Restorative Justice & Catholic Teaching

February 9, 2011

There has been some controversy over whether or not Restorative Justice is consistent with Catholic Teaching. Any idea can be misapplied or abused, but the fundamental philosophy of the Restorative Justice approach to Criminal Justice is very Christian in nature. Criminal Justice as it is practiced today is based upon revenge, not justice or even punishment. Revenge is never justified.? When punishment is administered it may not be motivated by revenge. Restorative Justice recognizes these flaws in our Criminal Justice system and recommends an approach far more consistent with Christian values.

In the book, Restorative Justice: How It Works by Marian Liebmann, the author explains:

…a way of looking at restorative justice is to think of it as a balance between a number of different tensions: – a balance between the therapeutic and the retributive models of justice
– a balance between the rights of offenders and the needs of victims
– a balance between the need to rehabilitate offenders and the duty to protect the public.

As one blurb from states:

Restorative justice emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime. When victims, offenders and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results can be transformational.

Restorative programmes are characterized by four key values:

  1. Encounter: Create opportunities for victims, offenders and community members who want to do so to meet to discuss the crime and its aftermath
  2. Amends: Expect offenders to take steps to repair the harm they have caused
  3. Reintegration: Seek to restore victims and offenders? to whole, contributing members of society
  4. Inclusion: Provide opportunities for parties with a stake in a specific crime to participate in its resolution

The United States Council of Catholic Bishops published a document on this subject called:

Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice


Most Rev. Ricardo Ramirez, C.S.B., Bishop of Las Cruces spoke about this USCCB document in a speech entitled Catholic Social Teaching on Restorative Justice:

Download (PDF, 55KB)


Additional articles on Restorative Justice in the Catholic Church include:

Restorative Justice and Catholic Social Thought by Fr. Kurt M. Denk, S.J.:

Download (PDF, 593KB)


Position Statement on Restorative Justice, Society of St. Vincent de Paul:

Download (PDF, 64KB)