My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves--Matt. 21, 13

THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT: Thou shalt not steal.

This is the will of God . . . that no man overreach, nor circumvent his brother in business:
because the Lord is the avenger of all these things-- I THESS. iv. 3, 6.

Shortly after St. Paul had founded the Church at Thessalonica, the modern Saloniki, the Jews, who were ever trying to oppose and undo the work of the Apostle, drove him out, and he proceeded then to Athens. From this latter city he addressed the present Epistle to the Thessalonians about the year 53. The purpose of the Apostle in writing to the new converts was to encourage them to be faithful to the teachings he had given them and to avoid the sins of their former lives as Gentiles, in particular the vices of impurity, dishonesty and stealing. He points out to them that their calling as Christians obliges them to a higher standard of conduct than that practiced by the society in which they lived. In the modern world dishonesty in business is perhaps even more prevalent than in the days of St. Paul, with this difference that today it is often looked upon as shrewdness, business ability, experienced wisdom, and the like. All those, however, who are in any way guilty of this sin should remember the warning words of the great Apostle: "The Lord is the avenger of all these things."

I. The nature and gravity of theft, 1. Stealing is the unjust violation of another's right to property, i.e., of another's right to acquire, possess, enjoy and retain temporal goods. 2. The right to property springs from the natural law, and is sanctioned by God in the seventh Commandment. Since human nature tends to be ambitious, covetous, and avaricious, it is necessary, to avoid unending strife and turmoil, that individuals be invested with exclusive property rights. The radical fallacy of Communism and Socialism is that they are opposed to the nature of things, and consequently impossible of realization in this world. 3. Theft is in itself a grave sin, because it violates a serious Commandment of God (I Cor. vi. 9, 10) ; it is an injury to God and to man. 4. Theft, however, becomes a venial sin when the injury done is only slight. The lightness of the injury depends upon circumstances, e.g., a dollar stolen from the very poor would be a grave injury, whereas the same amount taken from the rich would be only a slight offence. Again, petty thefts and small cheating are trifling matters when considered singly; but when they are intentionally continued, or when one plans to continue them, they become serious sins, if they total a great amount.

II. The various kinds of theft. 1. Theft is not only the unjust taking of things from another's purse, pocket or home, but has a much wider extension. There are three ways of stealing: (a) by the unjust taking of what belongs to another; (b) by the unjust keeping of what belongs to another; (c) by unjust damage to another's property. 2. Unjust taking of another's property may be perpetrated in three ways: (a) by theft strictly considered, i.e., the secret taking of what belongs to another against the owner's reasonable wishes, such as is done by pickpockets, sneak thieves, employees who are taking secret compensation, wives, children, and servants who waste household goods, and the like; (b) by rapine or violence, as is done by highway robbers, by officials who extort bribes, by employers who force their employees to take less than their due; (c) by fraud and cheating, as happens in the case of laborers who waste their time, in the case of buyers and sellers that cheat one another in various ways, in the case of profiteers who take advantage of public needs to enrich themselves unduly, and in the case of dishonest gambling. 3. Unjust keeping of another's property takes place when a person keeps something he has found, not trying to find the owner, or when, knowingly he retains what belongs to another even though he acquired it in good faith, or when he refuses to pay his just debts. 4. Unjust damage to another's property happens when a person through his own fault causes loss to another. This sin is committed, not only by those who actually cause the damage, but also by all those who sinfully cooperate in it.

CONCLUSION, 1. We should all carefully examine our consciences in this serious matter, since it is so easy to be deceived by self-interest and the false maxims of the world. 2. We should remember that ill-gotten goods bring upon us in the end unhappiness, misfortune, and the curse of God (Zach. v. 4). 3. "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Matt. xvi. 26).

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part III

"Thou shalt not steal."(1)

In the early ages of the Church, it was customary to impress on the minds of the faithful the nature and force of this Commandment. This we learn from the reproof uttered by the Apostle against some who were most earnest in deterring others from vices, in which they themselves were found freely to indulge: "Thou, therefore, that teachest another, teachest not thyself: thou that preachest that men should not steal, stealest."(2) The salutary effect of such instructions was, not only to correct a vice then very prevalent, but also to repress quarrels, litigation, and other evils which generally grow out of theft. Since in these our days men are unhappily addicted to the same vices, with their consequent misfortunes and evils, the pastor, following the example of the holy Fathers and Doctors, should strongly insist on this point and explain with diligent care the force and meaning of this Commandment.


