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Closely connected to core values are guiding principles, which are explored in various ways throughout this guide. CMN articulates the following as guiding principles for Catholics to relate to restorative justice.

Through a co-creative process, this articulation of principles was developed to reflect the essence of Catholic social teaching, Gospel values, and the charism of the Congregation of St. Joseph as they align with restorative justice values and approaches. (CMN is a founding member of the Congregation of St. Joseph Mission Network.)



We pursue justice that upholds the sanctity of each human life.

As we have been created in the image and likeness of God, each of us possess inherent dignity and worth. Harm and injustice violate the dignity and sanctity of those individuals and communities impacted. Shame and unworthiness commonly fuel offending behavior and collective responses to harm, resulting at times in repeated cycles of violence that are both victim- and perpetrator-oriented. This can mean suffering repeated violence as well as repeatedly inflicting it. Shame and unworthiness are also common responses to being victimized, fueling isolation, depression, and sometimes a desire to seek revenge.

Justice, then, should seek to restore dignity to victims and survivors, while also upholding, honoring, and helping those responsible for harm restore their human dignity. Following the example of Christ, our commitment to human dignity prohibits us from dehumanizing even those who commit atrocities. As we remember our shared humanity, we actively choose – even in response to heinous actions – to acknowledge our shared humanity and recommit to the common good by which we reaffirm the possibility of a shared future in which all individuals and communities can flourish.



We pursue justice that recognizes our interconnectedness.

Given that individuals and communities are integrally linked, our faith calls us into right relations with God, creation and one another. Acknowledging our place within an interconnected web of relationships means fostering our mutual responsibility and accountability to one another. In the spirit of subsidiarity – a principle of Catholic social teaching that holds that decisions or actions should not be made on a higher level when a lower level of competence would suffice – justice should strive for collaborative and inclusive processes, encouraging the meaningful participation of those most impacted by injustice. Justice should create opportunities for truth-telling, recognition, understanding, and healing within the relationships and social structures impacted by an injustice.

As a result of these opportunities, possibilities are created for renewed relationships and connections between and within individuals, families, and communities, where all belong and no one is disposable. As we seek to promote just relations between individuals, we also must attend to the broader social relationships – cultural, institutional, and structural – of which individuals are a part, and so strive for a socially just and equitable society.



We pursue a justice that heals.

We accompany those who experience brokenness, listen to their particular suffering, and hold out hope that a new creation can rise from our woundedness. A restorative vision of justice seeks first to address the suffering of those experiencing harm and victimization. This is achieved by attending to their physical, emotional, material, social, and spiritual needs, to the greatest extent possible. Justice should offer survivors a passage from the disempowerment, disconnection, and disorder of trauma toward renewed voice, connection, meaning, and faith.

Meeting the needs of survivors requires an active role on the part of communities and those who offend. Justice then also seeks to encourage those who offend toward acknowledgment, discernment, penance, atonement, and making amends. Atonement requires the wellness of those who offend, so they can stand spiritually ready to fulfill their obligations toward others. Justice should therefore also seek to heal the trauma and interrupt or break the destructive offender-victimhood cycles. 



We affirm that all people are created equally by God, and therefore all people deserve to be treated fairly and equitably, regardless of their racial, ethnic, educational, and cultural backgrounds.

Racism is a sin, a life issue, an unhealed wound, a cancer in the Body of Christ. Misuse and abuse of power by the dominant race perpetuate racial injustice and deny certain human beings of their God-given dignity. As an Easter people who ourselves have been transformed in the Resurrection, we must commit to engaging in the difficult, necessary, and ongoing work of dismantling racism in all its debilitating and destructive forms. With this focus on equity, transformation within ourselves, our communities, and our political, economic, religious, and criminal justice systems may be possible. As a community of believers, we are called to engage in racial justice work with a spirit of compassionate truth-telling and a commitment to right relationship at individual, social, and systemic levels. We strive to act in solidarity and companionship with Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, allies in their struggle for safety, dignity, and economic and social equality. We advocate for an anti-racist and equitable vision and lived reality within the church and society alike.



We believe that justice demands an understanding of accountability broader than punishment can offer.

This includes honest acknowledgment with oneself and others about the harms caused and their impacts. The natural follow-through to such accountability is taking steps to repair the harm and committing to never create that harm again. Confession is an imperative to the sacrament of reconciliation in our relationship with God. Likewise, the deep work of taking responsibility, expressing remorse, and making amends honors the dignity of the person(s) who created the harm and contributes to the healing of all those impacted, opening pathways for redemption in relationships with others. This understanding of accountability acknowledges our mutual responsibility for one another in an integral web of relationships.



We pursue justice that promotes individual, collective, and even structural healing and change.

Crime and violence are fueled by the woundedness of individuals and brokenness in communities and social systems. Many facets of our current criminal justice system – including mass incarceration, racialized policing and sentencing, and the continued existence of the death penalty – exacerbate this brokenness.

For our communities to experience safety and wholeness we must be willing to name and address the injustices of social inequity, such as systemic racism, trauma, poverty, and the like. To do this we must center the voices and experiences of those marginalized by victimization, incarceration, trauma, and systemic oppression. We can strengthen communities when justice processes bring together community resources in collaboration. We support efforts toward individual and collective transformation through reintegration, education, accompaniment, and transformative encounters.


Content contributors to this section included CMN’s Restorative Justice Steering Committee, CMN's Board of Directors, and Just Outcomes Consulting.