Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Life in Christ: The Seventh Commandment


You shall not steal.186
2401 The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one's neighbor and
wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of
earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for
the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to
order this world's goods to God and to fraternal charity.
2402 In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of
mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits.187 The goods of creation
are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the
security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of
property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of
them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural
solidarity to develop between men.
2403 The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the
original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains
primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private
property and its exercise.
2404 "In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as
exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as
himself."188 The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of
making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.
2405 Goods of production - material or immaterial - such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills,
oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold
goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests,
for the sick and the poor.
2406 Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to
ownership for the sake of the common good.189
2407 In economic matters, respect for human dignity requires the practice of the virtue of temperance,
so as to moderate attachment to this world's goods; the practice of the virtue of justice, to preserve
our neighbor's rights and render him what is his due; and the practice of solidarity, in accordance with
the golden rule and in keeping with the generosity of the Lord, who "though he was rich, yet for your
sake . . . became poor so that by his poverty, you might become rich."190
Respect for the goods of others
2408 The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another's property against the
reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to
reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when
the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one's
disposal and use the property of others.191
2409 Even if it does not contradict the provisions of civil law, any form of unjustly taking and keeping
the property of others is against the seventh commandment: thus, deliberate retention of goods lent
or of objects lost; business fraud; paying unjust wages; forcing up prices by taking advantage of the
ignorance or hardship of another.192
The following are also morally illicit: speculation in which one contrives to manipulate the price of
goods artificially in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others; corruption in which one
influences the judgment of those who must make decisions according to law; appropriation and use for
private purposes of the common goods of an enterprise; work poorly done; tax evasion; forgery of
checks and invoices; excessive expenses and waste. Willfully damaging private or public property is
contrary to the moral law and requires reparation.
2410 Promises must be kept and contracts strictly observed to the extent that the commitments made
in them are morally just. A significant part of economic and social life depends on the honoring of
contracts between physical or moral persons - commercial contracts of purchase or sale, rental or
labor contracts. All contracts must be agreed to and executed in good faith.
2411 Contracts are subject to commutative justice which regulates exchanges between persons and
between institutions in accordance with a strict respect for their rights. Commutative justice obliges
strictly; it requires safeguarding property rights, paying debts, and fulfilling obligations freely
contracted. Without commutative justice, no other form of justice is possible.
One distinguishes commutative justice from legal justice which concerns what the citizen owes in
fairness to the community, and from distributive justice which regulates what the community owes its
citizens in proportion to their contributions and needs.
2412 In virtue of commutative justice, reparation for injustice committed requires the restitution of
stolen goods to their owner:
Jesus blesses Zacchaeus for his pledge: "If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."193
Those who, directly or indirectly, have taken possession of the goods of another, are obliged to make
restitution of them, or to return the equivalent in kind or in money, if the goods have disappeared, as
well as the profit or advantages their owner would have legitimately obtained from them. Likewise, all
who in some manner have taken part in a theft or who have knowingly benefited from it - for example,
those who ordered it, assisted in it, or received the stolen goods - are obliged to make restitution in
proportion to their responsibility and to their share of what was stolen.
2413 Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They
become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his
needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers
and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one
who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant.
2414 The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason - selfish or ideological,
commercial, or totalitarian - lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and
exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of
persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a
source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave "no longer as a slave but
more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord."194
Respect for the integrity of creation
2415 The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and
inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future
humanity.195 Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced
from respect for moral imperatives. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by
the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including
generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.196
2416 Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere
existence they bless him and give him glory.197 Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the
gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.
2417 God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image.198 Hence
it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work
and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it
remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.
2418 It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy
to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love
animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.
2419 "Christian revelation . . . promotes deeper understanding of the laws of social living."199 The
Church receives from the Gospel the full revelation of the truth about man. When she fulfills her
mission of proclaiming the Gospel, she bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and
his vocation to the communion of persons. She teaches him the demands of justice and peace in
conformity with divine wisdom.
