Restorative Justice Without Compassion Only Creates More Injustice

[O]ne cannot conceive of objectivity without subjectivity. Neither can exist without the other, nor can be dichotomized.  The separation of objectivity from subjectivity, the denial of the later when analyzing reality or acting upon it is objectivism.  On the other hand, the denial of objectivity in analysis or action, resulting in a subjectivism which leads to solipsistic positions, denies action itself by denying objective reality.  Neither objectivism nor subjectivism…is propounded here, but rather subjectivity and objectivity in constant dialogical relationship.

Pedagogy Of The Oppressed, Paulo Freire

Justice without compassion is a sham; compassion without justice is hollow. The two need one another. Compassion is, of course, not mere subjectivity.  There is an objective component to it…what it objectively is, its biological roots, its role in evolution, and most importantly, the manner in which decision-making and actions become objectively dehumanized without it.  But compassion arises from our amygdala, not our prefrontal cortex.  It is itself a survival mechanism for getting beyond mere objectivity.  It is a check to mere objectivity.  It is a foil that tells us when something interpersonally is not quite right with someone’s objectivity.

There is a great deal of talk today toward restorative justice.  This is good.  When people are made less than human, then they should have some sort of recourse to make up for this.  But there are proponents of restorative justice who claim that mercy and compassion are not required to accomplish this.  This is false; this is a lie.  To talk about restorative justice without mercy and compassion is to perpetuate the same objectivism which created the injustice in the first place.

Sadly, not everyone is equally compassionate, nor even compassionate at all for that matter.  That is simply a reality of the world in which we live.  True Christianity recognizes this.  It accepts this discrepancy, but sees itself as a life-giving, humanizing force that while it may not be able to redeem those who are for whatever reasons intent on dehumanizing others, stands firm in this deeply and genuinely human objective-subjective dialogue.

The only way to genuine restorative justice includes having your heart broken by the injustice of those that created it in the first place and to personally take on that brokenness out of our call to be fully human ourselves by being and becoming increasingly compassionate, not for our sake, but primarily for the sake of those who suffer injustice, but incredulously also for the sake of those who perpetrate injustice, who cannot seem to help themselves, and who are incredibly broken people.

I light a candle every week at Mass both for those who suffer injustice and those who cannot bring themselves to be compassionate, and especially for those who are divorced from their true selves…the non-compassionate who promote restorative justice.