Monday, December 21, 2009

Priest Gives the OK to Shoplifting (as long as it's a big business and you really need it)

I was intrigued by the post from First Things that a priest added a footnote to the eighth commandment. But as I read the post I thought "this can't be right". It said that a priest actually sanctioned shoplifting as a viable option for the poor--as long as it was from large national businesses and not small ones. What? That couldn't be right. Someone has got this all wrong. But it wasn't.

Father Tim Jones of the UK said that in order to avoid greater sins like prostitution, mugging, or burglary it would be better if the poor shoplifted. He also said that God's love for the poor outweighs the property rights of the rich. Here's how Father Jones put it:

"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, for any longer than they need. I offer the advice with a heavy heart and wish society would recognise that bureaucratic ineptitude and systematic delay has created an invitation and incentive to crime for people struggling to cope."

He continues, "Let my words not be misrepresented as a simplistic call for people to shoplift. The observation that shoplifting is the best option that some people are left with is a grim indictment of who we are. Rather, this is a call for our society no longer to treat its most vulnerable people with indifference and contempt. Providing inadequate or clumsy social support is monumental, catastrophic folly."

Has it really come to this? Shoplifting 101? Will Father Jones conduct a seminar to help the poor know when and how they qualify for this new entitlement? Who defines the "need"? What if you live in a small town with no large national businesses? (And yes, they do exist.) Is it then okay to steal from the mom and pop store? I have no doubt that Father Jones has seen the plight of the poor in ways that would break our hearts. But this is not the answer.


Esteban Vázquez said...

It hasn't just come to this; this is a view perfectly consistent with certain traditional strands of Roman Catholic moral theology. See, for instance, Liguori's discussion of whether a poorly paid employee may steal from his unjust employer in order to satisfy his needs in his Moral Theology.

Paul D. Adams said...

I'm not so familiar with RC moral theology. Is it typical of RC to take a utilitarian stance? If so, how could this mesh with the RC teachings on abortion?