National Catholic Conference on Restorative Justice Aligns Faith, Healing, and Synodality

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – A groundbreaking event last week, jointly hosted by Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) and the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing (IRJH) at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, brought together a diverse community of over 300 participants, both in-person and virtually, to explore the transformative power of restorative justice as a catalyst for healing and human flourishing within the institutional Church and beyond.

Restorative justice is an approach to addressing harm that focuses on healing and repairing rather than exclusively punishing. It includes practices that, when possible, voluntarily bring together those affected by harm to understand the impacts of the event and what needs to be done to make things right. It can be transformative and healing for everyone involved.

“At various points in history, the Church has played the roles of both wounder and healer. Our conference sought to grapple with this complex reality which many Catholics find almost too challenging to navigate,” remarked CMN Executive Director Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy. “From the Church’s historical involvement in slavery and Native American boarding schools to the horrors of clergy sexual abuse and cover-up, we acknowledge a pressing need for truth-telling, accountability, and rebuilding of trust within our faith community. Similarly, our current punitive criminal legal system also cries out for transformation. The Church holds a unique opportunity to foster healing in these areas, and restorative justice provides us with a way forward. It enables us to address these deep wounds of the past, and collectively work toward a more just future for our Church and world.”

Throughout the conference, dynamic presenters explored the potential for restorative justice in four critical areas: Criminal Legal System Transformation, Racial Injustice and Healing, Clergy Sexual Abuse and Healing, and Harms Against Native Peoples. The conference featured an impressive lineup of speakers, including:

  • Sr. Helen Prejean, visionary anti-death penalty advocate and bestselling author of Dead Man Walking
  • Most Rev Shelton Fabre, Archbishop of Louisville
  • Juan Carlos Cruz, global advocate for survivors of clerical abuse and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
  • Dr. Sam Torres, Deputy CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

Significantly, the conference coincided with the opening of the Synod on Synodality in Rome, a synchronicity that underscored the alignment between the principles of synodality and those of restorative justice.

Fr. Daniel Griffith, founder of IRJH, reflected on this alignment: “Our conference’s timing with the synod is providential, because restorative justice is essentially synodality in action. With its principles and practices fostering space for the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, restorative justice equips us to reach out to those on the margins and bind unhealed wounds.” 

Members of the media are invited to view recordings of conference plenary sessions. Please email Katlyn Toelle, CMN’s Director of Communications, at for more information.

About Catholic Mobilizing Network:

Catholic Mobilizing Network is a national organization dedicated to mobilizing Catholics and individuals of goodwill to value life over death, end the use of the death penalty, shift the U.S. criminal justice system from punitive to restorative, and build capacity for restorative practices within U.S. society..

About the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing:

The Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing at the University of St. Thomas School of Law is committed to advancing restorative justice through education, research, and practice. Its mission is to foster a more just and compassionate world by addressing the harm caused by crime and conflict, promoting healing, and encouraging community engagement.