Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is It Ok To Steal From Wal Mart If You Have Too?

A British Anglican Priest has caused a stir:

Poor people who are desperate for cash have been advised to go forth and shoplift from major stores - by an Anglican priest.
The Rev Tim Jones said in his Sunday sermon that stealing from successful shops was preferable to burglary, robbery or prostitution.
He told parishioners it would not break the eighth commandment 'thou shalt not steal' because it 'is permissible for those who are in desperate situations to take food that they might not starve'.
But his advice was roundly condemned by police and the local Tory MP. Father Jones, 42, was discussing Mary and the birth of Jesus when he went on to the subject of how poor and vulnerable people cope in the run-up to Christmas.
'My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift,' he told his stunned congregation at St Lawrence and St Hilda in York.
'I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.
'I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.
'I would ask them not to take any more than they need. I offer the advice with a heavy heart. Let my words not be misrepresented as a simplistic call for people to shoplift
. ........

Much more at the link. As usual one suspects there is a lot more to this sermon (for good or for bad) if we could just read it.

Still is he right in some sense about it beong ok to steal in some situations because maybe it is not stealing. Well he mighbt be. It seems even as Southern Baptist in the old days I had heard talk of this scenario.

Then we have St Thomas Aquinas himself:

“Article 6. Whether theft is a mortal sin?Objection 1. It would seem that theft is not a mortal sin. For it is written (Proverbs 6:30): “The fault is not so great when a man hath stolen.” But every mortal sin is a great fault. Therefore theft is not a mortal sin.
…Reply to Objection 1. The statement that theft is not a great fault is in view of two cases. First, when a person is led to thieve through necessity. This necessity diminishes or entirely removes sin, as we shall show further on (Question 66, Article 7). Hence the text continues: “For he stealeth to fill his hungry soul.” Secondly, theft is stated not to be a great fault in comparison with the guilt of adultery, which is punished with death. Hence the text goes on to say of the thief that “if he be taken, he shall restore sevenfold . . . but he that is an adulterer . . . shall destroy his own soul.”


St. Thomas says, quoting St. Ambrose :
“I answer that, Things which are of human right cannot derogate from natural right or Divine right. Now according to the natural order established by Divine Providence, inferior things are ordained for the purpose of succoring man’s needs by their means. Wherefore the division and appropriation of things which are based on human law, do not preclude the fact that man’s needs have to be remedied by means of these very things. Hence whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor. For this reason Ambrose [Loc. cit., 2, Objection 3] says, and his words are embodied in the Decretals (Dist. xlvii, can. Sicut ii): “It is the hungry man’s bread that you withhold, the naked man’s cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man’s ransom and freedom.”

That being said I could be wrong on all this. Thoughts?

More here at First Things . See Anglican Priest Aids God By Adding Footnote To Eighth Commandment (Look at the comments)

Update I-
I might disagree with how the Priest is getting to this conclusion. In fact there are hints of perhaps some bad aspects of Liberation Theology here and not so much St Thomas Aquinas. Further I think in the modern UK in reality with its vast social safety net and other charities that a thief would have to exhaust those options avaiable to him before robbing the bad ole big chain.

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