2420 The Church makes a moral judgment about economic and social matters, "when the fundamental
rights of the person or the salvation of souls requires it."200 In the moral order she bears a mission
distinct from that of political authorities: the Church is concerned with the temporal aspects of the
common good because they are ordered to the sovereign Good, our ultimate end. She strives to
inspire right attitudes with respect to earthly goods and in socio-economic relationships.
2421 The social doctrine of the Church developed in the nineteenth century when the Gospel
encountered modern industrial society with its new structures for the production of consumer goods,
its new concept of society, the state and authority, and its new forms of labor and ownership. The
development of the doctrine of the Church on economic and social matters attests the permanent
value of the Church's teaching at the same time as it attests the true meaning of her Tradition, always
living and active.201
2422 The Church's social teaching comprises a body of doctrine, which is articulated as the Church
interprets events in the course of history, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in the light of the
whole of what has been revealed by Jesus Christ.202 This teaching can be more easily accepted by men
of good will, the more the faithful let themselves be guided by it.
2423 The Church's social teaching proposes principles for reflection; it provides criteria for judgment; it
gives guidelines for action:
Any system in which social relationships are determined entirely by economic factors is contrary to the
nature of the human person and his acts.203
2424 A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally
unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the
causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.204
A system that "subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization
of production" is contrary to human dignity.205 Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more
than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of
atheism. "You cannot serve God and mammon."206
2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with
"communism" or "socialism." She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of "capitalism,"
individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor.207 Regulating
the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by
the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be
satisfied by the market."208 Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in
keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.
2426 The development of economic activity and growth in production are meant to provide for the
needs of human beings. Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase
profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire
human community. Economic activity, conducted according to its own proper methods, is to be
exercised within the limits of the moral order, in keeping with social justice so as to correspond to
God's plan for man.209
2427 Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong
the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another.210 Hence work is a duty: "If
any one will not work, let him not eat."211 Work honors the Creator's gifts and the talents received
from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work212 in union with Jesus, the
carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the
Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross,
daily, in the work he is called to accomplish.213 Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of
animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ.
2428 In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The
primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary. Work is for man, not
man for work.214
Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family,
and of serving the human community.
2429 Everyone has the right of economic initiative; everyone should make legitimate use of his talents
to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all and to harvest the just fruits of his labor. He should
seek to observe regulations issued by legitimate authority for the sake of the common good.215
2430 Economic life brings into play different interests, often opposed to one another. This explains why
the conflicts that characterize it arise.216 Efforts should be made to reduce these conflicts by
negotiation that respects the rights and duties of each social partner: those responsible for business
enterprises, representatives of wage- earners (for example, trade unions), and public authorities when
2431 The responsibility of the state. "Economic activity, especially the activity of a market economy,
cannot be conducted in an institutional, juridical, or political vacuum. On the contrary, it presupposes
sure guarantees of individual freedom and private property, as well as a stable currency and efficient
public services. Hence the principal task of the state is to guarantee this security, so that those who
work and produce can enjoy the fruits of their labors and thus feel encouraged to work efficiently and
honestly. . . . Another task of the state is that of overseeing and directing the exercise of human rights
in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the state but to
individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society."217
2432 Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and
ecological effects of their operations.218 They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and
not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments
that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.
2433 Access to employment and to professions must be open to all without unjust discrimination: men
and women, healthy and disabled, natives and immigrants.219 For its part society should, according to
circumstances, help citizens find work and employment.220
2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice.221 In
determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account.
"Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for
himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role
and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good."222 Agreement between
the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.
2435 Recourse to a strike is morally legitimate when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is
necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit. It becomes morally unacceptable when accompanied by
violence, or when objectives are included that are not directly linked to working conditions or are
contrary to the common good.
2436 It is unjust not to pay the social security contributions required by legitimate authority.
Unemployment almost always wounds its victim's dignity and threatens the equilibrium of his life.
Besides the harm done to him personally, it entails many risks for his family.223
2437 On the international level, inequality of resources and economic capability is such that it creates a
real "gap" between nations.224 On the one side there are those nations possessing and developing the
means of growth and, on the other, those accumulating debts.
