I used to post my sermons on several broadcast lists. Quite often people would contact me and ask to use the sermons. I always said ,"yes," not realizing that some preachers were using them without first asking for permission. One Sunday my family and I visited a congregation in Wisconsin and to my surprise heard the pastor use the sermon I had preached the previous week. On the way out, after worship, I commented that I'd preached something very similar last week. There was a look of shock on the pastors face as I walked on toward the coffee hour refreshments.
Did I really mind that someone had used my work? No, I didn't mind. I'd long ago decided that if someone needed my work to further the work of the Kingdom of God, it was fine with me. But I was a bit put off that the pastor hadn't informed the congregation that the sermon was the result of someone else's work. It seemed dishonest.
Of course Benedict had no clue about sermon broadcast lists, but he did not tolerate theft or even wanting to steal. One can easily see why. There is, of course, Biblical prohibition. But there was also a more immediate,reason. Visitors to the abbey would normally have very little. Stealing anything from them could result in their death.
Stealing is still a very big deal in the church today. I have followed pastors who had their hands caught in the cookie jar. The resulting loss of trust badly hurt the congregation. And of course pastors aren't the only ones who're guilty of this particular sin. I've seen too many stories about church treasures taking cruises paid for by the church. Sometimes it takes a long time for them to be caught. When they start driving cars that couldn't be justified by their incomes the source of the car payments quickly comes to light.
So what do we do about theft in the church? Don't do it comes to my mind fairly fast. Can we want to steal and not do it? Yes. Although it too is a sin, it is at least a lessor one. It follows the same idea I used in same talk about sex. You can't always control what you think. But we can control what we do.
Congregations can help in this matter too. Don't give the pastor a church check book! And make sure there are two people who count the offering. A little common sense goes a long way toward prevention of at least the first of these sins.
Thanks for the reminder Father Benedict. And help us repent of the second of these two sins too.
Brother Oscar Romero