Many Catholic educators are eager to discuss the Church's teachings on the death penalty and restorative justice in their classrooms, but aren't sure where or how to begin.
Restorative justice is a principled approach to achieving justice that emphasizes living in right-relationship and resonates deeply with Gospel values and Catholic Social Teaching. Our Catholic tradition upholds the sanctity and interconnectedness of all human life. Where human dignity and relationships are violated by harm and injustice, restorative justice upholds human dignity, builds relationships, seeks healing, promotes accountability, and enables transformation within individuals, communities, and social systems.
A restorative approach to justice invites us to envision and innovate responses to harm which are based on these teachings and principles within our individual lives, families, parishes, ministries, and communities. Restorative justice is an invitation toward the possibility of transformative encounters between those impacted by harm and crime. In some circumstances, restorative justice practices can include those impacted by harm in voluntary processes aimed to address needs, build understanding, repair harm, and work toward healing together through communication and dialogue.
A restorative justice approach undergirds opposition to the death penalty, centers the needs of victim-survivors, promotes racial equity, honors indigenous peacemaking tradition, and actualizes forgiveness and reconciliation.
“There is a need for paths of peace to heal open wounds. There is also a need for peacemakers, men and women prepared to work boldly and creatively to initiate processes of healing and renewed encounter.”
Pope Francis , Fratelli Tutti 225