Catholics and “Usury”: A Tragic History

 

This piece is paired with another view of usury from a distributist perspective, also running today.

What makes “social teaching” different from the faith-and-morals magisterium of the Catholic Church? Most of the latter was settled early in Church history, with developments coming over time as subtle elaborations and careful applications of eternal truths.

Social teaching (including economics) is different. It has gone through many upheavals and changes throughout Church history, even complete reversals, many of which parallel historical developments.

One of the most pronounced cases in point concerns the lending at interest. It was condemned from the earliest years of the faith, but this condemnation ended in the 16th century, liberalized in law by the 18th century, and is today not even an issue. It is hardly talked about at all apart from perfunctory warnings against usury (and what the difference between interest and usury is precisely has never been spelled out).

As even the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia said: the Church “permits the general practice of lending at interest, that is to say, she authorizes the impost, without one’s having to enquire if, on lending his money, he has suffered a loss or deprived himself of a gain, provided he demand a moderate interest for the money he lends.”

This view amounts to a complete reversal of a view that prevailed from the Patristic age until the high middle ages. During all these years, the Church stood squarely against the institution of interest – as opposed as Islam is or even more so. This only began to change with the development of sophisticated monetary institutions in the high middle ages. These allowed theologians to consider the topic more carefully and come to realize that interest is no different from any price on the market – something to be freely negotiated by the parties involved and reflecting the changing conditions of supply and demand.

One of the earliest statements against interest comes from the Council of Nicea, which sought to crack down on avaricious practices among the clergy, among which was lending money at a profit. The Council condemned this and other attempts at “dishonourable gain.”

It was surely a wise teaching, necessary to stop corruption, but there was a slight problem. The Council broadened its mandate beyond the priesthood and implied that the practice was universally wrong. It added scriptural proof from the Psalmist that interest itself was immoral. “He that hath not put out his money to usury [interest], nor taken bribes against the innocent: He that doth these things shall not be moved for ever.” The implication was that the rule pertaining to clergy really reflected a general social principle.

And thus began a long tragic history of the Catholic Church’s 1000-year war against interest and the money-lending profession. And it is a strange war indeed, one undertaken with little to no substantive basis from scripture (the above hardly suffices). Attacking lenders as heretics contradicts normal commercial dealings. It even contradicts Jesus’s own parable of the talents, which presumes and praises the existence of money lenders and condemns the failure to give them idle money as profligacy itself.

The war against interest was a war against basic economic logic. Present goods are more valuable than future goods, so it makes sense that the person who wants something earlier rather than later, but doesn’t have the money now, is likely to pay a premium. Further, lending is always risky so it makes sense that there should be a reward attached to undertaking that risk. Finally, money that is lent out is not otherwise employed by the owner and therefore there is an opportunity cost that will be paid and compensation for this sought. For all these reasons and many more, interest is a normal part of peaceful commercial society.

To understand this, it is helpful to consider the case of barter in a desperately poor society. Let’s say you have two chickens but only need one. A fellow comes along and wants the other one but has no money. He offers a potato – a pretty shabby deal overall for straight one-for-one trade. But, even so, you want him to have the chicken and you aren’t currently in need, so you propose a deal. He can have it if he gives you some eggs from the chicken for a period of one month. After that, he can have the chicken.

You are happy. He is happy. Everyone wins. But why the egg premium? He wanted the chicken now and you didn’t need it now. So he pays to feed his more urgent need, and you are glad to relinquish control of your chicken provided there is a stream of income coming out of it. This is the way interest works in a barter economy. True, there is no money involved but the principle is the same as that which is considered a normal part of commercial life today.

And truly, the Church never objected to this sort of deal. After all, on what possible grounds could one object? It is mutually beneficial in every way. No one is ripped off. All is transparent. One could even say that society is far better off this way. The alternative is that one person be without food and the other person holds an idle resource. Better to achieve a great degree of social harmony with this kind of deal than to settle with the inferior alternative.

The introduction of money to the story changes nothing of moral substance. This is because money is nothing but a proxy for goods. It is the most valuable good in society, something acquired not to consume but to hold and trade for other goods. Money also serves an important book keeping function: you can’t often add and subtract bartered items (and cow, an apple, and an iPad can’t aggregated) but you can manipulate figures in monetary terms.

