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Catholicism and the Economy: Augustine and Aquinas on Property Ownership

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Abstract

This essay attempts to lay out the understanding of property ownership found in the writings of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. The reason for focusing on the thought of these two authors is, in part, that much of the contemporary discussion of Church teaching and the economy omits mention of these most prominent figures in the tradition. An additional reason for considering their work is that they both engage the argument laid out by Aristotle on property, thus bridging the distance between classical and Christian thought. The importance of this question can be seen when one assesses how contemporary policy makers might employ these principles in a largely secular social order. The central focus of both Augustine and Aquinas in their treatment of the question of property ownership is twofold, addressing the rightful acquisition and just use of such possessions. In the conclusion the essay considers some of the ramifications of this earlier teaching for contemporary Catholic social thought on the economy, suggesting that opposing positions will find both support and challenges from the teaching of these authors.

Richard J. Dougherty, "Catholicism and the Economy: Augustine and Aquinas on Property Ownership," Journal of Markets & Morality 6, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 479-495


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