Crime and Catholic Tradition

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 79:61-72 (2005)
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The U.S. Catholic Bishops (2000) have endorsed a model of criminal justice that is restorative rather than retributive. Some interpreters of Catholic tradition defend retribution as a necessary feature of responding to crime (e.g., John Finnis). I argue in this paper that this difference is substantive, not merely linguistic. The essential question is what elements of past Catholic thinking about criminal justice are normative for today. I argue that there are strong moral reasons,consistent with both Catholic tradition and larger principles of social justice, to endorse the bishops’ statement on criminal justice reform, and with it a restorativeapproach to crime.



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Elizabeth A. Linehan
Saint Joseph's University of Pennsylvania

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