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

Irish Archbishop Speaks Candidly on Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

While many bishops and priests have closed ranks when faced with the extent of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, has consistently spoken clearly and directly.

This week Martin spoke at the Marquette University Law School’s conference titled “Harm, Hope and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal,” as part of the school’s restorative justice program. “Archbishop Martin said what many Catholics want to hear, and they haven’t heard it from their Catholic leadership,” said Janine Geske, a professor at the law school who heads its Restorative Justice Initiative, in the National Catholic Reporter.

Also this week, Presbyterian pastor Peter James Vienna Presbyterian Church in Virginia stood before his congregation and acknowledged that the sexual abuse by a youth director was “far more devastating and horrific than we had imagined.” A row of young women, part of at least a dozen women who had been victimized over a four year period, sat in a back pew as James apologized.

“We failed as leaders to extend the compassion and mercy that you needed,” James said, publicly acknowledging the church’s failings for the first time. “Some of you felt uncared for, neglected and even blamed for this abuse. I am sorry. The church is sorry.”

Below are highlights from Archbishop Martin’s presentation. It needs to be read by far more than just Catholics.

I tell these events not to re-open history, but to illustrate just how difficult it is to bring an institution around to the conviction that the truth must be told. All institutions have an innate tendency to protect themselves and to hide their dirty laundry. We have to learn that the truth has a power to set free which half-truths do not have. The first condition for restorative justice is that all parties are willing to tell the truth and to take ownership of the truth, even when the truth is unpleasant. As I said at a recent liturgy of lament in Dublin: “The truth will set us free, but not in a simplistic way. The truth hurts. The truth cleanses not like smooth designer soap but like a fire that burns and hurts and lances”. ..

I still cannot accept a situation that no-one need assume accountability in the face of the terrible damage that was done to children in the Church of Christ in Dublin and in the face of how that damage was addressed. The responses seemed to be saying that it was all due to others or at most it was due to some sort of systems fault in the diocesan administration. …

But even those numbers, though shocking, have not got the right focus. Statistics are too often offender-focussed. We have to set out from the standpoint that the person who was at the epicentre of abuse was not the priest, but the victim, a child. A restorative justice approach would have to re-orient the way we draw up not just our statistics but our pastoral care. One victim constantly reminds me that the stern words of Jesus in Saint Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 18:6) about the “great millstone” to be fastened around the neck of anyone who becomes a stumbling block for the “little ones”, are quickly followed (Mt 18:12) by the teaching on the Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to find the one who has been lost. …

The culture of clericalism has to be analysed and addressed. Were there factors of a clerical culture which somehow facilitated disastrous abusive behaviour to continue for so long? Was it just through bad decisions by Bishops or superiors? Was there knowledge of behaviour which should have given rise to concern and which went unaddressed? …

A restorative justice approach which admits and addresses the truth in charity offers a useful instrument to create a new culture within the Catholic Church which enables the truth to emerge not just in the adversarial culture which is common in our societies, but in an environment which focuses on healing. At our service of lament and repentance I stressed that scandal of the sexual abuse of children by clergy means that the Archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again. That is more easily said than achieved. After a period of crisis there is the danger that complacency sets in and that all the structures which we have established slip down to a lower gear. …

A Church which becomes a restorative community will be one where the care of each one of the most vulnerable and most wounded will truly become the dominant concern of the ninety-nine others, who will learn to abandon their own security and try to represent Christ who still seeks out the abandoned and heals the troubled. …

Martin’s full speech is below.
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