Queensland, Brisbane), Dr. Bruce Rumbold, OAM (Palliative Care Unit, La Trobe University, Melbourne) and Chaplain Mark Willis (ADF Joint Health Command, Canberra) for their support of this research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The lead author regularly contributes to chaplaincy services and research within Australia and New Zealand.

Ethical Approval

Ethics approval was granted by the University of Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee.

Human Subjects and Consent

This research did not directly involve any human or other animal participants as research subjects.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsay B. Carey
    • 1
    Email author
  • Timothy J. Hodgson
    • 2
  • Lillian Krikheli
    • 1
  • Rachel Y. Soh
    • 1
  • Annie-Rose Armour
    • 1
  • Taranjeet K. Singh
    • 1
  • Cassandra G. Impiombato
    • 1
  1. 1.Palliative Care UnitLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Religious Studies, School of Historical and Philosophical InquiryUniversity of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia

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