What is regulated by the Seventh Commandment: “You shall not steal” (Ex20:15)?
The Seventh Commandment not only forbids taking something away from another person, it also requires the just management and distribution of the earth’s goods; it regulates the question of private property and the distribution of the proceeds from human work. The unjust distribution of raw materials is also indicted in this commandment. In the first place, the Seventh Commandment actually forbids only taking someone else’s property unlawfully. However, it also addresses the human endeavor to make just social arrangements in the world and to plan for its beneficial development. The Seventh Commandment says that we are obliged in faith to advocate the protection of the environment as part of creation and to conserve the earth’s natural resources.
Why is there no absolute right to private property?
There is no absolute but only a relative right to private property because God created the earth and its goods for all mankind. Before parts of created reality can “belong” to individuals, because they have been obtained legally, inherited, or received as gifts, these owners must know that there is no property without social obligation. At the same time, the Church contradicts those who conclude from the social obligation associated with property that there should be no private property and that everything should belong to everybody, or to the State. The private owner who manages, tends, and increases a plot of land in keeping with the Creator’s plan and divides the proceeds in such a way that each person gets what is his due is by all means acting according to the divine commission for creation.