In the first place the pastor should exercise care and industry in declaring the infinite love of God for man. Not satisfied with having fenced round, so to say, our lives, our persons, our reputation, by means of the two Commandments, "thou shalt not kill," "thou shalt not commit adultery," God defends and places a guard over our property, by adding the prohibition, "Thou shalt not steal." These words can have no other meaning than that which we indicated above when speaking of the other Commandments. They declare that God forbids our worldly goods, which are placed under His protection, to be taken away or injured by anyone.(3)

Our gratitude to God, the author of this law, should be in proportion to the greatness of the benefit the law confers upon us. Now since the truest test of gratitude and the best means of returning thanks to God, consists not alone in lending a willing ear to His precepts, but, also, in obeying them, the faithful are to be animated and encouraged to a strict observance of this Commandment.


Like the preceding Commandments, this one also is divided into two parts. The first, which prohibits theft, is mentioned expressly; while the spirit and force of the second, which enforces kindliness and liberality, are implied in the first part.


We shall begin with the prohibitory part of the Commandment: "Thou shalt not steal." It is to be observed, that by the word "steal" is understood not only the taking away of anything from its rightful owner, privately and without his consent; but also the possession of that which belongs to another, contrary to the will, although not without the knowledge, of the true owner; else we are prepared to say that He Who prohibits theft does not also prohibit robbery, which is accomplished by violence and injustice, whereas, according to St. Paul, "extortioners shall not possess the kingdom of God,"(4) and their very company and ways should be shunned.(5)

But though robbery is a greater sin than theft, inasmuch as it not only deprives another of his property, but also offers violence and insult to him;(6) yet it cannot be a matter of surprise that the divine prohibition is expressed under the milder name of "steal" instead of that of "rob." There was good reason for this, since theft is more general and of wider extent than robbery, a crime which only they can commit who are superior to their neighbor in brute force. Furthermore, it is obvious that when lesser crimes are forbidden, greater enormities of the same sort are also prohibited.(7)


The unjust possession and use of what belongs to another are expressed by different names, according to the diversity of the objects stolen. To take anything private from a private individual is called "theft"; from the public, "peculation." To enslave a freeman or appropriate the slave of another is called "man-stealing." To steal anything sacred is called "sacrilege"-- a crime most enormous and sinful, yet so common in our days, that what piety and wisdom had appropriated to the divine worship, to the support of the ministers of religion, and to the use of the poor, is employed in satisfying the cravings of individual avarice, and converted into a means of ministering to the worst passions.

But, besides actual theft, the will and desire are also forbidden by the law of God. The law is spiritual and concerns the soul, the source of our thoughts and designs. "From the heart," says our Lord, "come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies."(8)


The grievousness of the sin of theft is sufficiently seen by the light of natural reason alone, for it is a violation of justice which gives to every man his own. The distribution and allotment of property, fixed from the beginning by the law of nations and confirmed by human and divine laws, must be considered as inviolable, and each one must be allowed secure possession of what he has justly acquired, unless we wish the overthrow of human society. Hence these words of the Apostle, "Neither thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God."(9)

The long train of evils which theft entails upon society, are a proof at once of its mischievousness and enormity. It gives rise to hasty and rash judgments, engenders hatred, originates enmities, and sometimes subjects the innocent to cruel condemnation.

What shall we say of the necessity imposed by God on all of satisfying for the injury done? "Without restitution," says St. Augustine, "the sin is not forgiven."(10) The difficulty of making such restitution, on the part of those who have been in the habit of enriching themselves with their neighbor's property, we may learn not only from personal observation and reflection, but also from the testimony of the prophet Habacuc: "Woe to him that heapeth together what is not his own. How long also doth he load himself with thick clay?"(11) The possession of other men's property the prophet calls "thick clay," because it is difficult to emerge and extricate one's self from ill-gotten goods.

There are so many kinds of stealing that it is difficult to enumerate them all; but since the others can be reduced to theft and robbery, it will be sufficient to speak of these two. To inspire the faithful with a detestation of such crimes and to deter them from their commission, the pastor should use all care and diligence.


