The Rev. Gabriella Lettini: Moral Injury as a Wound of War

February 15, 2013


Hear about soldiers' moral and spiritual conflicts, Tuesday, March 5


TACOMA, Wash. – The Rev. Gabriella Lettini, scholar, author, and spiritual leader for military personnel who suffer from the conflicting moral questions arising from war, will deliver the spring Swope lecture at University of Puget Sound.

The Tuesday, March 5 lecture, titled “Moral Injury as a Wound of War and the Need for Soul Repair” will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Schneebeck Concert Hall. Attendance is free, but tickets are required. See below for more information.

Lettini, professor of theological ethics at Starr King School for the Ministry, launched the Truth Commission on Conscience in War in 2010 with Rev. Rita Nakashima Brock to draw national attention to the moral and spiritual injuries suffered by service members and veterans of war. Lettini and Brock recognized that soldiers were being put in situations where they saw and did things that haunted their conscience, leading to isolation, distress, and even suicide.

The launch event brought together the families of service members, veterans, religious leaders, legal experts, and scholars to seek ways to help those who returned from war or who chose to be conscientious objectors. 

Drawing on reports gathered by the truth commission, Lettini and Brock addressed the issue known as “moral injury” in their most recent book, Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War. It was released on Veterans Day in 2012. In a piece written for The Huffington Post, the co-authors described moral injury this way.

“Moral injury is a wound in the soul, an inner conflict based on a moral evaluation of having inflicted or witnessed harm.  . . . Though an action in war may have saved someone's life or felt right at the time, a veteran may come to feel remorse, shame, or guilt for having had to inflict harm that violates his or her core values. Moral injury can result not only from active behavior, such as torturing or killing, but also from passive behavior, such as failing to prevent harm or witnessing a close friend be slain. And it can involve feeling betrayed by persons in authority.”

The sense of dilemma and personal violation can be inescapable for service members doing their best to pursue their military duty. Lettini and Brock, who each have veterans in their families, write in Soul Repair about how to recognize and reconcile these conflicts.  

Gabriella Lettini is dean of faculty and Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Director of Studies in Public Ministry at Starr King School for the Ministry, a Unitarian Universalist graduate school in Berkeley, Calif. There she works closely with the Rev. Rebecca Parker ’75, Puget Sound alumna and president of Starr-King.

A native of Italy, Lettini is an ordained minister of the Waldensian Church, a movement that originated in France and Italy in the 12th century and that was based on evangelical poverty, a critique of church hierarchies, refusal of the church as a political power, and a strong emphasis on lay leadership, including women.

Lettini has served as an officer of the American Waldensian Society since 1996 and was its president from 2006 to 2009. She co-chairs the Transformative Scholarship and Pedagogy Consultation of the American Academy of Religion.

Lettini is the author of Omosessualita (Homosexuality), published in 1999. This small book aimed at the general public was the first text by an Italian religious leader to publicly challenge homophobia and to bless same-sex unions. Lettini was involved in several Poverty Truth Commissions in New York that encouraged discussions on poverty and economic injustice. She also is a member of the leadership team for the Soul Repair Project, which is dedicated to helping veterans heal.

The lecture at Puget Sound is sponsored by the Swope Endowed Lectureship on Ethics, Religion, Faith, and Values. The Swope lectureship was established at Puget Sound through a gift from Maj. Ianthe Swope in honor of her mother, Jane Hammer Swope. It is intended to promote discussion, critical thinking, and ethical inquiry about matters of religion, including its role in public life and contemporary ethics.

FOR TICKETS: order online at http://tickets.pugetsound.edu or call Wheelock Information Center to purchase with a credit card at 253.879.6013. Admission is free, but tickets are required. Advance ordering and pickup of tickets is recommended. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door.

For directions and a map of the campus: www.pugetsound.edu/directions.xml.
For accessibility information please contact accessibility@pugetsound.edu or 253.879.3236.

Press photos of Gabriella Lettini can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos
Photos on page: Top right: The Rev. Gabriella Lettini; Above left: Soul Repair book cover.

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