Stealing question


Theoretical situation:

A young teenager steals something from a store… then they feel bad and return the item to the store without the proprietor knowing. The parent finds out this happened. Should the parent force the child to apologize to the proprietor for stealing?


Well, I’m not sure what the gain would be.

It probably won’t make any difference to the propriator.

The teen has obviously realized that stealing was a mistake, and that it was wrong. It is thus unlikely to happen again. It seems the teen has taken responsibility for the action on a personal level.

I expect he or she is embarrassed about it, which is natural enough. Does it cross over into being pride and not wanting to admitting wrong-doing? I am not sure.

An important part of restoring the balance of justice is making amends. Making amends to self, to the person wronged, and to God. To God, well, going to confession and completing whatever the penance is is probably the best. To the proprietor - does he require more than the item returned in these circumstances? To self - I suspect that whatever makes amends to the proprietor will also work here.

I think at this point I would discuss it with the teen, making sure I covered all these issues. I might ultimately let him make his own decision - returning the item instead of hiding it shows some spine and maturity, and may deserve giving the decision to the individual after the discussion.

I would emphasize confession and completing any penance given (including apologizing if that was part of it, evenn if the teens own decision was not to.)


One aspect to consider is that the proprietor may have noticed that the item was missing, may have had to write it off in their accounting books and then later, when they found that it wasn’t missing, they would have additional work to fix their inventory and/or accounting.
It seems to me that this may be a valid reason for the teen to apologize…


It’s an interesting question, but I would lean towards no. In confession, the priest does not require us to reveal our sins to anyone else. So if a kid cheats on a test, for example, his penance would not involve confessing again to the teacher. I think there’s something to be said for this, for not publicly “outing” oneself. I think returning the stolen property is a good means of restoration. If the teen and/or the parent still feels that it was insufficient, he might be asked to write an anonymous letter apologizing for the crime and explaining that he returned the property and why.


It’s both an interesting and difficult question. I tend to say no, because of the reasons given in the previous posts, but I also would make sure that they know that next time, they will not only apologize to the owner of the store, but I would drag them by the ear and demand that write a 5,000 word apology to the owner of the store.

Remember that stealing effects all of us too.


I would say NO , for a different reason that those listed above.

In the past a store owner may give the kid a good lecture and know the parents will also discipline the kid at home. Nowdays a store owner will most likely call the cops and if the kid admits to the theft, he may be arrested and fingerprinted, and taken to court. You take a chance if him having a criminal record which will affect him for life. In todays world so quick to sue and involving cops in everyday events that used to handled between neighbors, it makes for high legal bills for you and a record for him.


So sad, but true. :twocents:


I agree with Bluegoat, he returned something he took and realized he was wrong and that’s a good thing you know!? Now he won’t do it again because he won’t want to feel that guilt anymore! :smiley: I know parents whom would go and take their kids and make them apologize then the kids weren’t allowed in there anymore…Really frustrating…for one mistake you know!? Now if it happens a second time then yes parents need to make that child apologize and deal with the consequences…


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