But for some reason that is unknown, people’s brains go haywire when the subject of money comes up. They presume that something evil must be going on because the exchanges get complicated and well developed. How is it that people can get rich not by making things but merely by arbitraging between the present and the future? Isn’t there something morally suspect about this practice?

Before the high Middle Ages, it was uncommon for most people to have any money at all. Most peasants worked for food, and traded the wares that they may for good directly. Economies were local and financial institutions were available only to the very rich and powerful. Handling money was not a common experience for most people. It might have appeared that the buying and selling of money itself was the sole province of the sinful.

From a Catholic angle, there is an additional issue that concerns a difficult topic: Jews. They tended to be the money lenders. This posed a problem in a time of intense religious and sectarian concern. In fact, you often find this issue appearing in Church legislation in the middle ages: all kinds of prohibitions and leniencies name the Jews in particular.

Later in the Middle Ages, starting in the 15th century, economies began to change dramatically. Feudalism was giving rise to capitalism, money and finance were becoming a growing part of everyday life, and the buying and lending of money was less the exception than the rule in a commercial life that was reaching an ever wider swath of the population.

Catholics themselves became big players in the emerging world of high finance, particularly with the banking family of Jacob Fugger, which had taken over the role of economic dominance from the Medici family that traded mainly in politics. The Fuggers specialized in lending and collecting, and doing it at the behest of Papal states – which strikes me as non-problematic in every way,  but which also seemed to confront a problem from the point of view of social teaching.

It was the neo-Thomists who started the process unraveling traditional teaching and cleared the path for the full legitimization of interest. The first great strides were made by Conrad Summenhart (1465-1511), the chair of theology at Tubingen. He began to make exceptions to the strict doctrine. He wrote that money itself is fruitful, a good that can be bought and sold like any other.

When a money holder lends, he is giving up something that would be otherwise profitable, so he should be compensated for his loss, same as any merchant. Moreover, Summerhart said, it is helpful to think of the money paid in exchange for lending services as a different good from the money itself – that is, possibly, as a gift given to the lender as a sign of appreciation. Summenhart didn’t go all the way to license interest but he said that if neither then borrower nor the lender thought of it as such, it was permitted. Thus was interest reduced to state of mind rather than an objective fact. This represented great progress in Church teaching.

The next and final step in the liberalization of interest was taken by Thomas De Vio, Cardinal Cajetan (1468-1534). He was the leading Catholic theologian of his day, a favorite of the Pope, and a defender of Catholicism against Martin Luther. His writings represented the most sophisticated of his time as regards economics. He completely endorsed Summenhart’s teaching and took it a step further to say that any loan contract was legitimate if both the borrower and the lender agreed to it in anticipation of some economic benefit. He carefully took apart St. Thomas’s own writings on the topic and demonstrated that it was perfectly just for the lender who is giving up use of his property to charge a service fee in exchange.

Since those times, there has been no real debate in the Church on this question. Yes, usury continues to be warned against, though no one makes the attempt any more to distinguish between interest and usury. They were once considered synonymous; today they are distinguished as a reflection of a continuing bias against lenders who would seem to display more avarice than charity in their work. But in practice, there is no clear difference. What’s more, even seemingly usurious loan rates serve a social function: the higher the rate of interest, the more saving is encouraged and borrowing discouraged.

John Noonan’s book on the scholastic doctrine on usury chronicles all these changes with incredible precision, and provided the source text that other scholars of economic doctrine such as Murray Rothbard have used in their own writings. They demonstrate a wonderful capacity of the Church to learn and grow with the times as regard its social teaching. It should not be a surprise to observe subtle changes even from one papacy to the next, e.g., it has struck many people that John Paul II was friendlier toward market institutions that Benedict XVI.

I don’t find this even slightly puzzling. Economics is a science, one very late to develop in the history of ideas. It is not doctrine and it is not morals, subjects on which the Church pronounces infallibly. Economics is not the primary domain of Church competence in any case, and sometimes the line that separate economic theory from faith and morals can become blurry indeed. If nothing else, this history should instill a bit of humility on the part of Church teachers, and a cautionary point as regards economics and other sciences.

