Catholic Teachings on Racism and Stealing

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Humans, by their very nature, are social animals and it is how society deals with these interpersonal interactions that makes the fabric of any given society or culture. There are many issues in today’s society which were paramount in society through the ages, through our modern and ancient history and as far back as biblical times. Institutions such as the Church provide some teachings as to how society should be expected to behave on various issues. For instance, the Catholic Church’s position on both racism and stealing are stances which could be adopted world-wide to help aim towards world peace, equality and justness for all. The concepts of having respect for each other as people and for individual property are as much an issue today as yesteryear and will continue to be in the future. The Church’s guidelines remain relevant now and can help mankind in the future. It is all about the moral choices that people make. Exactly what is “moral” or “immoral” may be interpreted by different people and cultures differently. Morality is “a code of conduct put forward by society, or some other group such as religion, or accepted by an individual for his/her own behaviour” (Sirswal, 2010, p.3). Catholics have teachings laid down in the narratives of the Bible which help them to make moral choices in their lives. The Ten Commandments are a guideline to morality set down by God himself and give Catholics a guideline for their living. The pace of change in today’s world is fast and the Church also, through the Vatican, endeavours to keep pace with these changes and to inform its followers of the Catholic moral stance on various social issues through encyclicals and the catechism. The basic Catholic law of love , loving your God and your neighbour are the linchpin of Catholic morality and seeing racism as immoral is directly linked to the concept of loving thy neighbour. Racism can be defined as “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others” (Random House, 2013). Racism is seen by Catholics as a sin as it goes directly against God’s teachings that we should all treat others the way we would like to be treated. The Bible says that we were all formed in the image and likeness of God and that we are all one in Jesus Christ. This does not gel at all with any form of racism; we are all equal and no one (race or otherwise) is superior to another. The Bible tells us “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24) and Romans 10:12 tells us that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is the Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him”. It is about respect for ourselves and our fellow human beings. Another issue similar to this is stealing, which involves people having respect for other’s property. Stealing is a complex issue but basically revolves around the issue of theft, “the secret taking of another’s property against the reasonable will of that other” (New Advent, 2013). It is essentially depriving an individual or group of their possessions. Not only is it seen by the Catholic Church as a sin, in most cultures around the world it is also an illegal act which is legislated against. The Seventh Commandment states that “Though shall not steal” and is repeated many times in the Bible (Matthew 19:18,Exodus 20:15). This appears to be a clear teaching and also ties in with the Catholic doctrine that all people must respect the property rights of others. However the Church’s stance on the issue is not cut and dried. There are so many levels of stealing, in terms of the material value of what has been stolen, the intent to which the stolen item was to be put, the intent the person had when they deprived the other of that property and whether restitution will be made for the property taken. The Catholic Church does...
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