Restorative Justice promoted by Catholic laity to address clergy sexual violence

Catholic laity are promoting restorative justice processes to address sexual violence by clergy. The Archdiocese of St. Paul (Minn.), according to the Star-Tribune, is experimenting with restorative justice and healing forums in a handful of churches, bringing in convener Janine Geske of Marquette University’s Restorative Justice Initiative, “to deepen parishioners’ understanding of clergy abuse and to be a bridge to survivors.”

Catholic social teaching provides several concepts to explicate and support restorative justice , according to the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International. Among them are the dignity of the person, the common good, mutual rights and duties, subsidiarity, solidarity, participation, and integral human development.

“The Healing Circles” video series has been developed by Janine Geske, distinguished professor of law and former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court who started RJI at Marquette in order to help support victims and communities in the process of healing from the effects of crime.  “The Healing Circle” video (http://healingcirclegroup.com) brings us face to face with the victims of sexual abuse by clergy and their pain. As part of a restorative justice process, the video helps to develop an understanding of the ripple effect of the violence as it explores the impact on the victims, their families, other believers, and those working in institutional church settings. Ultimately, the video helps examine the ways the violence has created a crisis of faith and helps grapple with the complexity of the healing process.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan introduces the videos saying, “It’s very important for us all to come face to face with the victims of these horrific acts. … I know that this scandal has shaken all of us and tested us. An important trust has been violated and the pain has been overwhelming for victims, their families, and loved ones.”

Diane Knight, chair of the national review board of the USCCB, has given her endorsement to Healing Circles video and process. “The individual stories in this DVD are compelling, and they are  a powerful springboard for meaningful discussion that can extend the healing process in all of us. This is a must see for anyone who care deeply about the impact of the clergy abuse scandal,” said Knight.

The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative reports that “Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.”

“The Healing Circle” is a professionally produced DVD that is edited into three segments and runs one hour. Ultimately, it helps viewers examine the ways the sexual abuse scandal has created a crisis of faith and helps them begin to address the complexity of the healing process. It is available in two formats, one with a taped introduction by Archbishop Timothy Dolan and one without. The DVD may be ordered at www.healingcirclegroup.com.

The Restorative Justice Initiative at Marquette University Law School is one of the nation’s leading resources for the restorative justice process. Led by Distinguished Professor Geske, it is at the forefront of promoting scholarship and research on restorative justice.

Each human has innate dignity, the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative asserts, even those whose lives have been deeply marred by injustice, and those responsible for causing it. The common good requires that all share in the benefits of society, participate in building up society, and fulfill reciprocal obligations. Solidarity speaks to the attitudes of compassion and respect necessary to sustain a good society. Integral development is a term used by Paul VI and later popes to indicate that individuals reach their full potential in a holistic atmosphere of peace, human dignity, and respect for economic and civil rights.

Restorative justice initiatives are part of the larger array of Catholic nonviolent practices used to build accountable justice and integral peace. Catholic laity have powerful tools in our tradition for responding to violence, even within the church.[]

The information above is compiled from these web sites:

St. Paul Archdiocese Bankruptcy Wraps Up, Many Call for Church Leaders to be Held Accountable, Star-Tribune by Jean Hopfensperger (September 29, 2018)

One-page Restorative Justice at Catholic Nonviolence Initiative

The Healing Circle http://healingcirclegroup.com/

Vimeo The Healing Circle

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