Who Said It? #5

“Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute and untouchable.”

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The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Sect. 177.

This document goes on to say,

“On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone” [this is a quote from John Paul II]…. This principle is not opposed to the right to private property but indicates the need to regulate it. Private property, in fact, regardless of the concrete forms of the regulations and juridical norms relative to it, is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means…. Putting the principle of the universal destination of goods into full effect therefore requires action at the international level and planned programmes on the part of all countries…. Private and public property, as well as the various mechanisms of the economic system, must be oriented to an economy of service to mankind, so that they contribute to putting into effect the principle of the universal destination of goods. The issue of ownership and use of new technologies and knowledge — which in our day constitute a particular form of property that is no less important than ownership of land or capital — becomes significant in this perspective. These resources, like all goods, have a universal destination [emphasis in original]…. Looking after the common good means making use of the new opportunities for the redistribution of wealth among the different areas of the planet…. Thus a great deal of educational and cultural work is urgently needed, including the education of consumers in the responsible use of their power of choice, the formation of a strong sense of responsibility among producers and among people in the mass media in particular, as well as the necessary intervention by public authorities. Sections 179, 283, 363, 376.

Now notice what this same document says preceding what I have quoted above: “In the Church’s social doctrine the Magisterium is at work in all its various components and expressions. Of primary importance is the universal Magisterium of the Pope and the Council: this is the Magisterium that determines the direction and gives marks of the development of this social doctrine. This doctrine in turn is integrated into the Magisterium of the Bishops who, in the concrete and particular situations of the many different local circumstances, give precise definition to this teaching, translating it and putting it into practice [emphasis mine].” Section 80.

In other words, the local bishops are to be working on a local level to put into practice what this document continually calls “the universal destination of goods,” which is plainly another way of saying “the redistribution of wealth,” a basic tenet of socialism. This document is particularly interesting in that it also calls for such redistribution on a global level among nations.

What does the Bible say? “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:29). Contrary to the Pontifical Council’s statement, the Christian New Testament, in this Scripture and others, recognizes the right to private property as absolute and untouchable. When Ananias donated part of the price of the land he sold but lied by saying he was donating the entire price, Peter said, “Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power [exousia—authority]?” (Acts 5:4). If there were no right to private property as absolute and untouchable there could be no such thing as stealing. The New Testament also says, “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10-11). Paul is here teaching, using Old Testament commands as an example, that love fulfills all law. If we are loving, we will not be stealing or even coveting. There is, of course, more. The New Testament tells us to love our brethren, neighbors, and enemies. It tells us to remember the poor, clothe and feed the naked and destitute, care for widows and orphans, and so forth.

But these instructions are voluntary. The Bible nowhere gives the poor the right to take the private property of others without their consent. Of course, in a democracy, one way that consent can be given is if the majority vote for a fund paid for with their taxes that would in some way benefit the poor (welfare, job training, health care, etc.). Such is a far cry from the pontifications coming out of the Vatican attempting to legitimize theft in the name of an unbiblical, socialist concept called the “universal destination of goods.”


Copyright © 2011 Peter Ditzel