Jeffrey Tucker

By

Jeffrey Tucker is managing editor of Sacred Music and publications editor of the Church Music Association of America. He writes a bi-weekly column on sacred music and liturgy for Crisis Magazine and also runs the Chant Cafe Blog. Jeffrey@chantcafe.com

  • Gian

    From the other article:
    “The great Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, makes it clear: “To take usury for money lent is unjust in itself, because this is to sell what does not exist, and this…leads to inequality which is contrary to justice.”

    This is very Austrian. Fiat money is something that does not exist. Thus it is usury to charge interest on it. The Austrians
    are also tireless in pointing out the evils and injustice of fiat money.

  • Daniel Molinaro II

    Gian, Thomas doesn’t say the money doesn’t exist (fiat money) but that the interest does not.

  • Bill Bannon

    The authors dates do not fit with interest on personal loans which continued to be condemned in Vix Pervenit in 1745 by Pope Benedict 14:

    “II. One cannot condone the sin of usury by arguing that the gain is not great or excessive, but rather moderate or small; neither can it be condoned by arguing that the borrower is rich; nor even by arguing that the money borrowed is not left idle, but is spent usefully, either to increase one’s fortune, to purchase new estates, or to engage in business transactions. The law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what is given and returned; once the equality has been established, whoever demands more than that violates the terms of the loan. Therefore if one receives interest, he must make restitution according to the commutative bond of justice; its function in human contracts is to assure equality for each one. This law is to be observed in a holy manner. If not observed exactly, reparation must be made.”

    It then goes on to discuss extrinsic titles which appertains to commercial loans which even Aquinas allowed.
    Interest on personal loans was not permitted according to Noonan until 1830 and afterwards by the Vatican at which time we essentially allowed what Calvin allowed in 1545….moderate interest on personal loans because as Tucker notes….there is always a risk in lending.

    • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

      Bill,

      Aquinas did not differentiate between consumer loans and producer loans. That was an error that Hillare Belloc made.

      The Church — read Vix Pervenit where it explicitly says this — does not make this differentiation. Charging compound interest is ALWAYS immoral.

      The only thing that looks like compound interest that is legitimate is compensation for inflation. Again, the principle is: the lender has the right to be made whole, no more, no less. And whole isn’t defined in numeraire terms but in purchasing power IF the contract stipulates that. And, when it does, in the case of deflation, the lender would only be entitled to the same purchasing power, i.e. less money than he lent. The hedge against inflation must go both ways in order for it to be licit.

      • Bill Bannon

        So if I understand you correctly, all home and car loans are usurious and the Catholic Church is totally silent on that since 1830 and thus negligent prophetically and further She does not warn the laity to stay out of jobs that cooperate with those industries….and further that all religious orders and the Vatican and the Pope taking interest in banks is usurious? Am I correct?

        • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

          Bill,

          Yes and no. Collateralized loans — like car loans and mortgages — that are non-recourse are, from a practical standpoint, the same as a non-interest bearing relationship. So, if we want to avoid being legalistic, such contracts are at least very close to being moral. For example, one type of non-interest bearing relationship that is moral would be the following: you and the bank form a partnership. You put 20% down and the bank 80%. The partnership buys the house. Then, the partnership rents the house to you. Since you own 20% of the partnership, 20% of the rent is going back into your pocket. The initial partnership relationship could be written such that you have the right to buy partnership shares from the bank at a fixed price. The 20% of the rent paid to you could be used by you to buy more shares in the partnership such that, at the end of, say, 30 years, you end up owning 100% of the partnership, and, as such, 100% of the home.

          That kind of partnership formation could result in your paying rents to the bank that are effectively equivalent to the interest that you would otherwise be paying. So, from a practical standpoint there are almost identical.

          I say almost identical because there is one difference. If you are unable to pay the rent (due to a job loss or whatever) the partnership would have the right to throw you out and sell the home. But, since you own 20% of the partnership (more, if you have bought some of the bank’s shares over time) when the partnership sells the home, you have the right to receive 20% of the sale price. With a loan at interest, the bank forecloses upon you and if it sells the home for less that its loan value, you get nothing.

