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The term reparation lends itself to a variety of meanings in both the profane and religious contexts. It may signify the action of repairing or keeping in repair, and when so used by a theologian or religious writer it designates the whole work of restoring men to the friendship of god. This usage is close to the root meaning of the word, yet it is not as common as that in which reparation designates compensation for an injury. This is the usual meaning given reparation by theologians. In moral theology its use implies restitution for a personal injury for which the compensation cannot be measured exactly. In ascetical theology or devotional writing reparation designates the effort to make amends for insults given to God by sin, one's own or another's. In dogmatic theology the idea of reparation enters into the attempt to find a theological explanation of Redemption or, more specifically, to clarify the notion of satisfaction.

Related to Sin. In the history of dogma the concept of reparation is intimately bound to the notion of sin as a personal injury or insult to God (see sin, theology of). Adam had been constituted the moral head of the human race, and his sin not only alienated mankind from God but was also a personal injury or insult to God because it deprived Him of what is His by strict right. By sinning, Adam offered the supreme insult to God and accomplished the downfall of mankind. These effects of Adam's sin have, moreover, been compounded by the sins of his descendants.

Man is subject to the consequences of sin, which is a reality of his history. The first consequence of sin is guilt (called reatus culpae ), which separates man from God and makes him an enemy of his Creator. The second consequence is a penalty (reatus poenae ) for the injury done to God. Sin in the nature of things is enmity to God and must therefore be abandoned before one can be restored to His friendship. It also appears clear from the history of God's relationship to man that sin is followed by a penalty that must be paid (see e.g., Gn 3.1619). That is to say, to obtain forgiveness reparation must be made; one must restore to God what he has deprived Him of and make amends for the insult done to Him (see, e.g., 2 Sm 24.1025).

God's reaction to sin is often described in terms of anger and the punishment of sin as His revenge. One is face to face with a mystery that Scripture presents in metaphors. These anthropomorphic expressions are indispensable but are not meant to carry the whole burden of God's message. Misunderstanding of this has led to serious distortions of the idea of satisfaction and reparation for sin. The reformers, certain Catholic preachers, and popular spiritual writers taught that Jesus Christ became the object of the wrath of His Father and suffered the torments of the damned to satisfy retributive justice as a penal substitute for sinful man. In reaction to this distorted and exaggerated view of God's wrath, liberal Protestant theology has denied any idea of reparation.

The consideration of God's infinite holiness and His eternal immutability precludes the imperfections of retributive justice. God's love initiates all movements of reconciliation; it is not caused by them. In spite of this it is clear from the first pages of Genesis that sin is hateful to God and is punished. Even after sin was forgiven and the sinner turned again to God, punishment was often inflicted to expiate for the offense against God. The Old Testament especially points to a close connection between sin and a penalty (see Nm 16.2535; 2 Chr 29.69; Ps 77 (78) and 108 (109); Jer 15.19).

Sin is a personal offense against God; it makes the sinner an enemy of God; it is the death of the soul and delivers the sinner into the slavery of Satan. Added to these effects, which follow upon sin, there is a debt of the sinner to God. Because the original state of friendship was completely gratuitous, its restoration when lost was completely beyond man's power. The initiative had to come from God. God planned the restoration in Jesus Christ, who for His part embraced His Father's will perfectly. Thus as the second Adam He restored all things in Himself and reversed the course of action taken by the first Adam. Further, whatever debts had been incurred were wiped out by the humble and obedient submission of Jesus to His Father's will in His Passion and death.

An Attempt to Explain. The introduction of the notion of reparation is an attempt to explain how the Passion and death of Christ effected man's Redemption. The organization and synthesis of this theology took place first in the Cur Deus Homo of St. anselm of canterbury. For him reparatory satisfaction became necessary from the fact of sin. While rejecting this note of necessity, Catholic theology has followed St. Anselm's lead in explaining the redemptive work of Christ. In the past there often was an overemphasis on the penal aspects of the material sufferings involved. The Son of God became the substitute of His fellow men as the object of the wrath of His Father. These ideas are not contained in St. Anselm nor in the works of the great scholastics, who adopted and modified his theory. Satisfaction is not punishment, nor is reparation found in the sufferings themselves but in the humility and love and obedience found in submission to the sufferings.

