Restorative Justice Conference to Focus on Clergy Sex Abuse

It is not just an American problem – it is an international issue for the Catholic Church. This year’s Marquette Law School Restorative Justice Conference on April 4 & 5, 2011, will focus on Harm, Hope, and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal.

Those attending will be able to hear the stories of victims as well as those who are working with victims from Boston, Ireland, and Australia.  Also a group of clergy will speak from the heart about what they have learned.

Marquette Law School’s Restorative Justice Initiative (RJI) is a unique model demonstrative of the university’s commitment as a Catholic, Jesuit institution to promote excellence, faith, leadership, and service.  RJI educates law students as leaders who can bring together victims, offenders, and other community members to focus on resolving harm and conflict in our communities. Whereas the traditional justice system is retributive in nature, restorative justice is a process that creates a safe environment for dialogue, helping communities share their experiences.  The process has been shown to decrease recidivism, create cost efficiencies in the court system, provide improved outcomes for clients and victims, and change the face of judicial practice in the resolution of crime.

No other accredited law school has a restorative justice program comparable to Marquette’s. Established in 2004, the initiative boasts a successful track record as it is poised to do even more on behalf of victims and communities.  Specifically, Marquette University seeks to expand and formally organize the RJI, creating a sustainable resource known as the Restorative Justice Center (RJC) — intended to serve as the center in the U.S. for conducting education, research, and service related to restorative justice.

Accomplishments: Based on my experience in pro bono prison work and as a former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, I was inspired to found the Restorative Justice Initiative (RJI) at Marquette Law.  Over the past seven years,  our RJI has put on five highly successful community conferences that have grown to include more than 300 guests. I also teach a course in restorative justice, and direct the RJ Clinic.  Approximately 20 to 25 students enroll in either of two course offerings per semester.  Most of these students participate in RJ-related projects; approximately ten students per year work directly with victims, offenders, and community members in “talking circles” conducted through the RJ Clinic.

Other RJI accomplishments include:

  • Creating the “Healing Circle” DVD focused on sex abuse in the Catholic Church
  • Holding restorative circles for schools and community organizations throughout greater Milwaukee
  • Conducting victim offender dialogue sessions in cases of severe violent crime

Interested in attending this year’s conference, please visit the website:

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kathryn Thompson

    Is there a Restorative Justice Conference scheduled for 2012? If so, what are the dates and location?

  2. Christine Wilczynski-Vogel

    Thank you for the question. This year’s RJI Conference will have a different theme.

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