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Xavier University

Creating a Tool for Measuring and Responding to Moral Injury Caused by Clergy Sexual Abuse

This project will develop a tool to measure moral injury in survivors of clergy sexual abuse, their families and friends, and other members of the community adversely impacted by an abusive clergy member. Using quantitative and qualitative methodologies, the project will use that instrument to measure moral injury in a sample population of survivors of sexual abuse, students at Jesuit institutions, and diocesan employees. It will offer an instrument that other communities can use to make strides in identifying, remediating and preventing further moral injury in the surviving church. This project aims to create resources desperately needed for church communities to move toward reconciliation. We are motivated by the belief that what pastoral care, restorative justice, and healing look like for the church should be shaped by a deeper understanding of the morally injurious effects of the sexual abuse crisis on the church as a whole.

Principal Investigators

Marcus Mescher is associate professor of Christian ethics, specializing in Catholic social teaching. He earned MTS and PhD degrees at Boston College after his undergraduate studies at Marquette University and working for several years as a youth minister. He is the author of a dozen academic articles and book chapters on topics including the ethics of marriage and family life, the moral impact of digital devices, and the primacy of mercy. His book, The Ethics of Encounter: Christian Neighbor Love as a Practice of Solidarity (Orbis, 2020), proposes how to apply Pope Francis’ vision for the “culture of encounter” in order to build a more inclusive and equitable “culture of belonging.”

Marcus Mescher, Xavier University

Kandi Stinson completed a PhD in Sociology at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. At Xavier since 1988, she currently serves as Program Director of Sociology and as Faculty Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence. Her areas of interest include gender, the sociology of health, and the sociology of religion. She has expertise in both quantitative and qualitative research methods.


Kandi Stinson, Xavier University

Project Team

Gillian Ahlgren, professor of theology, is a church historian and specialist in the Christian mystical tradition. She received her doctorate in the History of Christianity from The Divinity School of the University of Chicago in 1991. Widely considered one of the world’s leading experts on Teresa of Avila, she has written seven books and over twenty scholarly articles on such figures as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Ignatius Loyola, Julian of Norwich, and Hildegard of Bingen. Dr. Ahlgren was a founding member of the Cincinnati Women’s Team of the Ignatian Spirituality Project, which provides retreats and support meetings for women in recovery from substance abuse. She has also developed and provided recovery programming for domestic violence survivors.

Gillian Ahlgren, Xavier University

Anne Fuller is an assistant professor in the School of Psychology at Xavier University. She earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Loyola University Chicago in 2017. Dr. Fuller’s research interests include community-based prevention and intervention programs as well as risk and resilience factors that influence children and adolescents’ mental health. She has also conducted research and received clinical training related to experiences of trauma among youth.

Anne Fuller, Xavier University

Ashley Theuring is assistant professor in theology, specializing in constructive and practical theologies. She completed her doctorate at the Boston University School of Theology in the Practical Theology program. Her theological research is informed by her past work at a rape, crisis, and abuse center, Women Helping Women of Hamilton County, where she was as an advocate and educator. Her research continues to be informed by contemporary communities of trauma survivors and focuses on exploring religious practices, meaning making, and survival in response to trauma.

Ashley Theuring, Xavier University

Colleen Ryan Mayrand is the assistant director of retreats and Catholic student outreach in Xavier University's Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice. She has been working with undergraduates in various capacities for the last eleven years, including six years as director of the Service for Social Action Center at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

Colleen Ryan Mayrand, Xavier University