Restitution and Reparation

Are we obliged to repair damage unjustly done to the property of others?

“We are obliged to repair damage unjustly done to the property of others, or to pay the amount of the damage, as far as we are able.

If we have unknowingly, by purchase or gift, obtained possession of stolen property, we are bound to restore it to the rightful owner, as soon as we learn the truth.

“Justice requires reparation of the evil we do, in so far as we have ability to make that reparation.

“If one refuses to restore stolen property or to repair damage he has unjustly done to the property of others, he cannot be forgiven.

“A person who has accidentally damaged the property of another is not obliged to repair the damage unless required by civil law. Employees are bound to take reasonable care of the property of employers.”

Are we obliged to restore to the owner stolen goods, or their value?

“We are obliged to restore to the owner stolen goods, or their value, whenever we are able.

“If the rightful owner is dead, the property must be restored to his heirs. If there are no heirs, it must be given to the poor or for some other charitable purpose.

“If poverty or some other circumstance prevent the thief from making restitution immediately, he must resolve to do so as soon as possible, and must make an effort to fulfill his resolution.

“If we find an article of value, we must strive to discover the owner, in order to restore the article. The more valuable it is, the greater our obligation to discover the owner and restore it to him. If after all our earnest efforts we fail to find the rightful owner, we may keep the article.”

What does the Tenth Commandment forbid?

“The tenth commandment forbids all desire to take or to keep unjustly what belongs to others, and also forbids envy at their success.

“We are permitted to desire the property of others only when we propose to obtain it by legitimate means, such as by purchase or exchange.”

Among those guilty of violating the Tenth Commandment are:

  1. “Those who desire or resolve to steal or cause loss to others, even if the resolution is not carried out;
  2. Children who wish for the death of their parents in order to obtain their property;
  3. Those who wish for war, epidemics, storms, fire, legal troubles, social outbreaks or other calamities, in order to profit from the resulting high prices for their products; and
  4. Those who deny the right of private property, such as Communists.” (My Catholic Faith)

Source:
Most Reverend Louis LaVoire Morrow, Bishop of Krishnagar. “Article 113: “Reparation of Damage to Property.” My Catholic Faith: A Manual of Religion. Kenosha, WI: My Mission House, 1963. pp. 236-7.

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