Relational Spirituality and Forgiveness of Offenses Committed by Religious Leaders

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In the present article, we extend a model of relational spirituality and forgiveness to the context of major offenses by clergy. In Study 1, undergraduate students (N = 208) described a major offense that they had experienced by a religious leader and then completed several questionnaires in relation to the offense and the religious leader. Appraisals of relational spirituality were significantly associated with forgiveness, after controlling for known predictors of forgiveness (i.e., hurtfulness, time since the offense, and commitment to God or another source of spirituality). In Study 2, we replicated and extended the findings from Study 1 using an independent sample of undergraduates (N = 365). In a series of structural equation models, we found that relational engagement of God (or another source of spirituality) partially mediated the relationship between anger toward God (or another source of spirituality) and unforgiving motivations. We conclude by discussing implications for future research.