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62. Restitution

1. Restitution is the act of restoring the balance or"proportion of equality" demanded by justice. Restitutionis an act of commutative justice. It is occasioned by oneperson's having what belongs to another (with or without hisconsent); it is enacted by giving back what is thus possessed, or,when this is impossible, by restoring its equivalent or value, sofar as may be done, to the true owner.

2. The safeguarding of justice is necessary for aman's salvation. Hence, it is necessary for one who unjustlytakes, or holds, what belongs to another, to restore it. Thisobligation rests upon every person who has unjustly takenanything-property, good name, or any other good. The obligationbinds according to the measure of possibility; no one can be boundto do what is impossible.

3. In restoring goods of fortune (that is, goods which canbe priced, estimated in terms of money), the restorer is bound togive back the full value of what he took unjustly. And if a judge,in court of law, imposes a fine, over and above the amount taken,the restorer is required in conscience to pay that exactamount.

4. A man is bound to make restitution according to theextent of loss he has brought upon another. If he took an exactamount, he must restore that exact amount. If he took what iscalled potential gain from another, inasmuch as the theftprevented the rightful owner from making a profitable investment,he must make such restitution as is reasonable in view of all theconditions and circumstances of the case. But he is not required topay all that the owner thinks he would have earned had hisopportunity not been taken away by the theft. For, after all, theexpected gain was never actually possessed by the victimof the theft, and the thief cannot be bound to restore what he hasnot taken.

5. Restitution is to be made to the person or persons fromwhom the thing has been taken. If this cannot be done, it must bemade to the heirs of the true owners. And if this be impossible,the amount due must be expended in good works, such as gifts forthe care of the poor, or orphans-that is, it must be used forpious causes. In no case may the unjust taker or holderkeep the stolen goods. It is a maxim of justice that "no onecan be justly enriched by ill-gotten gain."

6. One who takes a thing, justly or unjustly, is bound torestore it. One may take a thing justly, with the consent of theowner, by borrowing. Or one may take a thing justly as a favor tothe owner who wishes to commit it to his care. One takes a thingunjustly when he takes it without the consent of the owner. Inevery case, the thing taken is to be restored. If, however, a thingtaken as a favor to the owner, is lost or destroyed without anyfault on the part of the custodian, restitution is not required.When the depositor asks the favor of having his goods cared for, hetakes the chance of unintended injury or loss. Of course, it hepays to have his goods cared for, and thus insures them,he is entitled to insurance.

7. All who have a real part in the unjust deed of takinggoods without the consent of their owner, are involved in theobligation of making restitution. Those who have such a real partin the unjust deed are called cooperators in it. There arenine ways of cooperating in an evil deed: by counsel, by command,by consent, by flattery, by receiving, by partaking, by silence, bynot preventing when possible, by not denouncing the evildoers.Those who are always bound to restitution by reason oftheir part in the theft are: (a) persons who command the theft; (b)persons who consent to it when refusal of their consent wouldprevent it; (c) those who receive ill-gotten goods; (d) those whoactually take part in the act of thievery; (d) those who, havingability, authority, and duty to prevent the theft, fail to do so.In the other four cases (counsel, flattery, silence, notdenouncing) cooperators are sometimes bound to restitution, andsometimes not, according to the real or merely incidentalinfluence they exercised in the actual theft.

8. Restitution is to be made immediately if possible. Tokeep another's property, and thus to deprive him ofits possession and use, is sinful, just as taking theproperty unjustly is sinful. Hence, without the permission of theowner, no delay, beyond that of sheer impossibility in makingimmediate restitution, is permissible.

"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."
St Augustine

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"Obedience is the true holocaust which we sacrifice to God on the altar of our hearts."
St Philip Neri

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"Lord, here burn, here cut, and dry up in me all that hinders me from going to You, that You may spare me in eternity."
St Louis Bertrand

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