Do I have to make restitution for this?

I’ve been going over some experiences in my past and this one case is perplexing me as to what my moral responsibilities are.

When I was a teenager in high school, I was fooling around one day after school, and for fun I wanted to see if I could pick a lock to one of the classrooms. We weren’t trying to steal anything, it was just for fun to see if I could do it for a room we usually hung out in after school when the teacher was usually there. Stupid, I know, but I was 15.

Long story short the paperclip broke and got stuck in the lock. The next morning it hadn’t gotten fixed, but after my first two periods I walked by and everything seemed fixed as the room was open. At that point I assumed a custodian or someone was able to get it out without much trouble. But later in the day a friend mentioned they had to replace the lock, I don’t know this for sure, and I don’t know if he was just assuming this, or if he knew this for sure himself, but it kind of upset me because I was concerned that maybe I would have to make restitution for this.

I brought this situation up to my father at the time and he told me not to worry about it because ultimately as it was a public school, we could view it as his tax dollars that were paying for any replacements if there were actually any. I brought it up in confession around that time and the priest never even acknowledged my concern about the restitution element.

So what should I do? I don’t even know for sure if there was damage that cost the school money, if there was I don’t know how much, and even if I made an uneducated estimate how would I go about doing this? I feel like if I walked up to the school nearly a decade later with $100 (just a wild estimate that seems safe) for some lock that may or may not have been broken years ago, they’d think I was crazy.

Take $100 feed some poor people and forget about the lock lol.

If you are feeling lazy toss 100 to a charity online. Then again forget the lock.

If this is truly your most despicable act, go forth into the world and do good. Forget your worry as God has graced you above many, do not squander it.

Yes, you do need to make restitution, but as LethalMouse pointed out, you can do that by donating to a charity.

In fact, since this deals with a school, maybe you can consider donating to money to your local Catholic school.

Mention it at confession. Let your confessor guide you.
At any rate, the St. Vincent de Paul Society never has enough $$$ to meet the needs of the poor.
Maybe begin donating some $$$ when those second collections come around.

There is no way to directly make restitution for something that presumably occurred long ago, but you are repentant, and a confessor can guide you.

This is not particularly unique other than the circumstances. Most sins, when repented, leave damage that cannot straightforwardly be corrected or compensated.


Yeh, this is one of those if’y things. You really don’t know what the school did to fix the situation and it could be any one of a dozen. There is also no way to know the cost if any. It could be the janitor later just took it apart and fixed it.

Anyway, that school belongs to the whole public school system so if you wish to make a donation, make it out to the public school system treasury. My opinion is that it would not be as much as you say, but rather about half or a quarter of that amount.

Later when you make some sort of charitable donation, just form the intention to cover the cost of the lock if it cost more than your donation made to the public school treasury. Debts come before charity, and that way you are covered and can rest in peace so the devil can’t use it against you trying to wreck your sanity with Jesus. Don’t worry about it because Jesus knows that this isn’t an easy thing to estimate. Just do satisfaction in a way that is reasonable for the school and yourself.

First of all, Hi! This is my first post!
If you feel guilty about committing this act many years ago, maybe you should go to Confession and talk to the confessor and tell him everything you told us, in detail and ask for his guidance. As others have said, above, giving money to charities or Catholic schools would be a nice way to make “restitution,” if you want to call it that. If money is an issue, perhaps volunteering and helping children by tutoring them for free, for several hours would be a nice way to repent.

Thank you all for offering advice in this case, but as I’ve said, I did bring this up in confession, twice at least if I remember right, the priests didn’t even acknowledge the issue of restitution for it so that’s what leaves me wondering to do if anything because I’m under the belief that regardless of what your confessor says we still have an obligation to make restitution when necessary. But even in accidental cases like this I’m not sure what my obligation is.

Also like I said, I’m not even entirely sure if anything was damaged to the point of costing anything to fix or replace. For all I know for sure, a custodian may have fixed it on the spot, or if they replaced it they might have been able to fix the original anyway for another use so that there may have been no cost for this at all. Just not sure what to do in uncertain cases like this.

If I felt I needed to go ahead and do something, would it be acceptable to leave an anonymous envelope at the school indicating an appropriate amount of money inside as a donation?

I imagine that the cash would just be kept by whoever found it; therefore this would not be restitution.


When I retired, I walked out of the hospital in the scrubs I always wore, intentionally, as my “retirement and memory gift” to myself. They just sat in a drawer and when I saw them awhile back, I decided that was a wrong thing to do. So I sent the hospital foundation (anonymously) cash ($50, $100, I don’t remember), in memory of a fellow nurse friend who had died. And confessed also. I felt better, and I think I gave the scrubs to a thrift shop, as I didn’t want to be reminded of the error of my ways.


Maybe the school library would appreciate a donation for books, and your conscience might feel better. I did that in memory of my father, but it was to a Catholic school, and they can always use money for books!

It is very commendable that you feel obliged to make restitution for your past sins. Many Catholics seem to forget that and think that going to confession will solve all problems. I think if you’re concerned about your confessor, you could ask him directly, whether during confession or in person when he has more time and could discuss this problem with you, instead of mentioning it in confession.

The lock may have been repaired at little or no cost. A stuck paperclip fragment doesn’t sound too difficult for someone who is handy with tools and machinery.

So what should I do? I don’t even know for sure if there was damage that cost the school money, if there was I don’t know how much, and even if I made an uneducated estimate how would I go about doing this?

Call a local locksmith and get a quote for what it would cost to completely replace a similar lock. Take that number, add one-fifth of its value, and write a check for that dollar amount to the school as a donation to the building maintenance fund.

If the locksmith says it costs $100, then write a check for $120. Conscience cleared. Leviticus 6:2-5. Exodus 22:14.

Just chiming in here but I don’t think the Church requires us to add one fifth to the restitution owed. That was Old Testament and everything I have read just says add a fair interest rate.

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