SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT.
Q. Which is the seventh commandment?
A. Thou shalt not steal.
Q. What is forbidden by this commandment ?
A. All unjust taking away or detaining our neighbor's goods, either by stealth or robbery, or any other way: as also all fraudulent ways in buying or selling, exchanging, or in other contracts : all neglect of trust or promise; all unjust gain, all deceit by words, or deeds: finally, all unjust ways whatever, which causes damage to another. i Cor. vi. 10. Lev. xix. 35. Prov. xi. 1.
Q. What is theft, and how many ways are there of committing this sin?
A. Theft in general, is a taking away or detaining what belongs to another; if it be done privately, it is called simple theft: if by violence, it is called rapine: if it is a thing consecrated to God, or taken from a Church or any sacred place, it is a sacrilegious theft: if the public is robbed, it is called in the law peculatus: if cattle are stolen, it is called abegeatus, or driving. And it is to be observed, that the sin is so much the greater or less; as the prejudice which is done, is greater or less, and so it is a mortal sin, when the thing that is taken is of a considerable value in itself, or when it is considerable in respect of the person, from whom it is taken; as a penny is a considerable loss to a beggar, and twelve pence to an ordinary man.
Q, How many particular ways are there of stealing or depriving others of their right?
A. They are almost numberless, according to different stations and circumstances; the chief ^whereof are servants, who give away their master's goods, meat and drink, without their knowledge and consent; or who put more upon their master's account, than they have laid out; or who by their negligence permit their master's goods to be lost. Gamesters, who cheat or take advantage of the ignorance, or incapacity of those they play with. Agents or stewards who take premiums, without leave from those who employ them. Dealers, who conceal any considerable fault in the goods they dispose of. Tailors, and others, who retain part of the stuff of which they make clothes or other things. All those who, to the loss of their creditors, do defer, and put off" paying their debts when they are able; as also those who defer to make restitution. Physicians and surgeons, who prolong their patients' diseases on purpose to gain by them. Usurers and notaries, who make contracts of usury. Judges, who knowingly judge a cause wrongfully. All lawyers and advocates, who prolong processes with design to gain by them. Those who buy of children, or of such as know not the true value of things. Such as buy or receive stolen goods, knowing them to be such. Exaction for service, where the price is not fixed by law or custom. Wives, who dispose of considerable things, without the knowledge of their husbands. Also those who coin false money. All those who do not give alms to the poor, according to their ability; and such as feign themselves to be poor, and receive alms when they have no need, so take that which belongs to others.
Q. When may persons be excused from sin, though they take or detain what belongs to others ?
A. A Person in extreme necessity, make take bread or other food, where he finds it. A presumptive leave of the master may excuse a servant, disposing of small matters. In other cases, when the thing is only a trifle, it is but a venial sin.
Q. Is it theft to keep what we find ?
A. The rule is this, if it is a hidden treasure of long standing, we are to observe the laws of the country; if it is a thing casually lost or misplaced, public inquiry is to be made after the owner, and when he is found out, it is to be restored; if he cannot be found, it belongs to the poor, according to the custom of the Church, and if he who finds it is poor himself he may keep it with the advice of his confessor.
Q. What is the great obligation all persons lie under who are any ways guilty of theft ?
A. They are obliged to make restitution, according to that of St. Paul, " render to all men their due."
Q. What is restitution ?
A. It is an act of justice, whereby the thing is restored, to the true owner, and all loss and damage repaired.
Q. Who is the person that is to make restitution ?
A. In the first place, he who steals or detains what belongs to another. Secondly, all those who are accomplices and concur with him.
Q. By what means do persons usually become accomplices, so as to be obliged to restore ?
A. A servant who is employed by his master. He who commands. He who approves of the injustice. He who protects thieves, and knowingly receives stolen goods. He who by his office is obliged to inform, and hinder persons from committing injustice.
Q. How are these concurrences to be understood ?
A. When the concurrence is the occasion of the theft, or of non-restitution, they are obliged to restore the whole, or the part, accordingly as they partake of the things that are stolen; otherwise they lie under no obligation of restitution, though they sin in the injustice.
Q. If a person buys goods, which he certainly knows are stolen, is he obliged to restitution ?
A. Yes, or otherwise an equivalent, if the owner is known and requires it.
Q. What are those obliged to, who consume by eating and drinking, the things that are stolen?
A. They are obliged to restore an equivalent to what they have destroyed.
Q. What if a person buys a stolen thing, not suspecting it was stolen ?
A. If he buys it at a less price, when he knows the owner, he is obliged to restore the thing, or the full price; being first indemnified as to the change.
Q. When is restitution to be made in cases of damages?
A. Wilful damages are a sin, and require restitution, but damages that happen by accident, and where there is great diligence used to hinder them, are not a fault in the sight of God, and oblige not to restitution, unless by contract, or that the civil law orders it. When there is a neglect, or not a sufficient care, it is more or less a sin, and some kind of restitution is required, both in the court of conscience and law.
Q. Is he who receives money, eatables, or other things, consumable by use, called loan, obliged to restitution ?
A. Yes, because in those things the dominion is inseparable from the use, and transferred by the contract, so that the borrower is to make good the loss.