The Redemption is God's love in operation. The Son of God became the Son of Man to wipe out the decree against men by reversing the pride and disobedience of Adam in His humble and obedient death. In this there was vicarious satisfaction and reparation made possible by the Redeemer's identification and solidarity with the redeemed rather than by substitution. There is a judgment upon sin that Jesus Christ took upon Himself and removed from mankind. The themes of the Suffering Servant (Is ch. 53; Acts 8.3235), the lamb of god (Jn 1.29; 1 Pt 1.19), obedience restoring what had been lost by the disobedience, all point to reparation. There is more to men's Redemption than reparation; however, there is an aspect of this saving work that can hardly be explained in any other way.

Duty. Reparation is a wider notion than that of expi ation in that its burden is not only the removal of sin and guilt and penalty, but the reestablishment of all things in Christ. The duty of reparation, then, is the obligation of a Christian to share in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ, who, by His obedience to the will of His Father in Heaven, especially by the offering of His life on the cross, merited eternal salvation for all men. Every Christian is personally involved in Christ's sacrifice, for he is baptized in his death (Rom 6.34), and those who are spiritually alive through that death may not live only for themselves (2 Cor 5.15). St. Peter, therefore, offered the suffering Jesus as an example to be followed not only by the chosen few but by all who are Christians (1 Pt1.182.20).

This duty of sharing in the Savior's work of Redemption may be fulfilled in many ways. Such reparation is contained, actually or virtually, in the mere carrying out of the Commandments of God and of the Church. By reason of one's association in the priesthood of Christ by Baptism (see St. thomas aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 3a, 62.2), all of the day's actions can be merged with Christ's redemptive action. In this connection, recent popes have recommended the offering of the day's activities as a way to share in the reparation achieved by the Savior on the cross (e.g., Pius X, April 9, 1911, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 3:345; Pius XII, Sept. 27, 1956, ibid. 48:674677, and May 19, 1957, ibid. 49:415). Also, attendance at Mass with the intention, even obscure, of being united to Christ's sacrifice is a special means for sharing in His work of reparation.

In modern times, especially by the renewal of the ancient devotion to the humanity of Christ (see sacred hu manity, devotion to), in the symbol of His love for man, the Sacred Heart, the Church has promoted among the faithful the practice of reparation. Many prayers of reparation, several acts of reparation, and the morning offering mentioned above have been richly indulgenced. Also, the canonization of saints, such as Rose of Lima, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Gabriel Possenti, who devoted their lives to reparation, has furthered this spirit.

See Also: resurrection of christ, 2; satisfaction of christ; soteriology; redemption.

Bibliography: j. riviÈre, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 13.2:19122004; The Doctrine of the Atonement, tr. l. cappadelta, 2 v. (St. Louis 1909). l. hÖdl, ibid. 4:683685. h. f. davis et al., A Catholic Dictionary of Theology (London 1962) 1: 189198. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 167175, 203240, 221832. j. bonsirven, The Theology of the N.T., tr. s. f. l. tye (Westminster, Md. 1963). l. cerfaux, Christ in the Theology of St. Paul, tr. g. webb and a. walker (New York 1959). w. f. hogan, Christ's Redemptive Sacrifice (Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1963). s. lyonnet, De peccato et redemptione (Rome 1957), "Conception paulinienne de la rédemption," Lumière et vie 7 (1958) 3566. philippe de la trinitÉ, What is Redemption? tr. a. armstrong (New York 1961). m. mellet, "The Redemption" in The Historical and Mystical Christ, ed. a. m. henry, tr. a. bouchard (Theology Library 5; Chicago 1958) 147207. g. oggioni, "Il mistero della redenzione," Problemi e orientamenti di teologia dommatica, v.2 (Milan 1957) 236343. e. f. siegman, "The Blood of Christ in St. Paul's Soteriology," in Proceedings of the Second Precious Blood Study Week, 1960 (Carthagena, Ohio 1962) 1135. e. testa, "La sotereologia de s. Paolo causa della sua cattività," Studii biblici francescani 8 (195758) 113214. pius xi, "Miserentissimus Redemptor," Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Rome 1909) 20:165178. pius xii, "Caritate Christi Complusi," Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Rome 1909) 24:177194. c. marmion, Christ in His Mysteries (London 1939) 248265. r. garrigou-lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, tr. m. t. doyle, 2 v. (St. Louis 194748) 2:497510. Enchiridion Indulgentiarum (Vatican City 1950) 178179, 256257.

