• Latin: proprius, one’s own


That which is or may be owned. In its most general sense, it includes life, health, knowledge, and reputation, which belong to individuals. More strictly, it refers to the external material world as it is or may be subjected to ownership. The origin of property rights has occasioned much dispute among philosophers. Among the false theories are those which trace this origin to ordinances of the state (Hobbes, Kant), to an original agreement or contract (Grotius, Pufendorf), to labor expended (Locke, Henry George), to injustice, fraud, and force exerted by the strong upon the weak. The proper view, supported by all available history, is that ownership of property is natural to man, a requirement for individual and social life, obvious in itself, and approved by reasoned consideration. Revelation assures us that God made the earth and all that it contains for the use of man, and that, in addition God explicitly made man the lord and owner of the earth. Property may be owned by man as an individual, or owned in common by social groups. The assignment of property to one or other form of ownership has varied widely in different countries, times, and civilizations. Primitive hunters and nomads have a very restricted private ownership, while our civilization gives private ownership a wide extent and restricts common ownership. Our system is under attack by socialists, who, in general, seek to restore all property to public ownership. Socialists find their strongest argument in the abuses and injustices which are easily discovered in the present distribution of material goods. While facts are indisputable, the socialistic remedy is utopian and illusory, involving more and greater evils than it seeks to cure. The philosophical bases of socialism are likewise condemned: economic determinism, materialism, rejection of religion and ethics. The Christian doctrine of private property teaches that man has a right to own, derived from his nature and God’s institution; that the exercise of this right is limited by the requirements of justice, charity, and religion; that the institution of private property must not be overturned, but that, as far as may be, any abuses involved be corrected.

MLA Citation

  • “property”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 August 2010. Web. 19 September 2018. <>