2438 Various causes of a religious, political, economic, and financial nature today give "the social
question a worldwide dimension."225 There must be solidarity among nations which are already
politically interdependent. It is even more essential when it is a question of dismantling the "perverse
mechanisms" that impede the development of the less advanced countries.226 In place of abusive if not
usurious financial systems, iniquitous commercial relations among nations, and the arms race, there
must be substituted a common effort to mobilize resources toward objectives of moral, cultural, and
economic development, "redefining the priorities and hierarchies of values."227
2439 Rich nations have a grave moral responsibility toward those which are unable to ensure the
means of their development by themselves or have been prevented from doing so by tragic historical
events. It is a duty in solidarity and charity; it is also an obligation in justice if the prosperity of the rich
nations has come from resources that have not been paid for fairly.
2440 Direct aid is an appropriate response to immediate, extraordinary needs caused by natural
catastrophes, epidemics, and the like. But it does not suffice to repair the grave damage resulting from
destitution or to provide a lasting solution to a country's needs. It is also necessary to reform
international economic and financial institutions so that they will better promote equitable
relationships with less advanced countries.228 The efforts of poor countries working for growth and
liberation must be supported.229 This doctrine must be applied especially in the area of agricultural
labor. Peasants, especially in the Third World, form the overwhelming majority of the poor.
2441 An increased sense of God and increased self-awareness are fundamental to any full development
of human society. This development multiplies material goods and puts them at the service of the
person and his freedom. It reduces dire poverty and economic exploitation. It makes for growth in
respect for cultural identities and openness to the transcendent.230
2442 It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and
organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own
initiative with their fellow citizens. Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always
have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching
of the Church. It is the role of the laity "to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by
which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice."231
2443 God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them:
"Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you"; "you received
without pay, give without pay."232 It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will
recognize his chosen ones.233 When "the poor have the good news preached to them," it is the sign of
Christ's presence.234
2444 "The Church's love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition." This love is inspired by the
Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.235 Love for the poor
is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to "be able to give to those in need."236 It
extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.237
2445 Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches
have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust
will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the
last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by
fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You
have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of
slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.238
2446 St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to
steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs."239 "The
demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered
as a gift of charity":240
When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More
than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.241
2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his
spiritual and bodily necessities.242 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of
mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in
feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and
burying the dead.243 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal
charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:244
He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do
likewise.245 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for
you.246 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go
in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what
does it profit?247
2448 "In its various forms - material deprivation, unjust oppression, physical and psychological illness
and death - human misery is the obvious sign of the inherited condition of frailty and need for salvation
in which man finds himself as a consequence of original sin. This misery elicited the compassion of
Christ the Savior, who willingly took it upon himself and identified himself with the least of his
brethren. Hence, those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part
of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not
ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity which
remain indispensable always and everywhere."248
2449 Beginning with the Old Testament, all kinds of juridical measures (the jubilee year of forgiveness
of debts, prohibition of loans at interest and the keeping of collateral, the obligation to tithe, the daily
payment of the day-laborer, the right to glean vines and fields) answer the exhortation of
Deuteronomy: "For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, 'You shall open
wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land.'"249 Jesus makes these words
his own: "The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."250 In so doing he does
not soften the vehemence of former oracles against "buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair
of sandals . . .," but invites us to recognize his own presence in the poor who are his brethren:251
When her mother reproached her for caring for the poor and the sick at home, St. Rose of Lima
said to her: "When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our
neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus.252
2450 "You shall not steal" (Ex 20:15; Deut 5:19). "Neither thieves, nor the greedy . . ., nor robbers will
inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor 6:10).
2451 The seventh commandment enjoins the practice of justice and charity in the administration of
earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor.
2452 The goods of creation are destined for the entire human race. The right to private property does
not abolish the universal destination of goods.
2453 The seventh commandment forbids theft. Theft is the usurpation of another's goods against the
reasonable will of the owner.
2454 Every manner of taking and using another's property unjustly is contrary to the seventh
commandment. The injustice committed requires reparation. Commutative justice requires the
restitution of stolen goods.