But to proceed. They are also guilty of theft who buy stolen goods, or retain the property of others, whether found, seized, or pilfered. "If you have found, and not restored," says St. Augustine, "you have stolen."(12) If the true owner cannot however, be discovered, whatever is found should go to the poor.(13) If the finder refuse to make restitution, he gives evident proof that, were it in his power, he would make no scruple of stealing all that he could lay his hands on.

Those who, in buying or selling, have recourse to fraud and lying, involve themselves in the same guilt. The Lord will avenge their trickery. Those who sell bad and adulterated goods as real and genuine or who defraud the purchasers by weight, measure, number, or rule, are guilty of a species of theft still more criminal and unjust. It is written, "Thou shalt not have divers weights in thy bag."(14) "Do not any unjust thing," says Leviticus, "in Judgment, in rule, in weight or in measure. Let the balance be just, and the weights equal, the bushel just, and the sextary equal."(15) And elsewhere it is written "Divers weights are an abomination before the Lord; a deceitful balance is not good." (16)

It is, also, a downright theft, when laborers and artisans exact full wages from those to whom they have not given just and due labor. Again, dishonest servants and stewards are no better than thieves, nay they are more detestable than other thieves; against these everything may be locked, while against a pilfering servant nothing in a house can be secure by bolt or lock.

They, also, who extort money under false pretenses, or by deceitful words, may be said to steal, and their guilt is aggravated since they add falsehood to theft.

Persons charged with offices of public or private trust, who altogether neglect, or but indifferently perform their duties, while they enjoy the salary and emoluments of such offices, are also to be reckoned in the number of thieves.

To enumerate the various other modes of theft, invented by the ingenuity of avarice, which is versed in all the arts of making money, would be a tedious and, as already said, a most difficult task.

The pastor, therefore, will next come to treat of robbery, which is the second general division of these crimes. First, he should admonish the faithful to bear in mind the precept of the Apostle: "They that will become rich fall into temptation, and the snare of the devil";(17) and never to forget the words of the Redeemer: "All things whatsoever you will that men do to you, do you also to them";(18) and always to bear in mind the admonition of Tobias: "See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another."(19)


Robbery is more comprehensive than theft. Those who pay not the laborer his hire are guilty of robbery and are exhorted to repentance by St. James in these words: "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries which shall come upon you." He adds the reason for their repentance: "Behold the hire of the laborers, who have reaped down your fields, which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth."(20) This sort of robbery is strongly condemned in Leviticus,(21) Deuteronomy,(22) Malachy,(23) and Tobias.(24)

Among those who are guilty of robbery are also included persons who do not pay, or who turn to other uses or appropriate to themselves, customs, taxes, tithes, and such revenues, which are owed to the Church or civil authorities.

To this class also belong usurers, the most cruel and relentless of extortioners, who by their exorbitant rates of interest, plunder and destroy the poor. Whatever is received above the principal, be it money, or anything else that may be purchased or estimated by money, is usury; for it is written in Ezechiel: "Thou hast taken usury and increase,"(25) and in Luke our Lord says: "Lend hoping for nothing thereby."(26) Even among the pagans usury was always considered a most grievous and odious crime. Hence the saying: "If you ask: What is usury? I reply: What is murder?" And, indeed, he who lends at usury sells the same thing twice, or sells that which has no real existence.(27)

Corrupt Judges, whose decisions are venal, and who, bought over by money or other bribes, decide against the Just claims of the poor and needy, also commit robbery.

Those who defraud their creditors, who deny their just debts, and also those who purchase goods on their own or on another's credit, with a promise to pay for them at a certain time, and do not keep their word, are guilty of the same crime of robbery. And it is an aggravation of their guilt that, in consequence of their want of punctuality and their fraud, prices are raised to the no small injury of the public. To such persons David alludes when he says: "The sinner shall borrow and not pay again."(28)

But what shall we say of those rich men who exact with rigor what they lend to the poor, even though the latter are not able to pay them? and of those who take as security even the necessary clothing of the unfortunate debtors? Such men defy the divine prohibition: "If thou take of thy neighbor a garment in pledge, thou shalt give it him again before sunset, for that same is the only thing wherewith he is covered, the clothing of his body, neither hath he any other to sleep in; if he cry to me I will hear him, because I am compassionate."(29) Their rigorous exaction is justly termed "rapacity," and therefore "robbery."(30)

