Addressing violence in spiritual care

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This paper focuses on practices of spiritual care in penitentiaries and the military. In these contexts, the role of violence in human relationships - which may remain more at the background in, for instance, the context of healthcare, where spiritual care is usually seen as an integral dimension of care – prominently comes to the fore. Prison chaplains and military chaplains often need to address moral issues, related to violence that their clients have inflicted, undergone, or both.
Central in the paper is the question: how do chaplains in the military and penitentiaries open up new possibilities when responding to stories about moral damage, and what is the spiritual aspect of this response? There is no straightforward answer to this question. The context of the military, for instance, shows that moral damage may be deeply ambiguous: acting as a ‘good’ soldier may involve acting in ways that are morally unsettling. And in the context of criminal justice, it becomes painfully clear that ‘recovery’ of moral damage, in the sense of restoration of relationships, may be impossible. Damage that was inflicted on others may be irreversible, relationships may be disrupted forever.
I explore the above question by developing a notion of ‘moral recovery’ that highlights the spiritual dimension of morality, and that elucidates the task of chaplains when responding to moral damage that clients have experienced or inflicted. Here, I look at (recovery from) moral damage from a feminist philosophical perspective, perceiving moral processes as consisting of embodied relational practices that are entangled in sociocultural contexts. Furthermore, I use Arendt’s image of ‘the web of relationships’ in order to elaborate on the spiritual dimension of moral processes. Finally, in my explorations, I include empirical material from my research on spiritual care in the military, and reflections on my personal experience of working as a chaplain in Dutch penitentiaries.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2023
EventWhen life comes between us. Ethics and social relations in everyday life - University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht
Duration: 23 Jan 202324 Jan 2023


ConferenceWhen life comes between us. Ethics and social relations in everyday life

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