International attention for bishop's justice idea
In the lead-up to Social Justice Sunday this weekend, Canberra-Goulburn auxiliary Bishop Patrick Power's ideas about restorative justice have sparked interest from outside Australia.
The British ecumenical think-tank Ekklesia reported this week that Bishop Power "has called on Christians to promote awareness of alternatives to imprisonment - the most positive of which, he says, is the idea of restorative justice".
Restorative justice is based on engaging offenders with the impact of their actions on victims and on their own community. It seeks to bring them back into society through practical recompense and restitution.
Bishop Power said that it was important to offer prisoners a chance to work or to study for professional qualifications, in order to reintegrate them in the community. He claimed that this approach is more effective in dealing with crime than traditional prison punishment, as well as more Christian.
In some parts of Australia, the prison population has grown by more than 40% over the past decade. This is also the case elsewhere in the developed world. In the UK, the number of people in jail exceeded 76,000 for the first time earlier this year.
Referring to Jesus' call for his followers to recognise him in acts of mercy to prisoners (Matthew 25), Bishop Power declared that Christians should promote wider acknowledgment that prisons are not an effective answer to crime, and in practice are often little more than schools for criminals.
He said that Social Justice Sunday provides a time for reflection and concrete acts of solidarity towards prisoners, "who are often desperately lonely and totally ignorant of God's love for them."
To mark Social Justice Sunday, the Catholic Social Justice Council is circulating its annual statement. This Sunday's statement is entitled Jesus, Light for the World. It focuses on reaching out to those who feel distant from the church, and to addressing the needs of the most marginalised in society.
Bishop Power's comments were also reported by the Fides news agency of the Vatican's Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
Australian Catholics asked to examine alternatives to prison (Ekklesia 22/9/05)
Pastoral care for prison inmates: a sentence should serve for re-education not only punishment says Catholic Bishop of Melbourne (Fides 19/9/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
No justice in schools for crime (Kairos Catholic Journal 18-25/9/05)
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council |
Discipline that reconciles and restores (Kairos Catholic Journal)
Social Justice Statement says affluenza is 'wasting us away' (CathNews 15/9/05)
Social Justice Statement to be launched today (CathNews 14/9/05)
'Church in World' focus for Social Justice Statement (CathNews 16/8/05)
Social Justice Statement launched (CathNews 23/9/04)
Australian bishop calls for restorative justice for prisoners (Independent Catholic News 21/9/05)
Cardinal Martino on "Reconciliation and Peace" (Part 1) (Zenit 21/9/05)
Desires Aren't "Rights," Says Cardinal Sodano (Zenit 21/9/05)
23 Sep 2005