880. What is the first natural right of human beings?
“The right to live, therefore no one has the right to take the life of another or do anything that may compromise that individual’s existence.”
881. Does the right to live give people the right to hoard wealth so that they can rest when no longer able to work?
“Yes, but they should do this in collaboration with their family by honest labor, as bees do, not by accumulating wealth in a selfish manner. Some animals serve as an example of this kind of foresight.”
882. Do humans have the right to defend what they have accumulated with their work?
“It was God who said, ‘Thou shalt not steal, and Jesus who said, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’”
What people have accumulated by honest labor is legitimate property that they are entitled to defend. The possession of property that is the fruit of work is a natural right, as sacred as the right to labor or the right to live.
883. Is the desire to own things natural? “Yes, but when it is simply for yourself and for personal satisfaction, it is selfishness.”
a) Is the desire to have possessions legitimate, since those who can support themselves are not a burden to others?
“Some people are greedy and accumulate wealth merely in order to satisfy their own passions, and without providing any benefit to anyone. Do you think that this makes God happy? On the contrary, those who accumulate wealth by honest labor to help their fellow human beings, practice the law of love and charity, and receive God’s blessing.”
884. What constitutes legitimate property?
“No property is legitimate unless acquired without harming others.” (See no. 808) The law of love and justice, forbids us to treat others in a manner that we do not want others to treat us, condemns every means of obtaining property or wealth that would contradict that law.
885. Is the right to property unlimited?
“Everything that has been legitimately acquired is property. However, as we have said, since human laws are flawed, they frequently establish conventional rights that contradict natural justice. For this reason, society reforms its laws as progress is accomplished, and as it obtains a better notion of justice. What appears right in one century is barbarous in another.” (See no. 795)