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Returning to its rightful owner whatever had been unjustly taken from that person. Since dominion over certain things cannot be restored, restitution in general means making reparation for awrong done, whether by returning what had been taken or by some other form of compensation. In this moral sense, restitution belongs to commutative justice (between person and person), whereby one restores to the rightful owner something unjustly taken or repairs damage unjustly caused. Restitution is binding in conscience because a person who does not make restitution, though able to do so, actually continues the theft or injury by depriving others of a good that belongs to them. The common good also requires restitution, since otherwise society would disintegrate if theft could be committed or injury caused with impunity. Moreover, no sin can be pardoned without sincere contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. Both elements are implied in the willingness to make restitution. (Etym. Latin restitutio, restoration.)
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.