Is taking money from an illegitimate source "stealing" and is it sinful?


#1

I got into a discussion about this earlier with someone and had a hard time deciding either way. Is taking money from an illegitimate source “stealing” and is it sinful?

Take this example. John pays a hitman $100 to kill an innocent man. At this point John has forfeited that $100, so it no longer belongs to him. At the same time, it could be argued that the hitman has not legitimately earned this payment since it was paid in order to commit a heinous and immoral act. Additionally, let’s assume that the $100 will be put toward further evil if left in the hands of the hitman. In this case, would it be considered morally neutral or morally evil for a third party, say Andrew, to take the $100 from the hitman? Would it make a difference if Andrew were going to keep it for himself or, say, donate it to a Church?

My three questions are:

  1. Does this $100 belong to the hitman?
  2. Is it stealing for Andrew to take the $100 if it does not legitimately belong to the hitman?
  3. Is Andrew’s action of taking the $100 a morally neutral act or would it be considered morally wrong?

Please, don’t just spout opinions. I’d like to see a good basis for why it would be OK or wrong.

Thanks.


#2

[quote="xzereus, post:1, topic:344988"]

1) Does this $100 belong to the hitman?
2) Is it stealing for Andrew to take the $100 if it does not legitimately belong to the hitman?
3) Is Andrew's action of taking the $100 a morally neutral act or would it be considered morally wrong?

[/quote]

Interesting question.
For the answer to 1, I would say that the money does not belong to the hitman. The right to private property described in the CCC seems to depend on the property being acquired or received in a just way. At this point, the money belongs to "The Whole of Mankind"

Citation: CCC, 2403

The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind.

If the police catch the hitman, they can redirect this property for the common good (put it into a fund for crime victims, etc.)
CCC, 2406

Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitamite exercies of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.

To answer question 2 and 3,

Theft is the "usurping of property against the reasonable will of it's owner" (CCC, 2408)
Because the hitman does not legitimately own the money, taking it is not an offense against him. But it's not up for grabs. The legitimate owner is the whole of mankind. If someone took the money and used it specifically for his own good, it would be a sin against the owner, "the whole of mankind."

For example, a corrupt policeman who takes drug money for his own use after a drug bust, when the money should go to the common good, has commited an offence against mankind, but not against the criminal he took it from.

If Andrew took the money in cooperation with the political authority, so that the goods of the earth are used for the common good, it would be a good act. How this works out depends on the laws of the land Andrew lives in.

In conclusion, exactly how ill-gotten gains should be distributed is decided by the political authority, with an eye to the common good.


#3

hello-- I have worked for 4 different companies -- in the test chamber company-- and know of many people who-- call embezzling as

"working the system"

as a matter of fact if you don't get into the "game" they will plot to defraud you-

Gee -- isn't everyone a lier and a thief-- is the code--

or I didn't want to lie but they "told me too" so what could I do??

and the average embezzling rate was a about 10,000 to 20,000 per year--

After more than 20 years -- it is still the same-- and the Boss and his buddies went to each others church--

and they were "NOT" Italian--- But Dutch and Christian reformed


#4

Maybe this is just an opinion you don't want, but at least I'll try to make it reasonable. :)

I think that in the absense of anyone else to own it, you have to say that "yes" the hitman owns it. It doesn't belong to the person who paid the hitman, and it doesn't belong to me. Possession is 0.9 of the law. However, saying that someone owns something is not the same as saying that he has a right to continue ownership of it. If approached by a person with legitimate authority, it is right that it should be forfeited.

(The following may sound a little legal-esque, but I am NOT a lawyer and in any case I am not talking about what is legal but what is moral.) I think maybe the distinction here is between ownership and right-of-ownership.

To use a more simple example of the difference between what I am calling right-of-ownership and just ownership, say John paid the hitman $100 to mow his lawn next week. He gave the hitman the money, but the hitman doesn't really have right-of-ownership of the money until he actually mows the lawn, and if he fails to mow the lawn, John has the right to get the $100 back, i.e. John has right-of-ownership of the $100. However once the hitman mows the lawn, he has both ownership and right-of-ownership of the $100.

In your example, the hitman has ownership--it is in his pocket. He doesn't have right-of-ownership, because he received it in payment for an immoral act.

However, since he has ownership, the only person would would have the right to take it away would be someone who HAS right-of-ownership--i.e. in this case someone with legitimate authority, on behalf of the people in general.

National parks belong to everyone--that doesn't mean they belong to individuals in a way that would let someone decide on his own to build a house and a road in a national park. In the same way, the fact that the $100 belongs to everyone does not mean that Andrew has the tight to appropriate it for his own personal use, even if that use is to give it to the charity of his choice.

To see that Andrew does not have a right to take the $100, just think of things that some people consider immoral.

Say Jane considers organized religion to be immoral. So she steals $100 from a church and gives it to Planned Parenthood. Is that OK? The difference here is merely the determination of what is immoral and what is a good charity. But looking at this example shows the problem with allowing private individuals to determine when they can commit theft. Only legitimate authority can make the determination of when someone has forfieted the right-of-ownership. (I'm not saying that, if this legitimate authority is the government, they always get it right, but at least there is some basis for their claim to act for "the people.")

And in a more simple analysis, just because the $100 doesn't belong to the hitman, doesn't mean it belongs to Andrew.

Theft is wrong. You may not do evil that good may come. Andrew may not take the $100 unless he is commissioned to do so by legitimate authority, to whom he must turn the money over once he has it.

--Jen


#5

[quote="xzereus, post:1, topic:344988"]
I got into a discussion about this earlier with someone and had a hard time deciding either way. Is taking money from an illegitimate source "stealing" and is it sinful?

Take this example. John pays a hitman $100 to kill an innocent man. At this point John has forfeited that $100, so it no longer belongs to him. At the same time, it could be argued that the hitman has not legitimately earned this payment since it was paid in order to commit a heinous and immoral act. Additionally, let's assume that the $100 will be put toward further evil if left in the hands of the hitman. In this case, would it be considered morally neutral or morally evil for a third party, say Andrew, to take the $100 from the hitman? Would it make a difference if Andrew were going to keep it for himself or, say, donate it to a Church?

My three questions are:

1) Does this $100 belong to the hitman?
2) Is it stealing for Andrew to take the $100 if it does not legitimately belong to the hitman?
3) Is Andrew's action of taking the $100 a morally neutral act or would it be considered morally wrong?

Please, don't just spout opinions. I'd like to see a good basis for why it would be OK or wrong.

Thanks.

[/quote]

Theft is theft. It doesn't matter who you steal from.


#6

John and the hitman have entered into an agreement that is illegal and void, therefore the money is illegal money, plain and simple. Both john and the hitman go to jail.

Andrew has committed the crime of theft "unlawful taking of anything of value with the intent to keep it"
Does Andrew has legal authority to take the money? No; Is the money value? Yes; Does Andrew plans to keep it? Yes. That equals theft.

Moreover if Andrew's intention of giving the money to the church is to make the money appear legal, then not only he has committed theft but he also can be charged with money laundering as we are talking about proceeds from illegal sources.

What Andrew's action is considered? Illegal, and everybody in your hypothetical will probably end up in criminal court, and most likely in jail.

Conclusion: if the consequence of the action is you ending up in jail for a crime, then probably is not morally acceptable


#7

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