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Does the Holiday Spirit Involve Shoplifting?

The Associated Press reported yesterday:
Parish priest Tim Jones says it's OK to shoplift at times as long as you don't take more than you need - but British police, retailers and clergy disagree.

Jones says people in desperate need may at times be justified shoplifting items from large chain stores.
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The article goes on to report that nobody agrees with with Father Tim: not his archdeacon, not the Church of England, certainly not the British Retail Consortium.

The Daily RFT, curious as always, wondered if Americans -- specifically, St. Louisans -- are a more generous lot and made a few calls. The Wal-Mart Ethics hotline seemed an appropriate first step, but it turned out they only wanted to hear about violations of their own code of ethics. The communications department was equally unhelpful. "A comment from Wal-Mart would not be appropriate," a flack named Anna informed us.

Target initially appeared more promising. Several people with reassuring Minnesota accents promised they would get back to us and lo, they did! But only to tell us that since this blog post was about retailers in general, not Target in particular, they had no comment, either.

We tried two St. Louis chains, Schnucks and Dierberg's, but the communications specialists at both had already taken off for the holidays. Ditto the person we were forwarded to at Catholic Supply of St. Louis.

What the hell was going on here? Are chain stores too afraid to disagree with a priest (even one from the Church of England, who should have no authority over here) to say that they would prefer that people pay for items instead of shoplifting them?

Thank God for the Salvation Army, or at least for Marilyn, who picked up the phone at the store on Cherokee Street. She was the only person we talked to who appeared to get the humor of a priest encouraging others to shoplift. But then she got serious.

"Stealing is against God," she said. "God sees everything. You shouldn't steal. If you have faith, you'll get it anyway."

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