It will hardly come as a surprise that the Vatican has decided that thieves should be forgiven and loved, but that theft should not be legalised. Indeed, as about half of catholic clergy are inclined to theft and their sinfulness and frailty makes them better, not worse pastors and shepherds, and as Christ himself was crucified between thieves, the church can hardly have decided anything different.
Pope Francis has taken all the right steps. Last year he invited lay Catholics across the world to voice their opinions on a whole range of matters, including their feelings about thieves. Despite determined attempts by many bishops to distort and skew the process - with some episcopal blocking moves the equivalent of distributing a 60 page questionnaire written in Latin in very small print in light grey ink - the voice of worldwide Catholicism has reached the Papal bedsit. Last week was the bishops' turn to show that they heard and understood the voice of the flock. They had a shouty bit, agreed to disagree and decided to take a year to think about things. So far so good.
Lay feelings are generally liberal towards theft. Most people reckon that thieves should not be persecuted, but wouldn't want their own children learning to steal, and would prefer stealing to be private rather than public. African Catholics detest stealing, and many want a return to the days of nose-slitting and ear removal for convicted thieves.
All of which is unlikely to change the Church's current teaching - that many good people are tempted to steal, and the temptation to theft is widespread. Having a thieving tendency should be no bar to holy orders so long as one refrains from stealing. And in the event that the temptation proves too strong for human flesh to resist, there is forgiveness and a prodigal welcome for the repentant.
(Dons kevlar hat ...)