PART III: LIFE IN CHRIST
Section Two: The Ten Commandments
Chapter 2: “You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”
Article 7, The Seventh Commandment
II. Respect for Persons and Their Goods
Respect for the goods of others (cont’d)
§ 2411 Contracts are subject to commutative justice which regulates exchanges between persons and between institutions in accordance with a strict respect for their rights. Commutative justice obliges strictly; it requires safeguarding property rights, paying debts, and fulfilling obligations freely contracted. Without commutative justice, no other form of justice is possible.
One distinguishes commutative justice from legal justice which concerns what the citizen owes in fairness to the community, and from distributive justice which regulates what the community owes its citizens in proportion to their contributions and needs.
§ 2412 In virtue of commutative justice, reparation for injustice committed requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner:
Jesus blesses Zacchaeus for his pledge: “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8). Those who, directly or indirectly, have taken possession of the goods of another, are obliged to make restitution of them, or to return the equivalent in kind or in money, if the goods have disappeared, as well as the profit or advantages their owner would have legitimately obtained from them.
Likewise, all who in some manner have taken part in a theft or who have knowingly benefited from it – for example, those who ordered it, assisted in it, or received the stolen goods – are obliged to make restitution in proportion to their responsibility and to their share of what was stolen.
§ 2413 Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant.
§ 2414 The Seventh Commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason – selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian – lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit.
St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother…both in the flesh and in the Lord” (Philemon 1:16).
Tomorrow – Respect for the integrity of creation
(Part III, Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 7 – to be continued)