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Joe wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • I am wondering what should be done with goods purchased with money which was obtained illegitimately?
  • If restitution has not been made yet, can the purchased items continue to be used or must they be tossed so that no benefit is made from stealing?

Joe

  { What should be done with goods purchased with money which was obtained illegitimately? }

Mike replied:

Hi Joe,

You said:

  • I am wondering what should be done with goods purchased with money which was obtained illegitimately?
  • If restitution has not been made yet, can the purchased items continue to be used or must they be tossed so that no benefit is made from stealing?

I would say you have to make restitution to the owner of the goods rather than throw them out.

Seeing you haven't given us the exact situational details and may wish to keep them private, applying these principles from the paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church may be of help to you:

2411 Contracts are subject to commutative justice which regulates exchanges between persons and between institutions in accordance with a strict respect for their rights. Commutative justice obliges strictly; it requires safeguarding property rights, paying debts, and fulfilling obligations freely contracted. Without commutative justice, no other form of justice is possible.

One distinguishes commutative justice from legal justice which concerns what the citizen owes in fairness to the community, and from distributive justice which regulates what the community owes its citizens in proportion to their contributions and needs.

2412 In virtue of commutative justice, reparation for injustice committed requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner:

Jesus blesses Zacchaeus for his pledge:

"If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."

Those who, directly or indirectly, have taken possession of the goods of another, are obliged to make restitution of them, or to return the equivalent in kind or in money, if the goods have disappeared, as well as the profit or advantages their owner would have legitimately obtained from them. Likewise, all who in some manner have taken part in a theft or who have knowingly benefited from it - for example, those who ordered it, assisted in it, or received the stolen goods - are obliged to make restitution in proportion to their responsibility and to their share of what was stolen.

2454 Every manner of taking and using another's property unjustly is contrary to the seventh commandment. The injustice committed requires reparation. Commutative justice requires the restitution of stolen goods.

Hope this helps,

Mike

Eric replied:

Dear Joe,

If you cannot make restitution to the owner, you should give an equivalent amount to charity.
If you make restitution of the money used to purchase them, you may keep them.

Note: This is assuming you stole money.

For the sake of others reading this:

  • if you stole goods, you should restore the goods if possible.
  • If not possible, you should make restitution of the value of the goods.

Eric

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