          There is nothing wrong in principle with banking or lending, as the example above shows. So, the Church is not negligent in not warning the laity to stay out of those industries.

          The fact that the Vatican and religious orders are taking interest in banks is something I know little about. From a practical standpoint, low rates of interest — OVER SHORT PERIODS OF TIME — have the same effect as charging fees. And, as I mention elsewhere in these replies, it is and always has been legitimate to charge a fee for risk. Just not compound interest. The latter is charging more than once for the same risk when the borrower ends up not being able to pay back.

          I hope that helps.

          • Bill Bannon

            Thank you but what cries out from these two threads is that the Catechism should have one whole page or whatever it takes….stating the Vatican’s position clearly. I suspect e.g. that for you, employment throughout the credit card companies would be usurious, sinful employment. But we would need to hear that from Rome not eliptically but clearly. No one here has any authority whatsoever in the Catholic body.

            • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

              Bill,

              I agree. The Vatican needs to address this issue.

              As to your question about employment — it is a much more difficult question. In a corrupt society with corrupt institutions, what is one to do to survive? If someone cannot find any other means of employment and needs to put food on the table, it is a much more difficult question to answer. It them becomes a question of the lesser of two evils — not feeding your family or not being involved in the issuance of usurious loans. Perhaps, one could work in such a company with the intention of changing it. I’m not sure about this.

  • http://www.robertekelund.com Bob Ekelund

    A great and informative post, but there are several aspects regarding usury that may also be usefully exposed. There is good evidence that the Church, circa the “high middle ages,” manipulated the usury doctrine(s) to its own financial advantage. Original documents (translated and published under Vatican approbation after the beginning of the last century by the great William Lunt) show, unequivocally, that the Church invoked the usury doctrine as a lender, but not as a borrower. In other words, the Church was a rent-seeking institution whatever else the goals might have been. (I and others have written concerning this aspect of the usury doctrine). There are yet other important aspects of the effects of usury in capital markets (see Edward L. Glaeser & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1994. “Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be: An Economic Analysis of Interest Restrictions and Usury Laws,” NBER Working Papers 4954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.). Glaeser and Scheinkman provide additional reasons for the curious invocations of usury laws. Doctrine and doctrinal changes are important as this paper shows, but effects and applications are what really mattered both for the Church’s net worth and for capital markets.

  • Cord Hamrick

    I am a little confused by the use of the term “equality” in the 1745 quote from Benedict XIV offered by Bill Bannon:

    “The law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what is given and returned; once the equality has been established, whoever demands more than that violates the terms of the loan.”

    Mr. Tucker correctly notes that $1000 now is less valuable than $1000 ten years from now. This is true for various reasons: Inflation and the risk that the issuer of the currency may radically devalue their currency before the repayment; the risk the borrower will not be able or willing to repay when the time comes; the opportunity cost of what I myself could have done with that money in the interim.

    So, if I give a man $1000 now, and he gives me $1000 back ten years from now, he has cheated me: That given and that returned are not equal.

    Isn’t Benedict XIV’s argument therefore an argument either (a.) in favor of lending with interest, or (b.) against lending of any kind whatsoever except as a form of almsgiving?

    It seems to me that the latter is the most probable explanation of any teaching which forbids interest altogether: Moneylending is there understood not as an economic transaction of the usual kind, but as a form of almsgiving. One may either give the fellow $1000 now and ask to have it returned in ten years when it’ll only be worth 700 of today’s dollars, or one can simply give him $300 right now and save oneself the effort at bookkeeping. It’s the same transaction either way.

    One other thought: What about rentals of property?

    If, for example, I say, “I’ll charge you $100 up front plus an additional $10 per year to rent this piece of equipment,” and you say, “Fine, here’s $100 now and I’ll give you $10 at the end of each rental year,” then at the end my total cash receipts from you are $200 ($100 plus 10 years times $10). But at the end of the rental period I also get back the equipment, and if it isn’t in perfect working order, I’ll charge you whatever it takes to restore it to perfect working order.

