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Featured "Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them"?

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by Vouthon, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. Vouthon

    Vouthon Contemplation

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    St. John Chrysostom (Hom. in Lazaro 2,5, cited in CCC 2446)

    Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs

    St. Ambose (De Nabuthe, c.12, n.53, cited in Populorum Progressio of Paul VI):

    You are not making a gift of your possessions to poor persons. You are handing over to them what is theirs. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.

    Agree or disagree (with these early church fathers of the fourth century AD)?
     
    #1 Vouthon, Mar 12, 2018
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  2. sayak83

    sayak83 Well-Known Member
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    In a world where serfdom, slavery and forced labor by landowners no longer exist, this argument no longer holds much force. Most of mining and farming is mechanized and human labor is much less used in contrast to ingenuity of mind. Of course if a bank drives a pension fund to the ground for his own short term profits and bonuses, he is culpable of gambling away other people's money. And I will support fair pay for every unit of labor used in a product. However it's unclear how any other claims on resources and wealth for one not involved in the extraction, development, manufacture and distribution of a product can be supported. The giving to the poor is an ethical and humanitarian imperative, difficult to see how they have an apriori claim on another's wealth.
     
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  3. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    In of itself, the idea that not sharing wealth is stealing from the poor sounds ridiculous to me.

    Then I remember than in a capitalistic economy, that is kind of how it works. The only way one becomes monetarily wealthy is by gaming the system to exploit others. It may not be slavery and forced labor at work here, but it's a system that's largely analogous to it. :sweat:
     
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  4. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I think it comes down to how one feels about the idea of a social contract and whatever implementation of same may be found in his or her society.

    But I also want to point out that while there is ample room for questioning the legitimacy of material wealth as a concept, the very same perspective that legitimizes such a claim will also IMO impose the need to point out that giving birth to and raising children are much too formidable responsibilities to be considered a personal matter.

    Social conscience is indeed a worthy and necessary goal. But its toll is quite remarkable, to the point that few people fully want it.
     
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  5. sayak83

    sayak83 Well-Known Member
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    I admit outright that it's not all honest and over the top, but companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, GE, IBM, Boeing have generated a lot of value in society under their leadership who have become rich in the process. Of course they have done a lot of shady stuff as well. But I don't expect humans to be angels after all.
     
  6. Vouthon

    Vouthon Contemplation

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    I'm sorry to say that, umm, we do believe in the a priori claim thingy. Allow me to explain! :D

    The Catholic Church continues to cite the argument outlined by these Church Fathers, till this day, as an authoritative teaching, part of our received social doctrine (as recently as last year by Pope Francis). So a Catholic, like myself, is obliged to apply the moral principle inherent within it to our post-modern context. (Don't me ask how Republican Catholics in the U.S, manage to reconcile this because I don't have the answer to that fathomless conundrum :D)

    Actually, the teaching is not contingent upon the "poor" in question having any personal hand in the extraction, development, manufacture or labour required for the rich to accrue the superabundant wealth under discussion. It's about access to resources and the basic necessities of life.

    Obviously, the case of an indentured servant, slave or serf who reaps none or little tangible benefit from the land he/she has been compelled to work on is an even more urgent instance of social injustice...but the principle put forward here is far more radical in scope, and I think you see that.

    As you adroitly noted, a statement is being made to the effect that the indignant "have an a priori claim on another's wealth" if it be in superabundance, beyond what is required for the maintenance of their own needs and station in life. This is because the Church's sacred tradition maintains that the right to private ownership and free commerce, while natural rights given by God to all people, are ultimately subordinate to the universal destination of goods, which precedes the apportioning and division of goods arising from the positive law (because it is God's law in nature itself).

    See:


    voluntaryist.com - Voluntaryism and Extreme Necessity


    The attitude of the Catholic Church was best exemplified by St. Basil (c. 330-379) who asserted that those who had more than they needed really didn't own their extra wealth: The bread that you store up belongs to the hungry; the cloak that lies in your chest belongs to the naked; and the gold that you have hidden in the ground belongs to the poor. [5] This theme was elaborated during the later Middle Ages when the principle of extreme necessity became a common doctrine among medieval theologians and canon lawyers.