Q. Is he who borrows a thing by the contract, called accommodatum, that is, whereby not the dominion, but the use only is conferred, obliged to make good the loss, or damage, as in hiring a horse, or the like ?
A. If he does not wilfully abuse it, and takes great care to have it returned safe, he is not obliged to restitution, unless the bargain be otherwise; yet in some cases, he is obliged to make all good, viz.: If he returns it not by a careful and creditable person. If he puts it to any other use, than for what it was lent, as riding a horse out of the way, or keeping it longer than the time: though if it be stolen in the road, for which it was hired, he is not obliged to make it good, unless he borrowed at all events. If a person borrows a thing that is faulty, and does not know the fault by the lender's information, the borrower is not obliged to make good the damage.
Q. Is a person obliged to stand by the loss of a house that is damaged by fire, water, or falling down, etc. ?
A. If it happens by the hirer's fault, he is obliged to make restitution; or without his fault, if that be specified in the contract.
Q. What restitution is to be made for the loss of goods, loss of life, corporal damages, and loss of reputation ?
A. As for goods, the same in specie are to be restored, otherwise an equivalent. If the goods were capable of fructifying, such damages are also to be made good, by a prudent arbitrator's opinion. In the case of killing, restitution is to be made to the family, or heirs, (where proper judges are to make an estimate of the loss, considering the person's age, usefulness, gains, etc. The like estimate is to be made, in the case of wounding or occasioning the loss of a leg, an arm, a hand; and what might be the damage, considering the person's age, and occupation or employment. As to the restitution of reputation, three things are to be considered. First, whether a person has really suffered in his reputation. Secondly, whether his reputation was not lost before. Thirdly, whether he has not recovered his reputation. Now, if a person has lost his reputation, or it is lessened, the defamer is obliged to restitution, and make good all the loss he suffers in his vocation, by the defamation.
Q. What method is to be used in restoring a person's reputation ?
A. If a person is defamed, by spreading a calumny, the calumniator is to own the fiction, before those he has spoke it to, and confirm it with an oath, if thought necessary: if what he said was true, but divulged to those who were before ignorant of it, he ought to own he was in the wrong, in speaking evil of him, and to take all opportunities to praise him, and speak well of him, on account of his many good qualities. If he cannot re-establish his reputation by this method, he is to make him satisfaction some other way, by the advice of his confessor, and especially by repairing his loss in a pecuniary way.
Q. What restitution is to be made by such as take game ?
A. Several things are to be considered. All wild creatures, birds, beasts, and fish, are common, and belong to the captor, if taken without trespass to others. Taking of wild creatures may be prohibited to some, by human laws: but then such as are qualified, are obliged to make damages good, unless something is expressed by contract to the contrary. When wild creatures are enclosed, by persons qualified, it is theft to kill them in the enclosure, or even out of the enclosure, if they are accustomed to return into the enclosure, and there is an obligation of restitution : if they return never into the enclosure, it is not theft to kill them out of it; as birds, hares, etc. The same is to be said of fish; and though the law may forbid such captures under penalties, the captor is not obliged to restitution. Such wild beasts as feed upon the unqualified person's goods, and by the law of nature, being no man's property, belong to him who first takes them. Binsfield says, it is not lawful to use art in drawing pigeons to one's dove house.
Q. What restitution is to be made in point of gaming and wagers ?
A. What is won by gaming, from those who have not dominion, as children, drunken persons, or manifestly unskillful, is to be restored; much more what is won by cheating, or any indirect way of drawing in persons. In these cases human laws are to direct. He who certainly knows he shall win a wager, is obliged to restore.
Q. To whom is restitution commonly to be made ?
A. To the person injured, or in case of his death, to his heirs: but if the person injured cannot be found, after diligent inquiry, restitution is to be made to the poor.
Q. What other circumstances are to be observed in restitution ?
A. As to the manner, public injustices are to be recompensed by the person offending, private injustices by proxies, on account of reputation. Things in kind are to be restored first, then an equivalent. As to debts, the laws of the kingdom are to be observed, and commonly, debts by contract, are to be satisfied before those by theft, etc., unless where a greater necessity intervene. When the owner cannot be found, the advice of the confessor is to be followed.
Q. When is restitution to be made ?
A. The precept being negative, it obliges always, and at all times; so that restitution is to be made immediately, unless there be a just cause of delay, and without this the sin increases. Hence, a person who either denies to restore, or notably defers it, or will not restore till death, is incapable of absolution: but if he has a leave from his creditors to delay, then he is not obliged to restore immediately.
Q. Can a person be excused from making restitution ?
A. Never, only in two cases. First, when the person injured forgives the debt. Secondly,
when the debtor labors under an absolute incapacity.
Q. What rules are there to judge of a persons' incapacity ?
A. If he is always in extreme necessity, he is absolutely incapable. No one is obliged to deprive himself of the means of living, in a moderate way ; yet he is obliged to cut off all superfluous expenses, and so time after time pay part, and bring himself into a less compass; but if the creditor is under any want or oppression, the debtor is more obliged to want conveniences, than the creditor.