[a. a. maguire/

p. f. mulhern]


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Compensation for an injury; redress for a wrong inflicted.

The losing countries in a war often must pay damages to the victors for the economic harm that the losing countries inflicted during wartime. These damages are commonly called military reparations. The term reparation may also be applied to other situations where one party must pay for damages inflicted upon another party.

In the twentieth century, military reparations have been extracted from Germany twice. After Germany's defeat in world war i, the Allies conducted a peace conference in Paris at which they drafted the treaty of versailles (225 Consol. T. S. 188 [June 28, 1919]) which was extremely harsh toward Germany. Germany was compelled to deliver to the Allies one-eighth of its livestock and provide ships, railroad cars, locomotives, and other materials to replace those it had destroyed during the war. Germany also had to provide France with large quantities of coal as reparations.

The treaty required Germany to pay large yearly sums of money to the Allies, but it did not set the total amount due. A reparations commission, which was created to determine the amount, decided in 1921 to set total cash reparations at about $33 billion.

Efforts to collect the reparations failed, primarily because the German economy was in dire straits in the 1920s. U.S. financier Charles G. Dawes presided over a committee of experts to deal with this problem. In 1924 the Allies and Germany adopted the Dawes Plan, which reorganized the German national bank, placed stringent economic controls on Germany, and provided for loans to Germany, all to improve the German economy so that the country could make reparations. In 1929 Germany renegotiated its reparations requirements with the Allies. A committee headed by U.S. representative owen d. young reduced the amount Germany owed and ended foreign controls over the German economy. Even this reduced amount of reparations was not paid. When adolf hitler came to power in 1933, he repudiated the Treaty of Versailles and the reparations provisions.

In the twentieth century, the term reparation has come to imply fault. However, in some circumstances nations may pay for damages inflicted by their armed forces without admitting fault or legal liability, by offering compensation

ex gratia, which is Latin for "out of grace." Such payments are usually made for humanitarian or political reasons.

For example, the United States paid Switzerland $4 million for the accidental bombing of the town of Schaffhausen during world war ii and paid Japan $2 million in the mid-1950s after an atomic bomb test that the United States conducted in the Pacific showered a Japanese fishing boat and its crew with radiation.

In recent years the governments of Switzerland and Germany have made efforts to provide reparations to victims of the Nazi Holocaust in the 1930s and 1940s. Swiss banks had frozen the assets of Holocaust survivors and their families after World War II and for many years they denied that those assets existed. With pressure from the international community and the United States mounting, the banks finally acknowledged in 1997 that they were holding thousands of dormant accounts and set up a restitution fund of some $1.25 billion for account holders and their survivors. An instrumental figure in the fight for Swiss reparations was U.S. Senator Alphonse D'Amato of New York, who was then chair of the Senate Banking Committee.