    The principle stated that a person in extreme necessity may rightfully take the property of other people to sustain his life. This principle is the most radical formulation of the medieval belief that God had bestowed the earth upon all mankind for its sustenance. [6] This conclusion led to two co-ordinate positions:

    [T]he first held that people in extreme necessity might rightfully take what they needed to survive, and that their taking such goods had nothing of the nature of theft; and the second, held that every person has the obligation to sustain the life of other people once his own needs have been met. [7]
    Gratian's DECRETUM, a famous medieval tome compiled about 1140 AD, also expounded the view that the fruits of the earth belonged to all mankind. All things are common, that is, to be shared in time of necessity with those in want. ... [W]e should retain for ourselves only necessities and distribute what is left to our neighbors in need. [8]

    Joannes Teutonicus (also known as John of Wildehausen , c. 1180-1252) was one of the first medieval theologians to discuss the principle of extreme necessity. Citing the DECRETUM, he interpreted the word common to mean shared in time of need: No one may call his own what is common, of which if man takes more than he needs, it is obtained by violence. [9] The decretist text did not deny the right to private property; rather it denied the right of anyone to appropriate as his own more than sufficed for his own needs. According to Joannes, a man was not bound to deprive himself of his own necessities in order to help another in need, though if he did so it would be a commendable act. He could even retain superfluities provided that others were not in want. But in time of necessity any superfluous wealth of an individual was to be regarded as common property, to be shared with those in need. [10]

    The decretists saw no contradiction in maintaining the right to private property, on the one hand, and, on the other, the right of the poor to sustain their lives by taking from the wealthy. They recognized the right to private property, but the right of accumulation only extended as far as satisfying one's basic needs. The man who accumulated goods beyond what he needed to live in a decent and fitting fashion according to his status had no right to keep his wealth

    According to Cardinal Cajetan, the great commentator of the Summa, and other Thomistic glossers, the government can - if the need be grave and manifest - "take from someone who is unwilling to dispense from what is superfluous for life or state, and to distribute it to the poor".

    To provide you with the full quotation:


    "...Now what a ruler can do in virtue of his office, so that justice may be served in the matter of riches, is to take from someone who is unwilling to dispense from what is superfluous for life or state, and to distribute it to the poor. In this way he just takes away the dispensation power of the rich man to whom the wealth has been entrusted because he is not worthy. For according to the teaching of the saints, the riches that are superfluous do not belong to the rich man as his own but rather to the one appointed by God as dispenser, so that he can have the merit of a good dispensation...as Basil said, it belongs to the indigent..."

    - Cardinal Cajetan (1469-1534), "Commentary on the Summa Theologica," vol. 6, II-II, 118.3

    So it depends what one means by "wealth". If by it, you mean what a person requires to satisfy his needs and station, then "no," but a person is still expected to be charitable from these resources - albeit entirely at his own discretion. Only a tyrannical state would expropriate or take away the wealth a person has to maintain their needs and standing in life. Whatever wealth a person has for this end legitimately belongs to them.

    But if by wealth you mean possession of resources exclusively for oneself beyond whatever is required to satisfy your needs and standing, that is wealth which is superfluous to these two ends then....ahem :rolleyes: In cases of extreme need, it is "common" wealth unjustly expropriated in our eyes.


    Pope Paul VI made the point quite clear in his 1967 encyclical "Populorum Progressio":


    Populorum Progressio - Papal Encyclicals


    If the world is made to furnish each individual with the means of livelihood and the instruments for his growth and progress, each man has therefore the right to find in the world what is necessary for himself. The recent Council reminded us of this: “God intended the earth and all that it contains for the use of every human being and people. Thus, as all men follow justice and unite in charity, created goods should abound for them on a reasonable basis”[20] All other rights whatsoever, including those of property and of free commerce, are to be subordinated to this principle. They should not hinder but on the contrary favor its application. It is a grave and urgent social duty to redirect them to their primary finality.