Among those whom the holy Fathers pronounced guilty of robbery are persons who, in times of scarcity, hoard up their corn, thus rendering supplies scarcer and dearer. This holds good with regard to all necessaries of life and sustenance. These are they against whom Solomon utters this execration: "He that hideth up corn, shall be cursed among the people."(31) Such persons the pastor will admonish of their guilt, and will reprove with more than ordinary freedom; he will explain to them at length the punishments which await such sins.--So much for what the seventh Commandment forbids.


As there are not wanting those who would even excuse their thefts, these are to be admonished that God will accept no excuse for sin; and that their excuses, far from extenuating, serve only to aggravate their guilt.


How insufferable the perversity of those men of exalted rank, who excuse themselves for taking what belongs to others by alleging, that they act not from cupidity or avarice, but from a desire to maintain the grandeur of their families, and the station of their ancestors, whose repute and dignity must fall, if not upheld by the possession of another man's property. Of this harmful error they are to be disabused; and are to be convinced, that the only means to preserve and augment their wealth and to enhance the glory of their ancestors is to obey the will of God and observe His Commandments. Once His will and Commandments are contemned, the stability of property, no matter how securely settled, is overturned; kings are dethroned, and hurled from the highest pinnacle of earthly grandeur; while the humblest individuals in society or men towards whom they cherished the most implacable hatred, are sometimes called by God to occupy their place.

The intensity of the divine wrath, kindled by such cruel injustice, God Himself declares in these words, which are recorded in Isaias: "The princes are faithless, companions of thieves; they all love bribes; they run after rewards. Therefore, saith the Lord, the God of Hosts, the flighty One of Israel: Ah! I will comfort myself over my adversaries; and I will be revenged of my enemies; and I will turn my hand to thee, and I will clean purge away thy dross."(32)


Some there are, who plead in justification of such conduct, not the ambition of maintaining hereditary splendor and ancestral glory, but a desire of acquiring the means of living in greater ease and elegance. Such false excuses are also to be exposed and refuted; and it should be shown how impious are the words and conduct of those who prefer their own ease to the will and the glory of God, which by neglecting His Commandments we offend extremely. And yet what real advantage can there be in theft? Of how many very serious evils is it not the source? "Confusion and repentance," says Ecclesiasticus, "is upon a thief."(33) But even though no temporal punishment overtake the thief, he offers an insult to the divine name, opposes the most holy will of God, and contemns His salutary precepts; from such contempt result all error, all dishonesty, all impiety.


But do we not sometimes hear the thief contend that he is not guilty of sin, because he steals from the rich and the wealthy, who, in his mind, not only suffer no injury, but do not even feel the loss? Such an excuse is as wretched as its tendency is baneful.


Others imagine that they should be excused, because they have contracted such a habit of stealing as not to be able to gain an easy victory over the temptation, or to desist from the practice. If such persons listen not to the admonition of the Apostle: "He that stole, let him now steal no more," (34) let them recollect that one day, whether they like it or not, they will become accustomed to an eternity of torments.


Some excuse themselves by saying that it was impossible to resist the favorable opportunity that presented itself. The proverb is well known: "Those who are not thieves are made 'so by opportunity." Such persons are to be disabused of their Wrong idea by reminding them that it is our duty to resist every evil propensity. If we yield instant obedience to every inordinate impulse, what measure, what limits will there be to crime and disorder? Such an excuse, therefore, is of the lowest character, or rather is an avowal of a complete want of restraint and justice. To say that you do not commit sin, because you have no opportunity of sinning, is almost to acknowledge that you are always prepared to sin when opportunity offers.


There are some who say that they steal in order to gratify revenge, having themselves suffered the same injury from others. In answer to such offenders, the pastor will urge the unlawfulness of returning injury for injury; that no person can be a judge in his own cause; and that still less can it be lawful to punish one man for the injustice done you by another.


