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All of us, whether victims of crime, offenders, employees in the criminal justice system, family
members or neighbours, are called to find paths to a justice system which reconciles; which
rejects attitudes of revenge; which helps victims to heal and offenders to turn their life around.
It is the only true path to the security and safety that our society longs for.
New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Revenge or Reconciliation, 2009
Ideas for teacher professional development
reflect on the notion of justice and the links to Catholic social teachingexamine different notions of justice including Western, Mori and Biblical justiceconsider attributes of retributive and restorative justice and how they are practised in your school community
read about a proactive restorative approach in schoolslink restorative practice with Gospel values in the Catholic school curriculum.
The courage to forgive
Justice and Catholic social teaching
Let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.
Amos 5: 24
The Catholic Church has been as vocal as the prophet Amos about social justice and human dignity. Our
concern is rooted in the teachings of the Bible, but there is also a rich collection of documents that explain what
we call Catholic social teaching.
The following are some of the key themes of Catholic social teaching:
All people have a unique dignity from God that must be respected.We must care for the common good of our world community, not just our own individual concerns.We must have a concern for poor people.We must protect the rights of workers.We must care for Gods creation.We must promote peace and rid ourselves of weapons of mass destruction.We must work so that the worlds wealth is distributed fairly among all people.
Adapted from Break through! The Bible for Young Catholics, St Marys Press, 2006, p 1322
The principles of Catholic social teaching provide
a blueprint for how we can live more justly, share more generously,
and act with mercy towards everyone.
How are the principles of Catholic social teaching embedded
in our philosophy, identity and professional practice?
Consider the recurring Biblical themes of fall and recovery, loss
and renewal, failure and forgiveness, exile and return. There
is a clear pattern in the teachings of Jesus of failure, recovery
and celebration for example, the parables of the treasure, the
pearl, the weeds and the wheat, the lost coin, the lost son and
the lost sheep.
Let us quietly reflect for a moment and consider the good
news from Matthew 5: 48:
Live generously and graciously toward others, the way
God has lived towards you.
Background information on the theme of justice
Find out about the Christian approach to justice and reconciliation.
Caritas social justice booklet Number 14, A justice that reconciles, is included
in this package. More copies are available through the Caritas office or can be
downloaded from our website: http://www.caritas.org.nz/.
If there is not enough time to work through the booklet you could use the
PowerPoint on this CD ROM, which gives an account of many of the important
points made in the booklet.
View the PowerPoint A justice that reconciles summary.
Discuss the information and ideas presented around crime and punishment, especially in relation to what is
happening in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Share important words or phrases from the Bishops statement Revenge or Reconciliation which you will find at
the front of the booklet A justice that reconciles.
God calls even the worst of offenders to change, and offers healing to
those victims of crime able to find the courage to forgive.
New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Revenge or Reconciliation, 2009
Different notions of justice
The focus of Western criminal justice systems is the judgement and punishment of offenders, whose actions are
measured against the formal rules (laws) of society. In Western justice models, a crime is treated primarily as an
offence against the state. So the state, through the police and courts, takes responsibility for, and control of, the
dispensation of justice. Victims of crime and their families and communities are to a large extent excluded from
the workings of the criminal justice system. Justice is handed down to offenders, and commonly has a strong
punitive element to it, which may take the form of a prison sentence or a fine. Imprisonment is more or less the
mainstay of the modern (adult) criminal justice system in the West. Prisoners are cut off from their communities
and society, and there is little possibility for reconciliation and healing for victims or offenders.
Pre-European Mori justice was based on the belief that social responsibilities linked all people to their wider
communities. Thus Mori society viewed crime as an offence against the person affected and their community,
with justice requiring the repair of damaged relationships and the restoration of mana not only to victims
and their families, but also to the family of the offender. Meetings of the affected whnau and hap provided a
forum for parties to be heard, with decisions often arrived at through community consensus. Traditional forms
of compensation included utu and muru, commonly but mistakenly referred to as revenge and plunder. In
fact, utu and muru were about the need to restore social relationships through compensation and reparation.
A justice that reconciles
Imprisonment, which arrived with the British settlers, was anathema to Mori, and strongly resisted. Another
important foundation concept in Mori justice was the belief that all people had tapu, which should be
acknowledged by other people.
At the heart of Biblical justice are themes of redemption and transformation. Gods divine love, and its
redeeming and transformative power, is intended for all people, especially sinners. This was the gospel that
Jesus preached. In 1995, the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand stated that compassion, mercy, healing, sanction
(where appropriate), and forgiveness (leading to reconciliation) were central to a fair and just criminal justice
system.1 These qualities and features are captured neatly by the Biblical term shalom, which refers to the total
wellbeing of a community or society. Justice is also seen by the prophet Amos as something transforming,
when he uses the symbol of a river: Let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes
dry (Amos 5: 24).
The disproportionate reliance on imprisonment as the principal form of sanction in modern Western
democracies does not sit easily alongside Biblical visions of justice, such as Amos flowing river. The New
Zealand Catholic Bishops have gone so far as to say that prisons are destructive of peoples humanity, and
that the tougher penal institutions in New Zealand are an affront to human dignity and a poison in the
bloodstream of the nation.
The good news that Jesus proclaimed, as foretold by Isaiah, included the promise of liberty for the captive
(Luke 4:16-18). Jesus also challenged those in a position to condemn others in society to examine carefully their
own conscience and practices (John 8: 3-11).2
What other notions of justice do you know about that you
can share with the group?
What ideas strike you as important to consider as a school
This statue on top of the Old Bailey, the central criminal
court of the United Kingdom, holds the scales of justice and a
1 New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference: Creating new hearts moving from retributive to restorative justice, 1995
2 New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference: Bishops Back Penal Reform, 1989
Understanding the attributes of retributive and restorative justice
Retributive lens Restorative lens
Blame-fixing central Problem-solving central
Focus on past Focus on future
Needs of victim secondary Needs of victim primary
Battle model; adversarial Dialogue normative
Emphasises differences Searches for commonalities
Imposition of pain considered normative Restoration and reparation considered normative
One social injury added to another Emphasis on repair of social injuries
Harm by offender balanced by harm to offender Harm by offender balanced by making right
Focus on offender; victim ignored Victims needs central
State and offender are key elements Victim and offender are key elements
Victims lack information Information provided to v