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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shalt Not Steal."
    • WHY STEALING MUST BE AVOIDED
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WHY STEALING MUST BE AVOIDED

 

"Thou shalt not steal." This Commandment, as has been said, forbids taking

things wrongfully, and we can bring forth many reasons why it is given. The

first is because of the gravity of this sin, which is likened to murder:

"The bread of the needy is the life of the poor; he that defraudeth them

thereof is a man of blood."18 And again: "He that sheddeth blood and he

that defraudeth the laborer of his hire are brothers."19

 

The second reason is the peculiar danger involved in theft, for no sin is

so dangerous. After committing other sins a person may quickly repent, for

instance, of murder when his anger cools, or of fornication when his

passion subsides, and so on for others; but even if one repents of this

sin, one does not easily make the necessary satisfaction for it. This is

owing to the obligation of restitution and the duty to make up for what

loss is incurred by the rightful owner. And all this is above and beyond

the obligation to repent for the sin itself: "Woe to him that heapeth

together that which is not his own, how long doth he load himself with

thick clay!"20 For thick clay is that from which one cannot easily

extricate himself.21

 

The third reason is the uselessness of stolen goods in that they are of no

spiritual value: "Treasures of wickedness shall profit nothing."22 Wealth

can indeed be useful for almsgiving and offering of sacrifices, for "the

ransom of a man's life are his riches."23 But it is said of stolen goods:

"I am the Lord that love judgment, and hate robbery in a holocaust."24. And

again: "He that offereth sacrifice of the goods of the poor is as one that

sacrificeth the son in the presence of his father."25

 

The fourth reason is that the results of theft are peculiarly harmful to

the thief in that they lead to his loss of other goods. It is not unlike

the mixture of fire and straw: "Fire shall devour their tabernacles, who

love to take bribes."26 And it ought to be known that a thief may lose not

only his own soul, but also the souls of his children, since they are bound

to make restitution.

 

 

 

 

 




18. Ecclus., xxxiv. 25.

 



19. "Ibid.," 27.

 



20. Hab., ii. 6.

 



21. "The possession of other men's property is called 'thick clay' by the

prophet because it is difficult to emerge and disengage oneself from [ill-

gotten goods]. . . . What shall we say of the obligation imposed by God on

all of satisfying for the injury done? 'Without restitution,' says St.

Augustine, 'the sin is not forgiven' " ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 8).

 



22. Prov., x. 2.

 



23. "Ibid.," xiii. 8.

 



24. Isa., lxi. 8.

 



25. Ecclus., xxxiv. 24.

 



26. Job, xv. 34.




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