    23. “If someone who has the riches of this world sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?.”[21] It is well known how strong were the words used by the Fathers of the Church to describe the proper attitude of persons who possess anything towards persons in need. To quote Saint Ambrose: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich”.[22] That is, private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditioned right. No one is justified in keeping for his exclusive use what he does not need, when others lack necessities. In a word, “according to the traditional doctrine as found in the Fathers of the Church and the great theologians, the right to property must never be exercised to the detriment of the common good”. If there should arise a conflict “between acquired private rights and primary community exigencies”, it is the responsibility of public authorities “to look for a solution, with the active participation of individuals and social groups”.[23]

    24. If certain landed estates impede the , general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation. While giving a clear statement on this,[24] the Council recalled no less clearly that the available revenue is not to be used in accordance with mere whim, and that no place must be given to selfish speculation. Consequently it is unacceptable that citizens with abundant incomes from the resources and activity of their country should transfer a considerable part of this income abroad purely for their own advantage, with out care for the manifest wrong they inflict on their country by doing this.[25]
     
    #6 Vouthon, Mar 12, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
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  7. Foxic

    Foxic Member

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    Indeed, yet it is an indication of an unhealthy society to ignorantly accept that to effect necessary and progressive change is beyond one's control. It seems to me certain institutions are cruelly informing the general population that they must simply accept the way things are and just live their lives without causing, what they term, unwarranted drama.
     
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  8. Nakosis

    Nakosis crystal soldier
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    I see it as being generally better to encourage people to earn their own wealth.

    Assuming most folks want to be productive members of society. The ability to earn for yourself is liberating.

    So share the knowledge of wealth making.
     
  9. Vouthon

    Vouthon Contemplation

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    Wealth-making, or entrepreneurialism, is not under assault in this paradigm. Wealth hoarding is. There is such a thing as social entrepreneurship.

    Over 600 years before Donald Trump's infamous (and largely ghost-written) Art of the Deal came out, Saint Bernardino of Siena (1380–1444) wrote On Contracts and Usury, history's first manual for budding entrepreneurs:


    Bernardino of Siena - Wikipedia

    Bernardino was the first theologian after Pierre de Jean Olivi to write an entire work systematically devoted to Scholastic economics. His greatest contribution to economics was a discussion and defense of the entrepreneur. His book, On Contracts and Usury, written during the years 1431–1433, dealt with the justification of private property, the ethics of trade, the determination of value and price, and the usury question.[16]

    One of his contributions was a discussion on the functions of the business entrepreneur, who Bernardino saw as performing the useful social function of transporting, distributing, or manufacturing goods. According to Murray Rothbard, Bernardino's insight in determining just value prefigured "...the Jevons/Austrian analysis of supply and cost over five centuries later."[17]




    The Worldly Ascetic: San Bernardino of Siena | Murray N. Rothbard

    The great mind, and the great systematizer, of scholastic economics was a paradox among paradoxes: a strict and ascetic Franciscan saint living and writing in the midst of the sophisticated capitalist world of early fifteenth century Tuscany...

    San Bernardino of Siena was a fascinating and paradoxical combination of brilliant, knowledgeable, and appreciative analyst of the capitalist market of his day, and an emaciated ascetic saint fulminating against worldly evils and business practices.


    One of Bernardino's great contributions, however, was the fullest and most cogent discussion yet penned on the functions of the business entrepreneur. In the first place, the merchant was given an even cleaner bill of health than had been given by Aquinas. Sensibly, and in contrast to early doctrines, San Bernardino pointed out that trade, like all other occupations, could be practiced either licitly or unlawfully.

    All
    callings, including that of a bishop, provide occasions for sin; these are scarcely limited to trade. More specifically, merchants can perform several kinds of useful service: transporting commodities from surplus to scarce regions and countries; preserving and storing goods to be available when the consumers want them; and, as craftsmen or industrial entrepreneurs, transforming raw materials into finished products. In short, the businessman can perform the useful social function of transporting, distributing, or manufacturing goods.

