The Seventh Commandment

1 Q: What does the Seventh Commandment, Thou shalt not steal, forbid?

A: The Seventh Commandment, Thou shalt not steal, forbids all unjust taking and all unjust keeping of what belongs to another, and also every other way of wronging our neighbor in his property.

2 Q: What is meant by stealing?

A: It means taking another's goods unjustly and against the owner's will, that is to say, when he has every reason and right to be unwilling to be deprived of them.

3 Q: Why is it forbidden to steal?

A: Because a sin is committed against justice and an injury is done to another by taking or keeping against his right and will that which belongs to him.

4 Q: What is meant by another's goods?

A: Everything that belongs to him everything of which he has the ownership, or the use, or the custody.

5 Q: In how many ways can another's goods be unjustly taken?

A: In two ways: by theft and by robbery.

6 Q: How is theft committed?

A: Theft is committed by taking another's goods secretly.

7 Q: How is robbery committed?

A: Robbery is committed by taking another's goods openly and with violence.

8 Q: In what cases may another's goods be taken without sin?

A: When the owner consents or even when he unjustly refuses. Thus, one in extreme necessity may take another's goods without sin, provided that he takes only so much as is absolutely necessary to relieve pressing and extreme need.

9 Q: Is it only by theft and robbery that another can be injured in his property?

A: He can also be injured by fraud, usury, and any other act of injustice directed against his goods.

10 Q: How is fraud committed?

A: Fraud is committed in trade by deceiving another by false weight, measure and money or by bad goods; by falsifying writings and documents; in short, by deceit in buying and selling or in contracts in general, as well as by refusing to pay what is just and agreed upon.

11 Q: How is usury committed?

A: Usury is committed by exacting, without just title, an unlawful interest for money lent, thus taking an unfair advantage of another's need or ignorance.

12 Q: What other sorts of injustice may be committed with regard to another's goods?

A: By unjustly causing him to lose what he has; by injuring him in his possessions; by not working as in duty bound; by maliciously refusing to pay debts or wages due; by wounding or killing his stock; by damaging property held in custody; by preventing another from making just gains; by aiding thieves; and by receiving, concealing or buying stolen goods.

13 Q: Is it a grave sin to steal?

A: It is a grave sin against justice when the matter is grave; for it is most important for the good of individuals, of families, and of society that each one's right to his property should be respected.

14 Q: When is stolen matter grave?

A: When that which is taken is considerable, as also when serious loss is inflicted on another by taking that which in itself is of little value.

15 Q: What does the Seventh Commandment command?

A: The Seventh Commandment commands us to respect the property of others, to give the laborer fair wages, and to observe justice in all that concerns what belongs to others.

16 Q: Is it enough for one who has sinned against the Seventh Commandment to confess his sin?

A: It is not enough for one who has sinned against the Seventh Commandment to confess his sin; he must also do his best to restore what belongs to others, and to repair the loss he has caused.

17 Q: What is meant by repairing the losses caused?

A: Repairing the losses caused means the compensation which must be made to another for the goods or profits lost owing to the theft or other acts of injustice committed to his detriment.

18 Q: To whom must stolen property be restored?

A: To him from whom it has been stolen; to his heirs, if he is dead; or if this is really impossible the value of it should be devoted to the poor or to some charity.

19 Q: What should one do who finds something of great value?

A: He should diligently seek the owner and faithfully restore it to him.