    Now let’s suppose the equipment at the beginning was something you could have bought for yourself for $1000, if you’d had the money on hand. (But you didn’t, which is why you opted to rent it from me.)

    In that case, what is the moral difference between you renting a $1000 piece of equipment from me, returning it at the end of the rental term, and paying me $200 over time for the privilege of having used it…and simply “renting” one thousand dollar bills from me right now, and paying me back $1200 over the life of the loan?

    It seems to me that if the Church forbids the one, it must forbid the other, especially since property rentals represent a pretty easy and obvious route for circumventing the ban on interest-bearing loans. Ban only money “rentals” without banning property “rentals,” and all that’ll happen is someone will find a kind of property that’s relatively fungible — animal skins or bolts of silk or lamp oil or gasoline or booze or what-have-you — and rent it round-’n’-round in lieu of money.

    The only difference will be that the infrastructure required for storing larger and more unwieldy pieces of property will be greater than the pockets and wallets required for storing money; and, as a result, money-borrowing will become impossible for the poor and will become a province of the wealthier merchant-classes alone. This will, of course, make entrepreneurship amongst the middle and lower class citizens more difficult, and certain kinds of entrepreneurship impossible, thus limiting upward mobility in society overall. A great way to oppress the poor, that is!

    Anyhow, I suppose there must be some error in how I’m thinking about these things…but if there is, I’m at a loss to find it.

    Will someone offer me some guidance, here?

    • Michael PS

      It is worth noting that, in Latin, ther is no word for loan. There is “commodatum,” which is a loan for use and “mutuum,” which is a loan for consumption (corn, wine, oil, money)

      As the Roman jurists recognised, the two transactions are quite different. In commodatum, the lender remains owner of the thing lent. If the thing perishes without fault on the part of the borrower, the loss is the lender’s (res perit domino). The lender can sue for damage to the thing and can recover it from a third party. The ownership and the use are clearly distinct and what is lent is the use.

      In mutuum, the borrower is bound to restore, not the thing itself, but its equivalent. He becomes the owner of the thing and his obligation to restore is unaffected by its accidental destruction. The ownership and the use are indistinguishable.

      The 1917 Code of Canon Law (c 1543) repeats the doctrine of Vix Pervenit “If a fungible thing is given to someone in such a way that it becomes his and later is to be returned only in the same kind, no gain can be received by reason of the contract itself; but in the payment of a fungible thing, it is not in itself illicit to contract for the gain allowed by law, unless it is clear that this is excessive, or even for a greater gain, if a just and adequate title be present” This is clear evidence of how the matter was understood at the time.

      • Michael PS

        our example of the ten-year loan raises a number of questions If you lend the money for ten years, then you have two contracts, a mutuum for $1,000, under which only $1,000 can be recovered and a “pactum de non petendo,” namely an agreement not to demand repayment for ten years. This is plainly an onerous agreement and you can require compensation for your forbearance, in the form of interest (interesse). This is an example of an extrinsic title

        Even without an agreement, a debtor who failed to pay on demand had to pay interest until repayment.

        • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

          Michael PS,

          The Church does not allow the charging of interesse in your example. If someone lends $1000 for 10 years, he does not have the right to charge anything but a risk fee, plus the cost of originating the loan. Your breaking up the $1000 loan into a loan of $1000 plus an extrinsic title for time isn’t valid according to Church doctrine. The only valid extrinsic titles in this example are origination costs, a risk fee, and if there are court costs spent in recovering the money lent then those can be charged when they are occurred.

          Charging interest or fees for time has been explicitly rejected as immoral by the Church, the Austrian School not withstanding.

          The principle is: the lender has the right to be made whole. No more; no less.

          • Michael PS

            All authorities recognize a right to interest, when the debtor is “in mora debitoris,” that is, when payment is overdue. It fell under the title of Pacta Conventionalis.

            Throughout the Middle Ages, the Common Money Count for “money due and forborne at interest” was outside the usury laws and damage to the creditor was presumed.

            Of course, under a pactum de non petendo, which is a mere undertaking not to demand repayment of money already due does not prevent the debtor repaying at any time.

            • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

              Yes, a late fee equivalent to the damages that the lender incurred has always been acceptable to the Church. Again, that follows the principle of justice: the lender has the right to be made whole.