The U.S. government has granted reparations to the Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II as a result of executive order No. 9066 signed by President franklin d. roosevelt in February 1942. The order led to the incarceration of approximately 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry; 77,000 were U.S. citizens and the rest legal and illegal resident aliens. The president was reacting to wartime hysteria that gripped the West Coast immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As U.S. citizens began to fear a Japanese invasion of the mainland, rumors abounded about treasonous Japanese residents either communicating vital war secrets to the Japanese government or actively aiding the enemy. Though these rumors proved false, Japanese Americans suffered because of their nationality. Those interned were forced to sell their homes, furnishings, and businesses at low, distressed prices because they were only allowed to take what they could carry. Families were uprooted and spent time in relocation camps. These camps were located in inhospitable places with severe weather conditions, and they were poorly outfitted to shelter the prisoners who suffered, became ill, and in many cases died. The last of these camps did not close until 1946, six months after the end of the war.

During the war Japanese Americans sought restoration of their rights through the courts, but to no avail. In 1942 Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu was convicted for failing to report for relocation. In 1944 the U.S. Supreme Court, in korematsu v. united states, 323 U.S. 214, 65 S. Ct. 193, 89 L. Ed. 194, upheld the constitutionality of the relocation orders.

For 40 years Japanese Americans sought reparations for their wartime imprisonment and loss of property. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (50 App. U.S.C.A. § 1989b) amounted to an apology from the U.S. government for the wartime internment of Japanese Americans. The act established a $1.25 billion trust fund for paying reparations. Each of the approximately 60,000 surviving internees received $20,000 tax free.

Reparations are also awarded to some crime victims. Several states have enacted the Uniform Crime Victims Reparation Act, which awards reparations to persons who have been victims of crimes involving physical violence. Reparations may be granted for medical and hospital costs not covered by medical insurance, lost wages, and other costs associated with a crime.

In addition, some federal statutes provide for reparations for violations of law. For example, persons suffering losses because of violations of the Commodity Futures Trading Act (7 U.S.C.A. § 18) may use the act to seek reparation against the violator.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a growing interest in the idea of providing reparations to the descendants of black slaves in the United States. After the u.s. civil war, freed black slaves were promised a new start with "40 acres and a mule" to start their own farms. That promise never materialized, and blacks remained victims of racial discrimination.

The argument for slave reparations is that the United States owes its prosperity in no small part to the millions of slaves who were brought to the United States between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most of those slaves were never compensated for their efforts. The effects of slavery and the racial prejudice that went hand in hand with it, even after slavery was outlawed, put blacks at a significant socioeconomic disadvantage: fewer opportunities to get a good education, to get good jobs, and to acquire economic security. Proponents of slave reparations maintain that the U.S. government owes the descendants of slaves a formal acknowledgement and apology for the inhumanity of slavery. They also believe that the government should seek ways to provide some form of tangible restitution to slave descendants.

Opponents of reparations claim that those who seek them are merely trying to exploit national guilt and provide easy money for the descendants of slaves. Many blacks oppose reparations for that reason: they do not wish to carry the stigma of being helpless victims of their circumstances in a country known for individual achievement against daunting odds. Some opponents feel that bringing the issue to the forefront will only open old wounds and in fact increase racial tensions. Others feel that if reparations were granted, it would weaken programs such as affirmative action because people would believe that the reparations had at last leveled the playing field for blacks and whites.

Part of what makes the issue so challenging is its logistics. Among the proponents of reparations there exists disagreement as to what form they should take. Some people think that a cash settlement is sufficient, while others want to see the creation of programs that, for instance, would provide education and healthcare funding for those in need. Moreover, there is the question of who would receive precisely which form of reparations. Not all blacks in the United States are descendants of slaves, and in some cases their slave ancestors were freed in the eighteenth century.

Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, recognizing the complexity and sensitivity of this issue, has introduced legislation each year since 1989 that would establish a commission to study reparations proposals. This commission would study the long-term economic effects of slavery on freed slaves and their descendants and determine a means of providing fair and equitable redress.

further readings

Bryan, Chad W. 2003. "Precedent for Reparations? A Look at Historical Movements for Redress and Where Awarding Reparations for Slavery Might Fit." Alabama Law Review 54 (winter).

Ogletree, Charles J., Jr. 2003. "Repairing the Past: New Efforts in the Reparations Debate." Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 38 (summer).

