Jean Valjean is the guy in Les Miserables who steals a loaf of bread and is sentenced to prison for theft. Had St. Thomas been his judge, he would have gotten off scot free—and for very good reason, as Thomas explains with typical lucidity when answering the musical question “Whether it is lawful to steal through stress of need?.” First, as is his custom, St. Thomas lists various arguments that, yes, it is theft when a poor person takes something in a situation of real need. Then he replies to all these arguments thus:
On the contrary, In cases of need all things are common property, so that there would seem to be no sin in taking another’s property, for need has made it common.
I answer...READ MORE