              However, if the lender already charged a fee for the risk that the borrower would be late and/or not pay, then then lender does not have the right to charge an additional fee when the lender actually becomes late in paying. Either one or the other, not both. Both a fee for risk and a late fee would be charging twice for the same thing.

              • Michael PS

                Of course.

                The case I put was of a gratuitous loan, repayable on demand (as it would be in the absence of special agreement) After demand and default, a pact not to sue for 10 years (in the case supposed) justifies compensation

    • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

      Cord,

      The Church’s teaching on usury can be summarized as: the lender has the right to be made whole.

      The Church has always accepted (after some debate) a contract that hedges the lender against inflation. So, for example, if you lend $1000 now, you can legitimately say that you want to be paid back the amount of money that has the same purchasing power. You can fix it to a price of a particular product (like 10 bbls of oil) or to the CPI. So, your example of being paid an equal amount DOES NOT mean an equal number of dollars. And, being paid an equal in-kind amount IS NOT considered interest.

      In your example of rental property, the renter does not have the right to both charge for the use of the property and then also charge the user for any damages. It is either one or the other. So, the difference between renting property and renting money is that the owner of property is taking on a risk that the property may break or need repairs. The lender of money takes on no such risk that the dollar lent will be broken and in need of repair. Lenders of money can legitimately charge a FEE for the risk that the money lent will not be returned (but not compound interest). A fee for risk is legitimate, provided it is proportional to the actual risk and not exhorbitant. If it is excessive, it is not usury but a violation of the just price. Only compound interest is usury.

      I hope that helps.

  • Aaron Thurow

    Thank you for an interesting article. While your argument seems to present common sense in some areas—like the example of the chicken—I fear that this may be an indication of over simplification or, perhaps, too much focus on economics qua economics. After all, can we really assume that all the opponents of usury through so many centuries of Church history simply lacked the common sense that imagining (they didn’t imagine, they saw!) a barter relationship that amounts to usury provides for us? Particular laws may have been flawed, but the principle is crucial. I would recommend reading Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, for instance. The condemnation of usury gets at the fundamental disjunction between the modern “common sense” of the business world and the traditional principles of the Church. To loan the unneeded chicken out, as you describe, is still usury and still wrong precisely because the chicken is not needed. It is virtuous to mercifully give to our neighbors from our excess, “it is twice blessed, it blesseth him that gives and him that receives… it is an attribute to God himself” (Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1). That is the example set by Our Lord and that is what excess is for, isn’t it? To accept payment for a virtuous action, especially one that costs the giver nothing essential (the chicken, as you say, was not needed), reduces the virtue of that act and exchanges spiritual benefit for material gain. When you borrow from someone on interest, they do not habituate virtue (only pragmatism) and you do not feel the holy gratitude to God and neighbor that a free gift/loan would have produced. How many of us feel truly grateful to God and are reassured as to the goodness of our neighbors when we charge a purchase on our credit cards? “You are happy. He is Happy,” but neither is any wiser or more holy. Naturally, the most extreme adherence to this principle—to give up all you have and follow Christ—is a matter of heroic virtue that cannot be expected of all, but we truly see the effects of the slippery slope of modernity when even a general sense of unease concerning the sin of usury becomes ridiculous because it is contrary to economic common sense.

    • Charles

      Aaron,

      You acknowledge that the exapmle is an oversimplification, yet you use it to draw out a point that Mr. Tucker was not attempting to illustrate. For example, we do not know how the person in the example acquired the extra chicken. He might have fasted from the normal gruel this community ate so that he could forage for food in the forrest. Instead of finding one chicken he found two. This extra chicken represents the fruits of his labor as well as his willingness to delay gratification. He could have used one to produce eggs and eaten the other.

      Instead he offered this chicken (which money represents) to be put at the use of someone else. In return for that product he wants just compensation. We call that compensation interest when it deals strictly with the use of money.

      I would argue that the cost associated with using someone else’s savings or delayed consumption is precisely the mechanism that encouages justice. The price of the chicken is what demonstates the egg laying potential to the person who acquired it. Therefore, the chicken is more likely to be kept for laying eggs as opposed to being eaten for dinner. Fallen human nature affects people on both sides of the economic equation. The Church has the responsibility of intructing us in the ways of virtue.

