The above is the conclusion of Basil of Caesarea, who in the fourth century wrote
“‘Upon whom,’ he (the private proprietor) says, ‘do I inflict any injury in retaining and conserving that which is mine?’ What things, tell me, are yours. yours? Whence did you bring them into the world? You rich act like a man who, being the first to enter a theatre, would keep all others out, regarding as his own that which was intended for the common use of all. For you appropriate to yourselves the common heritage, simply because you were the first occupants. Whereas, if every man took only what was sufficient for his needs, leaving the rest to those in want, there would be no rich and no poor. Naked you came from the womb; naked you shall return to earth. Whence your present possessions? If you say, ‘from fate,’ you are impious, since you do not recognize the Creator nor render thanks to the Giver; if you answer, ‘from God,’ then tell me why you have received them. Is God so unjust as to distribute the necessaries of life inequitably? Why are you rich and your neighbor poor? Is it not to enable you to receive the reward of benevolence and upright stewardship, while he obtains the crown merited by patience? Yet you fancy that you do no injustice when you gather all things into the fathomless recesses of your greed. Who is the avaricious man? The man who is not satisfied with enough. Are not you, then, avaricious? Are you not a despoiler? For you have made your own that which you have received to distribute. Is he not called a thief who strips a man of his clothes? And he who will not clothe the naked when he can,-is he deserving of a different appellation? The bread that you keep in your possession belongs to the hungry; the cloak in your closet, to the naked; the shoes that you allow to rot, to the barefooted, and your hoarded silver, to the indigent. Hence you have done injustice to as many as you have failed to help.”
Were the church fathers communists[pdf]? John A Ryan doesn’t think so.
Stealing from the poor presents quotes from selected church fathers and comments by readers.