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Document Details :
Title: Believing in Persons
Subtitle: Taking Fundamental Theology to Prison
Author(s): DE WITTE, Pieter , ZUIJDWEGT, Geertjan
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 45 Issue: 1 Date: 2022
This article connects a fundamental theological reflection on the nature of belief to the work of prison chaplains and the quest for a humane response to crime. An analysis of the act of faith as described in the work of John Henry Newman reveals the paradoxical nature of what it means to believe someone. Faith in persons is fundamentally dogmatic and not primarily a response to persons’ characteristics or to the content of their words. This insight clarifies two key features of prison chaplaincy: fundamental trust in people in prison and the radical Rahnerian conviction that Christ is encountered in people in prison. An understanding of the paradoxical nature of belief in persons also sheds light on society’s attempt to rehabilitate offenders. With the aid of Hannah Arendt, a concept of rehabilitation is developed that aims at reaffirming offenders as trustworthy citizens. Against recent claims by Martha Nussbaum, it is argued that a trust-oriented approach to offenders must also involve retributive punishment. The article concludes by recapturing the arguments on faith, prison chaplaincy, rehabilitation and punishment using the concept of symbolic encounter.