Posner, Erica A., and Adrian Vermeule. 2003. "Reparations for Slavery and Other Historical Injustices." Columbia Law Review 103 (April).

Robinson, Randall N. 2001. The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks. New York: Plume.

Smith, Heather. 2003. "The Last Battle: Japanese Reparations." American Lawyer 25 (July).


Japanese American Evacuation Cases; Slavery; Victims of Crime.


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Compensation for an injury; redress for a wrong inflicted.

Legislative Efforts Increase for Wrongful Convictions

In December 2007, the Wrongful Convictions Tax Relief Act of 2007, S.B. 2421, was introduced in Congress by Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Sam Brownback (R-KS). The bill was intended to provide certain tax relief benefits to wrongfully convicted, i.e., exonerated prisoners who had no prior felony convictions, and was initiated following published news about the plight of exoneree David Pope, who was incarcerated 15 years for a rape he did not commit and cleared by DNA in 2001. Upon release from prison, Pope was awarded $385,000 by the State of Texas for the wrongful conviction and set about starting a new life. After receiving letters from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), he learned that he owed $90,000 in federal taxes on the reparation compensation he had received from the state. By that time, he had spent the money on life's necessities.

Despite such good-faith efforts from both federal and state legislators, there were problems. The IRS had not yet declared a formula to calculate how much of any monetary reparation award should be applied to lost income, and how much should (or could) be allocated to other compensatory factors, such as emotional pain and suffering (for having been wrongfully convicted), loss of liberty and freedom, etc. As a result in Pope's case, the IRS simply taxed a standard percentage on the total monetary award ($385,000) according to which income bracket Pope fell into, treating all of it as “income.”

Wrongful conviction reparation is generally referred to as “restorative,” i.e., it is intended to help restore a person to where he or she would have stood (financially) if not wrongfully convicted. Such compensation parallels remedies available for other legal wrongs. For example, wrongful death awards generally include an amount for lost income estimated over the remainder of a victim's actuarial lifetime.

What complicated the federal taxation on wrongful conviction compensation was that some state statutes expressly broke down their awards to designate a specific sum as lost income, while the majority simply awarded a flat or straight amount of monetary reparation for each year of imprisonment. To address this concern, the Schumer/Brownback bill contained provisions that exempted wrongfully convicted persons from federal tax liability on the first $50,000 of annual income received, for 15 years or the number of years incarcerated, whichever was less. State statutes rarely addressed tax consequences, if at all.

Reparation statutes enacted by states generally began to appear only since the 1990s, when newer DNA technology increasingly contributed to overturned convictions. Still, as of March 2008, only 22 states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia had statutes providing for compensation to wrongfully convicted persons. Only three states, California, Massachusetts, and Vermont, exempted compensation received from state taxes. Further, the individual state laws presented a wide range in available compensation.

California law, for example, awarded $26,500 for each year a person was wrongfully imprisoned, while Ohio awarded $40,330 for each such year, plus attorney's fees and lost wages. Hawaii, Michigan, and Vermont all paid a maximum of $50,000 for each year served, but $50,000 was the minimum per year in Alabama. Tennessee had a cap of $1 million, irrespective of the number of years served. In Missouri, compensation was individually tailored on a number of subjective factors at the discretion of the state. In Texas, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) introduced 2007 legislation to increase the amount currently under Texas statute to match that offered for federal inmates, $50,000 per year (increased to $100,000 per year for wrongfully convicted death row inmates). The bill passed in the Senate but never made it to the House before expiration of the term.

In almost all states with such statutes, the compensation was not automatic and wrongfully convicted persons were required to file a petition or complaint for reparation. Moreover, the majority required the complainant to satisfy certain prerequisites to obtain compensation. Some states offered reparation only for felony convictions, while others required either felony or misdemeanor convictions. Five state statutes explicitly mandated a pardon from the governor on the basis of innocence, while the other statutes contained prerequisites that required either a pardon or judicial relief vacating, reversing, or dismissing the conviction on grounds that the claimant did not commit the crime. Most also required the claimant to prove that his or her own conduct did not contribute to the conviction, and this fact needed to be proven by clear and convincing evidence. At least four state statutes and the District of Columbia did not compensate persons who entered a plea of guilty to the offense for which they were wrongfully imprisoned. Applicable statutes of limitations for asserting a claim for reparation generally ranged from none to five years, the majority falling within the range of two to three years.

