Illinois Bishops Share ‘A Catholic Vision for Restorative Justice’
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
February 23, 2023
SPRINGFIELD—The Catholic Conference of Illinois, CCI, last week, Feb. 14, released a new document from the bishops of Illinois inspired by the call of the Beatitudes and Works of Mercy.
The document, “A Catholic Vision for Restorative Justice in Illinois,” according to CCI, is inspired by the experiences of the Illinois Catholic Prison and Jail Ministry Network — a statewide network of priests, deacons, religious, and lay people among all six Illinois dioceses who minister to those incarcerated as well as victims of crime, families, and communities.
The document states that the six bishops of Illinois “seek to lay foundational principles for restorative justice, discuss the role of the Catholic Church in Illinois in this area, and set out policy priorities relating to the criminal justice system, especially as it impacts those who are incarcerated, victims of crime, families, and communities. In the heavily politicized environment of public dialogue today, it becomes difficult to navigate which policies to support or oppose. We often find ourselves forced into a false dualism, where we must be either for or against. With the foundations and recommendations that follow, we contend that our Catholic faith provides a pathway that can allow us to transcend opposing ideologies and lend a truly prophetic voice to the conversation.
“We draw our initial guidance from USCCB’s 2000 comprehensive statement Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, which urges us to reduce reliance on the punitive carceral system and instead address wrongdoing with restorative measures. Yet, as this statement is now over 20 years old, we wish to expand on what is set out in the statement based on our current context and reality and add in wisdom from our local ministries with men, women, families, and communities affected by incarceration. We outline a vision grounded in principles of Catholic Social Teaching for a justice system not motivated by punishment but rather by the restorative goals of accountability, rehabilitation, healing, and reconciliation,” the document states.
Bishop David Malloy, one of the bishops signing the document, has been visiting prisoners in the diocese and celebrating sacraments for them since his ordination in 2012.
“I have made it a practice to visit jails in the Diocese of Rockford and to offer Mass for those incarcerated on Christmas and Easter. I do so because in Matthew 25:36 Jesus tells His followers to visit those in prison,” Bishop Malloy told The Observer. 
“Also, those visits seek to care for those who have been found to have offended the common good and others by criminal actions. Still, they are our brothers and sisters and we seek their good and their salvation. Finally, when I am with the incarcerated, coverage in The Observer and the secular media about the visit remind the faithful of this diocese of this group of our brothers and sisters who need our prayer. They need to know that repentance is possible and that in any case they are the object of the prayers of the Church,” Bishop Malloy said.
The CCI document outlines details of the bishops’ vision for human dignity, options for the poor and vulnerable, rights and responsibilities, solidarity, and subsidiarity as part of the foundations for restorative justice.
It also provides points for the role of the Church in Illinois in Restorative Justice and states that the “Church is called to protect and promote the human dignity of those incarcerated and recently released in several ways”:
-- Provide pastoral care for incarcerated individuals;
-- Provide reentry support for individuals released from incarceration; 
-- Foster parish communities who welcome and serve the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals and families directly impacted by incarceration;
-- Educate pastors and parishioners on their responsibility to care for 
the incarcerated;
-- Formation in seminary;
-- Catholic Prison Ministry Coalition’s “Pathways of Formation” to train candidates for prison ministry;
-- Catholic Mobilizing Network’s “Paths of Renewed Encounter” to educate parishes on restorative justice; and,
-- Advocate through legislative support for policies that support Catholic Social Teaching for incarcerated and returning citizens.
To read the entire CCI document go to
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