2455 The moral law forbids acts which, for commercial or totalitarian purposes, lead to the
enslavement of human beings, or to their being bought, sold or exchanged like merchandise.
2456 The dominion granted by the Creator over the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the
universe cannot be separated from respect for moral obligations, including those toward generations
to come.
2457 Animals are entrusted to man's stewardship; he must show them kindness. They may be used to
serve the just satisfaction of man's needs.
2458 The Church makes a judgment about economic and social matters when the fundamental rights
of the person or the salvation of souls requires it. She is concerned with the temporal common good of
men because they are ordered to the sovereign Good, their ultimate end.
2459 Man is himself the author, center, and goal of all economic and social life. The decisive point of
the social question is that goods created by God for everyone should in fact reach everyone in
accordance with justice and with the help of charity.
2460 The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and beneficiary. By means of his
labor man participates in the work of creation. Work united to Christ can be redemptive.
2461 True development concerns the whole man. It is concerned with increasing each person's ability
to respond to his vocation and hence to God's call (cf. CA 29).
2462 Giving alms to the poor is a witness to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.
2463 How can we not recognize Lazarus, the hungry beggar in the parable (cf. Lk 17:19-31), in the
multitude of human beings without bread, a roof or a place to stay? How can we fail to hear Jesus: "As
you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me" (Mt 25:45)?
186 Ex 20:15; Deut 5:19; Mt 19:18.
187 Cf. Gen 1:26-29.
188 GS 69 § 1.
189 Cf. GS 71 § 4; SRS 42; CA 40; 48.
190 2 Cor 8:9.
191 Cf. GS 69 § 1.
192 Cf. Deut 25:13-16; 24:14-15; Jas 5:4; Am 8:4-6.
193 Lk 19:8.
194 Philem 16.
195 Cf. Gen 128-31.
196 Cf. CA 37-38.
197 Cf. Mt 6:26; Dan 3:79-81.
198 Cf. Gen 2:19-20; 9:1-4.
199 GS 23 § 1.
200 GS 76 § 5.
201 Cf. CA 3.
202 Cf. SRS 1; 41.
203 Cf. CA 24.
204 Cf. GS 63 § 3; LE 7; 20; CA 35.
205 GS 65 § 2.
206 Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13.
207 Cf. CA 10; 13; 44.
208 CA 34.
209 Cf. GS 64.
210 Cf. Gen 1:28; GS 34; CA 31.
211 2 Thess 3:10; Cf. 1 Thess 4:11.
212 Cf. Gen 3:14-19.
213 Cf. LE 27.
214 Cf. LE 6.
215 Cf. CA 32; 34.
216 Cf. LE 11.
217 CA 48.
218 Cf. CA 37.
219 Cf. LE 19; 22-23.
220 Cf. CA 48.
221 Cf. Lev 19:13; Deut 24:14-15; Jas 5:4
222 GS 67 § 2.
223 Cf. LE 18.
224 Cf. SRS 14.
225 SRS 9.
226 Cf. SRS 17; 45.
227 CA 28; cf. 35.
228 Cf. SRS 16.
229 Cf. CA 26.
230 Cf. SRS 32; CA 51.
231 SRS 47 § 6; cf. 42.
232 Mt 5:42; 10:8.
233 Cf. Mt 25:31-36.
234 Mt 11:5; cf. Lk 4:18.
235 CA 57; cf. Lk 6:20-22, Mt 8:20; Mk 12:41-44.
236 Eph 4:28.
237 Cf. CA 57.
238 Jas 5:1-6.
239 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Lazaro 2,5:PG 48,992.
240 AA 8 § 5.
241 St. Gregory the Great, Regula Pastoralis. 3,21:PL 77,87.
242 Cf. Isa 58:6-7; Heb 13:3.
243 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.
244 Cf. Tob 4:5-11; Sir 17:22; Mt 6:2-4.
245 Lk 3:11.
246 Lk 11:41.
247 Jas 2:15-16; cf. 1 Jn 3:17.
248 CDF, instruction, Libertatis conscientia, 68.
249 Deut 15:11.
250 Jn 12:8.
251 Am 8:6; cf. Mt 25:40.
252 P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).

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