Although an increasing number of states without statutes were considering such measures, legislators were cognizant that careful and thoughtful provisions needed to be drafted. With the prospect of ever-increasing numbers of overturned convictions based on newer DNA technology, exposure for states could be substantial.


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Reparation is a form of sublimation connected, in the depressive position, with putting right damage done to good objects.

The pain of depressive anxiety (or guilt) starts as a deeply persecuting demand for a punishmentthe talion law of an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth. As this position is worked through, new feelings (pining, Melanie Klein called it) appear towards the object, and are associated with specific impulses to repair the damage done by aggressive phantasies or acts. Development in the depressive position along this axis depends on the capacity to sustain a feeling of love towards the object despite the impulses of hating and, in phantasy, wanting to attack the good object. Love takes the form of a kind of penance or atonement to a loved one, creating a mixture of sadness, regret, and activity. This is reparation.

In the characteristic manic defenses the ego takes up a position in which the object is degraded, so that damage to it becomes a matter of indifference. At first reparation may be strongly colored by these defenses (manic reparation) and then reparation is not yet based on regret but is a demonstration of a strength and energy superior to that of the object.

The depressive position is founded primarily on the relations to the internal good object, and reparation is a means of securing it. Though reparation may often be directed to external objects, the latter represent the internal object to which the ego is dedicated.

Like sublimation, reparation is deeply dependent on the social context to provide useful directions for the effort to be channeled. Klein described reparation as a powerful impetus to creativity (1935). Aesthetic achievements are examples of the most touching and loving devotions to recreating the beauty of the loved object (Segal, 1991). Reparation without the sadness and regret betrays itself in a technical perfection of prettiness, distinct from beauty. Hanna Segal (1991) has greatly expanded the understanding of the Kleinian views on the aesthetic process based in reparation; and to some extent her descriptions of the aesthetic process compliment Donald Winnicott's theory of the aesthetic object (as transitional object). As a further addition to the psychoanalytic theory of aesthetics, Donald Meltzer has pointed to the place of the infant's primary "worship" of the breast, and of the parental creative couple, conflicted though that is.

Sublimation is a similar drive toward the use of libido in acceptable ways, though it is conceived in terms of the quantitative distribution of the libido while reparation is in terms of object-relations. Because it is an attempt to repair the effects of aggressiveness, reparation also links with undoing.

Reparation might be included within the term sublimation. However, reparation is not the result of desexualized and rechanneled libido. Instead it is the mobilization of the libidinal impulses in the context of a relationship with an object (especially an internal one) to contest the aggressive ones.

Robert D. Hinshelwood

See also: Cruelty; Depression; Depressive position; Gift; Melancholia; Schizophrenia; Splitting; Splitting of the object.


Heimann, Paula. (1942). Sublimation and its relation to processes of internalization. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 23, 8-17.

Klein, Melanie. (1935). A contribution to the psychogenesis of manic-depressive states. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 16, 145-174; reprinted 1975 in The Writings of Melanie Klein (Vol. 1, pp. 262-289). London: Hogarth.

Klein, Melanie, and Riviere, Joan. (1937). Love, hate and reparation. London: Hogarth.

Segal, Hanna. Dreams, phantasy, and art. London: Institute of Psychoanalysis-Routledge.


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rep·a·ra·tion / ˌrepəˈrāshən/ • n. 1. the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged: the courts required a convicted offender to make financial reparation to his victim. ∎  (reparations) the compensation for war damage paid by a defeated state.2. archaic the action of repairing something: the old hall was pulled down to avoid the cost of reparation.DERIVATIVES: re·par·a·tive / riˈparətiv/ adj.