Supreme Chaplain Bishop William E. Lori
The 34nd installment of Supreme Chaplain Bishop William E. Lori’s faith formation program addresses questions 503-520 & 531-533 of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The moral ground covered by the Seventh Commandment — "You shall not steal" — includes the right to private property, respect for creation, the Church's social doctrine, the dignity of human work, justice and solidarity among nations, participation in political life, and love for the poor (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 503). Closely related is the Tenth Commandment, which enjoins us from coveting the possessions and attainments of others (531-533). Taken together, these two commandments instruct us to be just and generous stewards of God's blessings. They also help us to see what it means to love our neighbor and to work with others in creating a just and well-ordered society.
We sense a right to own what we have justly acquired, especially those possessions for which we have worked and paid. But we also sense that the right to private property is not boundless (504). Recall the rich man in the Gospel who had no regard for Lazarus, a poor man who lacked basic necessities (Lk 16:19-31). In asserting the right to private ownership, the Church also asks us to be temperate in using the world's goods. Indeed, the right to own private property is an expression of human dignity. The purpose of this right is to meet the basic necessities of life, including one's own needs, the needs of those for whom one is responsible, such as family members, and the needs of others (505).
Respecting what belongs to others brings into play several virtues, notably justice and charity together with temperance and solidarity. Our dealings with others should be marked by a readiness to keep our word and to honor the terms of legitimate contracts we have entered. Abiding by the Seventh Commandment requires that we make amends for injustices we have committed and return what we have stolen. It also demands that we have genuine concern for the needs of others and a desire to use this world's goods in a careful, prudent way, out of respect for creation and out of concern for others (506).
The Compendium points out that there are many ways we can take what does not belong to us, such as paying unjust wages, undertaking risky or dishonest investments that put others at a disadvantage, participating in tax evasion or fraudulent business practices, performing shoddy labor, damaging public property, and creating waste (508). READ MORE…