There has been some furore over an Anglican vicar supplying thoroughly traditional teaching about the natural end of created goods.
I have written to the Archdeacon quoted in the report:
Dear Mr Seed,
As a Christian, although not an Anglican, I was appalled to read of your dismissive response to the thoroughly traditional and orthodox teaching given by the Reverend Tim Jones about shoplifting. The teaching that property rights ought not to stand in the way of the poor being fed has its origins in the scriptural doctrine of creation, and finds canonical medieval expression in St Thomas’ Summa Theologica II.ii.66.7:
‘Things which are of human right cannot derogate from natural right or Divine right. Now according to the natural order established by Divine Providence, inferior things are ordained for the purpose of succoring man’s needs by their means. Wherefore the division and appropriation of things which are based on human law, do not preclude the fact that man’s needs have to be remedied by means of these very things. Hence whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor. For this reason Ambrose [Loc. cit., 2, Objection 3] says, and his words are embodied in the Decretals (Dist. xlvii, can. Sicut ii): “It is the hungry man’s bread that you withhold, the naked man’s cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man’s ransom and freedom.”
Since, however, there are many who are in need, while it is impossible for all to be succored by means of the same thing, each one is entrusted with the stewardship of his own things, so that out of them he may come to the aid of those who are in need. Nevertheless, if the need be so manifest and urgent, that it is evident that the present need must be remedied by whatever means be at hand (for instance when a person is in some imminent danger, and there is no other possible remedy), then it is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another’sproperty, by taking it either openly or secretly: nor is this properly speaking theft or robbery.’
I was more generally concerned to read that ‘The Church of England does not advise anyone to break the law in any way.’ Is it in fact the policy of the Church of England not to advocate lawbreaking in cases where the law is unjust? What was your position with respect, say, to apartheid South Africa? How would you have counselled a Christian in Nazi Germany? I cannot help but feeling that, if the Church of England’s position is really as you describe it, that were a senior Anglican transported back to first century Palestine s/he would have pleaded with Jesus not to throw the money-lenders out of the Temple.
I await your reply with interest.