Finally, some find a sufficient justification of theft in their own embarrassments, alleging that they are overwhelmed with debt, which they cannot pay off otherwise than by theft. Such persons should be given to understand that no debt presses more heavily than that from which, each day or our lives, we pray to be released in these words of the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our debts." Hence it is the height of folly to be willing to increase our debt to God by sin, in order to be able to pay our debts to men. It is much better to be consigned to an earthly prison than to be cast into the prison of hell; it is by far a greater evil to be condemned by the judgment of God, than by that of man. Hence, under such trying circumstances, it becomes our duty to have recourse to the assistance and mercy of God, that in His goodness He may relieve us from all our difficulties.

There are also other excuses for theft, which, however, the judicious and zealous pastor will not find it difficult to meet, so that thus he may one day be blessed with a people who are "followers of good works."(35)

Sermon: Extravagance, Gambling, and Theft
by the Rev. Francis M. Harvey

Be not anxious for goods unjustly gotten, for they shall not profit thee in the day of calamity and revenge. For confusion and repentance is upon a thief.--ECCLES. v. 10.


Our day is characterized by the rapid increase of material wealth. For the first time in history the accumulation of wealth has become a science. We do not mean to complain of this increase. Like all of God's gifts, wealth, even great wealth, is beneficent, and is the outpouring of that same fatherly goodness that bestows upon us spiritual grace.

There is, however, an unhappy result of this great wealth; the vast increase of luxurious living. And not only is this among the very rich, but among those who are far below in the social scale. Self-indulgence has become an almost universal social law. Vast sums are spent on mere eating and drinking. You hear men eagerly discussing the discovery of some new place at which some special delicacy may be secured. Men now compete with one another in the splendor or novelty of their entertainments. Immense sums are expended for women's dress; large fortunes are made by those who cater to public amusement, and a great army of entertainers are supported in every city.

Unfortunately this luxurious temper is far from being confined to those outside the Church. Many who profess the Gospel of the Crucified contradict the principles of that Gospel in their daily lives, and the result is that we live in an atmosphere of pollution wherein the poison of extravagant living, with its deadly evils, is drawn into our blood, and a degenerate race is reared up to be a menace to society and a blot on our civilization.


This mad thirst for enjoyment it is that leads so many of our young people into extravagance and its attendant evils. We will confine ourselves to the consideration of one of the sad results of this pleasure-loving spirit of our day, the violation of the Seventh Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal"; a commandment which comes to us now partly drowned by sounds of revelry, the cries of a degenerate commercialism and the platitudes of the worldly wise. But the commandment was first given amid the thunders of Sinai, and in the ear of God and of God's Church those thunders are still echoing, and, as of old, sound a warning anathema to the sinner. Heaven and earth may pass away, may change from age to age in their passing, but not one syllable of God's law shall pass, not one jot of His penalties shall fail.

The first step in this downward path is extravagance--very venial in appearance, like all first wrong-ward steps--but condemned by the sure instinct that is in every uncorrupted heart. Extravagance prepares the way for thievery, just as surely as immodest words and words of double meaning are the forerunners of debauchery. It begets the feverish longing for money, which is the spirit of gambling, and gambling is in reality an ambition to get something for nothing, and finds its ultimate, legitimate expression in common theft.


If we would purify society of this vice we must set our faces strongly against this spirit of extravagance that obtains so largely today. How many a young man, fascinated by the pleasure-seeking life about him, is lured to spiritual and to social destruction! He begins by spending more than he can afford upon dress, theater-going, food and drink, and the myriad indulgences that entice on every side. To pay for these luxuries he must retrench expenditures that duty demands of him. His contribution to the support of home is minimized indefinitely, those who should be nearest and dearest to him may be in want of many little comforts, even of certain necessities, which ordinarily it would be in his power and should be his pleasure to supply; but the spirit of extravagance has transformed his generosity into selfishness and his sense of duty into an irritation at all restraint. This irritation renders himself and those about him wretched, and estranges him more and more from home and its salutary influences. Yet he who sins in this way will deny that he sins at all. He will not open his eyes to the injustice of which he is guilty. He forgets that he owes a debt to his parents that even his best efforts can never adequately repay. Under God they have given him the gift of physical life, have toiled that he might be fitted for his position in society, have denied themselves many comforts for his sake, have year by year piled up a debt against him which they would be the last to demand, but which he should be the first to pay.