    In his justification of trade, San Bernardino finally managed to rehabilitate the lowly retailer, who had been scorned ever since ancient Greece. Importers and wholesalers, Bernardino pointed out, buy in large quantities and then break bulk by selling by the bale or load to retailers, who in turn sell in minute quantities to consumers.

    Realistically, Bernardino did not condemn profits; on the contrary, profits were a legitimate return to the entrepreneur for his labor, expenses and the risks that he undertakes.

    San Bernardino then goes into his trenchant analysis of the functions of the entrepreneur. Managerial ability, he realized, is a rare combination of competence and efficiency, and therefore commands a large return. San Bernardino lists four necessary qualifications for the successful entrepreneur: efficiency or diligence (industria), responsibility (solicitudo), labor (labores), and assumption of risks (pericula).

    Efficiency for Bernardino meant being well-informed about prices, costs, and qualities of the product, and being "subtle" in assessing risks and profit opportunities, which, Bernardino shrewdly observed, "indeed very few are capable of doing." Responsibility meant being attentive to detail and also keeping good accounts, a necessary item in business. Trouble, toil, and even personal hardships are also often essential. For all these reasons, and for the risk incurred, the businessman properly earns enough on successful investments to keep him in business and compensate him for all his hardships.
     
    #9 Vouthon, Mar 12, 2018
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  10. sandy whitelinger

    sandy whitelinger Veteran Member

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    Wow. They must have been Democrats.
     
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  11. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity simple man
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    For a Christian? Yes that is true I think, but also true is making provision for immediate family. There are priorities to giving. If you have responsibilities (and one should) then you have to look after those responsibilities. As with anything you can overdo giving and do harm. You aren't just supposed to give but to provide and to be a good steward. Be like a tree with roots and give away some fruit while using some to plant.
     
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  12. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    Nah, just Christians who were trying to teach and live out Jesus' teachings as well spelled out in his Sermon On the Mount.
     
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  13. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    To do one's best to try and make for a better person and a better society is paramount in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In the Psalms, for example. it says that nations will be judged on how they may or may not help the poor, and Jesus in his Parable of the Sheep & Goats (Matthew 25) makes it clear that this is a requirement, not an option.
     
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  14. Buddha Dharma

    Buddha Dharma Dharma Practitioner

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    Agree, from a Buddhist position
     
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  15. Nowhere Man

    Nowhere Man Bompu Zen Man.

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    Ah. Democrats. I agree with Sandy.
     
  16. Gerry

    Gerry Active Member

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    I happen to agree with the church on this one.
     
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  17. 1213

    1213 Active Member

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    I disagree with that. Stealing is, to take something that belongs to another person, without permission.
     
  18. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    Who says it's "stealing"? In a democracy, the majority rules as long as it is declared as being constitutional.

    Secondly, do you believe in what Jesus taught, such as in the Sermon On the Mount or the Parable of the Sheep & Goats? He's not just talking about charity there as he well knew that Jewish Law mandated governmental laws to help the poor, and he never taught otherwise. On top of that, he praised the widow who gave from her needs, thus going beyond the requirements of the Law

    However, during his time, Jews did not control the government, so that job was taken over by the Temple priests and the Sanhedrin as it was deemed unethical and anti-Torah to just let the poor suffer and/or die.

    The early church highly condemned the "It's my precious money!" approach (greed), which is one of the reasons it spread so rapidly with their willingness to sacrifice. In Acts, it says that the apostles shared their possessions together for the common good.
     
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  19. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    sounds like communism to me

    what might be withheld would be the opportunity to particapte
    find everyone something to do...... a job
     
  20. suncowiam

    suncowiam Well-Known Member

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    Another comparison to slavery by a socialist.

    This is ridiculing the actual savagery that slavery was.

    Go ahead and quit your job. See if your "enslavers" care? Most likely, they'll just wish you luck of your new endeavors.
     
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