Is it theft? How does it get rectified?

I have a hypothetical situation. It’s seemingly minor but I would appreciate your insight.

Say a husband and wife take their 5 year old to the dentist for a routine cleaning. Once the cleaning is over, the hygienist hands the child a token to get a toy from the token machine (that which belongs to the dental office).

After the child inserts a token and retrieves a toy, the father then proceeds to pull out his own quarter to retrieve a second toy from the machine. He gives the second toy to the child.

Is this theft? As far as the parents know, toys are only to be retrieved via tokens given by the office employees.

If it’s theft, should the parents return the toy to the office? If the father refuses, is the wife then obligated to return it herself?

The only theft I see is that the toy that probably cost 5 cents to make cost the dad .25! :smiley:

Seriously, I don’t see any theft unless the father stuck his hand up the machine and grabbed one without putting money or tokens in the machine.

It would be venial at most.

But it’s not theft if consent can be presumed. If the father had asked the hygienist, “Hey, would it be okay for me to put a quarter in and get another little plastic toy for my five-year-old?” I would be surprised if she objected. Because of that, I would argue that it’s not theft and they are not obligated to return the toy.

Moreover, it’s such a minor thing that even if the father had outright stolen the little plastic toy, I would say the mother is not required to return it, for two reasons: 1) It’s so minor that keeping the toy doesn’t harm the dentist’s office (though returning it could feasibly harm the marriage if she makes a big show of it) and 2) She did not participate in the theft and so does not need to confess the sin (since it’s not her sin) or make restitution for it (we are not required to make restitution for loved ones or sins that are not our own).

It would be different if the child had stolen the toy and the parents were trying to teach the child that stealing is wrong; in that case, I would not object to the mother bringing the child back to apologize and return the toy, even if the dentist’s office wouldn’t have cared if he had kept it.

I’d say no sin whatsoever is involved. In fact, since $0.25 was paid, and these toys are routinely given out complementarily, there is no way that this is theft.

NO repentance needed.


No theft. Because you ‘pay’ for the things with tokens. They are free. Tokens and slot machines are just the fascist version of an open cardboard box anyone else would use. The child picks out the toys as they want.

I guess in a way, the dentist bill pays for the toys.

Is there a sign that reads, “Tokens only”?

Here’s another way to look at it: Can there be a sin if the people who own/operate the machine don’t care?

Man this Catechism is good:

2408 The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one’s disposal and use the property of others.

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