What is true of a large number of young men is equally true of many young women and with even sadder results. Extravagance in dress is not even regarded as a venial offense in morals. It masquerades under the name of "a proper pride," "decent regard for appearances," "self-respect," or any of the well-sounding phrases with which we cover our follies and our sins. How many bitter heart-burnings are caused by the extravagant girl? How her selfish indulgence grows by what it feeds upon, and ill-temper gains more and more possession of her character. Happy is she if her moral sense does not become blunted, and she wake to find that her extravagance and love of display have not yet led her into the path of sordid worldliness, whence there is little hope of returning.

Much of the sorrow and heart-burning that arise in a family from the spendthrift habits of youths and maidens would have been saved by parents had the children been properly trained. It is no uncommon thing--indeed, it is in some places almost the rule--to find more money lavished on the clothing of children than is spent on that of the parents. "People in ordinary circumstances deem it proper to dress their children as though they were the offspring of the wealthy. What wonder if these children learn to look down upon their fellows who are less splendidly arrayed; if pride and vanity grow up rankly in their hearts; if thus are reared generations of degenerate men and frivolous women.

Extravagance is one of the most insidious and most dangerous foes to character and to society. Society is built upon thrift. The careful toiler, industrious in his life, temperate in his manners, is the main trunk of the tree of civilization, supporting and sustaining the branches of science and the fair foliage of refinement and art. Let extravagance eat its way into the trunk, and the whole tree sickens and dies. The individual who becomes tainted with extravagance is in a fit condition to catch any of the moral diseases that afflict mankind. Extravagance, as we are considering it, is an unreasonable expenditure of money, a going beyond the bounds laid down by common sense, duty to our fellows, and the law of God. To push aside reason as the guiding principle in one department of our lives opens the way to its expulsion from all the others. The vice, too, looks so fair, appeals so strongly to our self-love, and so quickly wins the applause of the unthinking, masquerading in the garb of generosity and kindliness, that one is loath to part with it. But if you note carefully the extravagant man, you will find that he is not really generous, nor kind; he is not even just. His expenditures are upon himself, his follies and his foibles. In his commercial dealings he is always hard or mean, and often tricky and unjust. Extravagance is a form of selfishness, and the man who is most free-handed in catering to his own enjoyments, usually has an abundance of unpaid bills to his account.

Here is where extravagance becomes a breach of the Seventh Commandment. Right reason and morality demand that we pay our debts promptly and meet our obligations to the best of our ability. Extravagance is by its very nature opposed to right reason, and its presence blights our sense of justice and gives us essentially the same outlook upon life as that possessed by the gamester and the thief.


This viewpoint which it gives us, this atmosphere which it creates, is most dangerous. The life of extravagant luxury, that is more rife today than ever before in the world's history, has given us a whole race of men who are living by their wits, as it is called. Get-rich-quick schemes are a feature of everyday life. What are called questionable business methods--a euphemism for thievery--are scarcely noticed. Practical bribery and corruption support a great horde of these same ingenious gentlemen. And this class is not condemned by public opinion as were the banditti and adventurers of old whose descendants they are. Our whole social structure is infested with these vermin that make our laws their protection. They are able to commit the most flagrant dishonesty, and yet stand legally absolved. They can do whatever is criminally wrong that has profit in it, and do it so skillfully that legal measures are powerless against them. As has been truly said: "Men profess but little esteem for the blunt, necessitous thief who robs and runs away; but for the gentleman who can break the whole of God's law so adroitly as to leave man's unbroken, who can indulge in such conservative stealing that his fellowmen award him a rank among honest men for the excessive skill of his dishonesty, there are ample opportunities for following the ways of the gay and extravagant."

