How restorative justice practices align with the Catholic faith and have expanded locally, globally September 15, 2023

“Restorative justice for me starts at home,” Michael Hoffman said.

A member of St. Mary of the Woods in Chicago, Hoffman said his primary act of recovery as a clergy abuse survivor happened in 2006.

He told his wife, Kathy, about the abuse after reading a Chicago Tribune article about his abuser that included the names of other children he knew at the time.

Hoffman said he came forward about 30 years after the abuse, which happened for four years starting when he was 12.

Hoffman, now 58, grappled with questions of, “Do I tell my wife? Is she going to think differently of me? Is she going to question who I am as her husband or who I am as a provider or father to our kids? I was anxious,” he said.

Her response of “compassion and love and understanding” was Hoffman’s “first moment of feeling heard and believed and treated well. And I cherish that moment.”

Now executive director of the National Catholic Restorative Justice Initiative (NCRJI), Hoffman works with a Twin Cities priest, Father Daniel Griffith, to advocate for abuse prevention and healing; “translating what great people, like Father Dan (Griffith) are doing, translating that into the real-life experience on the ground.”

Through his own work within, and outside, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Father Griffith sees the Catholic faith as not only complementing restorative justice but enhancing it. In the past decade, emerging restorative justice practices local Church leaders and laity have used to guide the archdiocese through pain on a path toward healing have become a model for other groups seeking to do the same.

Though restorative justice as a practice is not new, Father Griffith — pastor of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis and founding director of the University of St. Thomas School of Law’s Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing (IRJH) — said what is being newly explored is the alignment of these principles with the Catholic faith.

“This is where I’m absolutely convinced that this is God’s will, that restorative justice and healing so powerfully align with Catholic social teaching and the healing mission of Christ: In such a short time, we’ve been able to connect with all these groups nationally and now internationally where we’re just starting to see this confluence of, and a movement toward, this Catholic embrace of restorative justice,” Father Griffith said.

Restorative justice invites practitioners to respond to harm and encourage accountability and healing by accompanying people as they recount their experiences….

Read the full Catholic Spirit article here.

Father Daniel Griffith and Julie Craven stand outside the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Father Griffith is the founding director of the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing, and Craven is its associate director. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT