Catholic Dictionary




The duty to give back or make up for what a person has that does not belong to him or her. It differs from restitution, which implies stealing or unjust acquisition. If something is bought rightfully from an unjust possessor, it must be returned to the rightful owner, but the buyer should be reimbursed for the price paid unless the goods were bought at suspicious price or under dubious circumstances. Restoration is to be made to the one who suffered the damage. If one is dead, it is due to one's heirs. What must be restored is either what was borrowed or obtained or its equivalent value. And if the object was kept in bad faith, the restoration should include also the fruits accrued from the unjust possession. The obligation to restore is suspended in a physical or moral incapacity on the part of the one who possesses what belongs to someone else. But if one is able to repay gradually, one is held to the obligation, as far as it is possible to make repayment without grave injury to others who depend on him or her for their support. Among the reasons that may cancel the duty altogether are: voluntary remission on the part of one who has a right to dispose of one's own goods or a decision of the civil or ecclesiastical authorities.