This gambling spirit, raised by the luxury and extravagance of present life, is growing steadily more powerful. Reputable business men are forced to be more and more on their guard against it in their employees. The questions asked of young aspirants to good business positions are becoming most particular as regards the presence of the vice of gambling, while a known fondness for card-playing and races will shut a man out of positions of trust, no matter how high the bonds by which he is guaranteed. We cannot call the managers of our business houses fanatics; cannot claim that they are animated by quixotic moral ideals. It is not "some far off divine event" that they look to, and in whose name they strive to shut their doors against those tainted with the gambling tendency, but the hard, practical realization that the gambler and the thief are one, and that it is but a question of time before the gamester is behind prison bars or a fugitive from justice. See by what necessary links this spirit of extravagance and gambling are connected. The young man of extravagant tastes borrows to supply the supposed needs of the present hour. Soon his wages are pledged from week to week and from month to month. By and by the loan office is his only willing creditor. Now the burden of debt grows almost unbearable and he strives to shift it by delays, by lying excuses, by false promises. He learns all the low tricks of concealment and evasion that are used to avoid the payment of honest debt. The mind becomes fevered with winding schemes and projects, the heart polluted, the conscience befouled. Perhaps the races will help him out, some one suggests. Stories of brilliant fortunes made in a day dazzle him. Here is an opportunity to throw off the burden of debt, to feel he can look honest men in the face--and for the moment he acknowledges that he is not honest himself--but above all, to continue in that primrose path for which he has sacrificed his honor. He plays the races --his last dollar is gone, the fever of the game is in his blood, the dread of ruin is before him; he must play now, he says. He borrows desperately, with lies of wondrous ingenuity. His mind is filled with dreams of suddenly acquired wealth; he broods over scheme after scheme of unlawful gain--timidly, perhaps at first, but with increasing boldness, till he looks at dishonesty face to face, and thinks only of safety. Many examples of brilliant, undetected fraud, of knavery covered by cunning and crowned by success, come to his mind. Closer and closer he draws to the siren of dishonor. His judgment is warped by what he considers his pressing necessities; his imagination is on fire with the promised enjoyment of successful achievement, and he finally compromises with his conscience; says he will not steal but will borrow some of the funds entrusted to his care. A new horde of lying expedients must now be resorted to. Accounts are falsified; wrong entries made; false papers are made out and filed; perjured oaths are given, and the stream of gold begins to now freely and sweeps him on in its intoxicating flood, on to the rapids of ruin and of shame. There are waking moments of nightmare anguish, of frenzied hope that some benignant fortune will stretch a hand to pluck him from this maelstrom of dishonor. He takes desperate risks at cards and at the races, but inevitable exposure and degradation follow him and at last he stands exposed, a detected thief, a man who has been false to himself, false to his trust, false to his God.

This is not an isolated case. Scarce a sun rises but this sad drama is re-enacted. With a persistency that is appalling, the game is played by some new fool who puts his puny ingenuity against the tried wisdom and shrewdness of human society.

But this is not all. Are you aware how this spirit of gambling permeates every walk of life? Not only are our cities pitted with poolrooms and secret gambling dens, but gambling is open, flaunting itself on our very streets. Is there no one to raise a voice against this street corner gambling that disgraces our Sunday mornings ? The way to Mass too often lies through a crowd of young men who are disgracing themselves and the day by throwing dice or indulging in one of the many ingenious forms of corner gambling. God knows they are in need of the grace of attending Mass and instruction, but the call of the dice-box is in their blood, and the sound of the church bell falls silent before it. There they play with the wages that should go to the support of those at home, gambling away, perhaps, the comforts and necessities of aged parents, gambling away the promise of their early manhood, gambling away their hope of future success, gambling away the safety of their immortal souls.


Of open direct theft much need not be said. Its heinousness is fairly well recognized. What needs to be thoroughly insisted upon is that sinful extravagance and gambling are of a piece with theft as surely as impure words and impure thoughts are of a piece with the most flagrant violations of the Sixth Commandment.

But theft is not always open and direct. How often in the day is God's commandment broken by the dishonest tradesman who gives short weight, or who charges exorbitant prices? How many children pilfer from their parents, and how many parents make light of such pilfering, forgetful that the child is a criminal in the sight of God! "He that stealeth anything from his father, or from his mother, and saith, this is no sin, is the partner of a murderer." How often do we see workmen shirking their work, or doing it with willful negligence? They sell eight hours of labor and give five or six. What are such men but thieves, who are bound before the tribunal of God's justice. This is a condition of affairs that is becoming appallingly common. It seems that the better are the terms obtained by labor the more prevalent grows this theft of time and service. Men selfishly disregard the interests of the employer to whose service they have bound themselves: but call to mind the saying of St. Luke: "He that is unjust in that which is little is unjust also in that which is greater. If you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?"

On the other hand, we have those who defraud the workmen of their rightful wages, taking advantage of their necessity or ignorance to cheat them into an agreement to work for less than their labor is worth; who make an unnecessary delay in paying their wages or defraud them entirely. These are "sins that cry to heaven for vengeance."


Our guiding principle, in regard to this most solemn command of the Most High, is that whatever works an injustice to our neighbor, that defrauds, circumvents, or takes advantage of him in any way, is an offense against him, and against God, and binds us absolutely to restitution.

The Sacred Scriptures ring with repeated warnings against injustice, fraud and theft. "This is the curse that goeth forth over the earth; for every thief shall be judged as is there written. I will bring forth this curse, saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall come to the house of the thief; and it shall remain in the midst of his house and shall consume it, with the timber thereof and the stones thereof." "You do wrong and defraud. . . . Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God?" "Be not anxious for goods unjustly gotten, for they shall not profit thee in the day of calamity and revenge-- for confusion and repentance is upon a thief." Again and again we are reminded that our God is the God of justice and will suffer no infringement of His law to go unpunished. Again and again sounds the solemn warning to fly fraud and iniquitous dealing. Like all the stern commands of God they spring from His Fatherly love of us. He is jealous for His children with a holy, paternal jealousy; demanding what is best for them, and resenting any loss of their truth and worth. He created us for Himself, that our hearts might find joy and rest in Him. What room is there for God in that heart which is filled with restless longing for the things of earth, so filled, that loss of honor is deemed a small thing if but the craving for earthly possessions be satisfied?

Let us remember that it is our duty as Catholics not only to set ourselves sternly against all cheating, bribery and swindling--that is expected even of the heathen--but to be outspoken in our condemnation of the extravagant luxury of our day, and the spirit of gambling that is ripe in our land. What have we, who were purchased by the passion and the Cross of the Man of Sorrows and of Poverty to do with softness and effeminacy, with the heedless extravagance which makes a god of self whilst Jesus in the person of His poor is dying at our gates, with the fevered excitement and desperate longing of the gambling den, or the secret thief whose "sins cry to heaven for vengeance"? Let us kneel in spirit before that Cross, see the price that has been paid for us, realize the heavy debt that lies upon us, and strive to pay some small portion of that debt by scrupulous regard to all the claims of God's justice.

1. Exod. xx. 15. 2. Rom. ii. 21.
3. St. Thomas, la. IIae., q. 100. art. 3; IIa. IIae., q. 122. art. 6.
4. I Cor. vi. 10.
5. See Aug. q. 71. in Exod.; quoted in 32. q. 4. c. meretrices.
6. I Cor. v. 10.
7. St. Thomas, IIa. IIae., q. 66. aa. 4, 9; 14, q. 4. c. poenale.
8. Matt. xv. 19.
9. Cor. vi. 10.
10. Epist. liv.
12. Lib. 50. horn. 9; de verbis Apost. serm. 19.
13. It is unnecessary to remind the learned reader that human laws may affect this decision.--T.
14. Deut. xxv. 13. 15. Lev. xix. 35, 36. 16. Prov. xx. 23.
17. I Tim. vi. 9. 21. Lev. xix. 13.
18. Matt. vii. 12. 22. Deut. xxiv. 14.
19. Tob.iv. 26. 23. Mal. iii. 5.
20. James v. i, 4. 24. Tob. iv. 15.
25. Ezech. xxii. 12. and xviii. 8.
26. Luke vi. 33.
27. On usury see 14. q. i, q. 4. passim; de usuris in the Decretals; St. Thomas, IIa. IIae., q. 78; Amb., lib. de Tob. c. 14.
28. Ps. xxxvi. 21.
29. Exod. xxii. 26, 27.
30. See decretal, lib. 3. tit. 21; Amb., lib. 5. de offic. c. 6.
31. Prov. xi. 6.
32. See C. of Trent, sess. 22. decret. de reform, cap. II; c. 13. 22; C. of Paris, I, c. I; C. of Tours II, c. 25; C. of Orleans V, c. 15; C. of Orleans III; C. of Mainz, cap 6. II; C. of Worms, c. 75; C. Aachen, c. 88; 1.2. quaest

33. Eccl.v.17.
34. Eph. iv. 28.
35. Tit.II. 14.

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