      • Aaron Thurow

        Charles,
        Your reply may, in a sense, illustrate exactly my point. Again, as common sense, you assert that it is a violation of “justice” for something that has been earned to be given away for free: thus leaving no room for charity at all. I’m sure you did not intend to do this, but it illustrates the trajectory produced by using “justice” to assert a right to goods that do not and have never belonged to me. To get your chicken or something of equivalent value back is just, but to get something in excess of that as recompense for the imagined profit I could theoretically have made if I had used my resources otherwise is not so clear. If I invest in a shipping company and it doesn’t turn a profit, is that injustice?
        Your second point is stronger: doesn’t usury encourage moderation—keeping the chicken rather than eating it at once in hope of profit. But isn’t the desire for “profit” no less immoderate than the desire for an extra meal between lunch and dinner? Indeed, isn’t the unnatural nature of lust for excess power (which is what money is) even more troubling than the base desire for excess food? The Church, many would agree, must be first and foremost concerned with souls, and, as I point out in my original response, the condemnation of usury leaves open the possibility for spiritual growth, while its near-universal application (as common sense) negates that possibility precisely because it gives both parties a motivation for doing the good deeds that does not depend upon morality but merely self-interest. This is a good way to get people to do what we want, but it does nothing for their souls! I’d recommend Wordsworth’s “Cumberland Beggar” for a further beautiful representation of how charity benefits both giver and receiver and the desire for “justice” often disguises a desire to no longer be burdened with love.
        I chose the Merchant of Venice, however, because Shakespeare anticipates precisely this objection based on “justice” in the same passage that I quoted: “consider this— / That in the course of justice none of us / Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy; / And that same prayer doth teach us all to render / The deeds of mercy” (4.1). An even better source says “thou shalt love thy neighbor”— not “thou shalt be just to thine neighbor and he shalt give you a just profit.”

  • Sarto

    Interesting article, interesting discussion. Congrats to posters.

  • http://works.bepress.com/brian_mccall/ Professor Brian M. McCall

    Mr. Tucker’s summary of the usury doctrine is oversimplified and lacks significant distinctions. As Dale Alquist rightly shows in his companion article, the moral condemnation of the taking of usury (which is different from the taking of interest) was “settled early in Church history, with developments coming over time as subtle elaborations and careful applications of eternal truths” which is the very definition Mr. Tucker uses for magesterial teaching. Thus, usury doctrine which dates from the Old Testament and was confirmed by the Council of Nicea cannot be changed by the Church notwithstanding individual Churchmen failing to talk about the problem. Likewise abortion could not be made morally legimiate as a result of silence by the hierarchy. In my Cardozo Law Review article, Unprofitable Lending: Modern Credit Regulation and the Lost Theory of Usury(available here (http://works.bepress.com/brian_mccall/6/) I explain in more detail than a comment will allow the history of the elaboration of the doctrine. It was explained and applied but not changed in the same way that the prohibition on murder was never changed even though murder was distinguished from justified killing, in a just war for example. I have developed this research into a book on the topic which I hope to publish in 2012.
    In Christo,
    Professor Brian M. McCall
    University of Oklahoma College of Law

    • Mitchell Button, MSC ECON

      Your book sounds fascinating!

  • Pat B

    The thing that I really don’t get is how Catholic Social teaching is supposedly on a separate non-infallible track from Church teaching on faith and morals. Is it not a teaching on faith and morals to say that usery is a sin? I am predisposed towards Mr. Tucker’s arguments but I cannot get over the question of teaching authority. If the Church really condemns usury than so must we all, regardless of our personal feelings on the matter.

    • Bill Bannon

      CCC #2269 and #2449 are the only catechism cites and will help little. #2449 citing the year of Jubilee mentions “not taking interest” but that refers to the Jews who could not take interest from Jews but could charge to foreigners.
      Deuteronomy 23:20
      “You shall not demand interest from your countrymen on a loan of money or of food or of anything else on which interest is usually demanded.
      21
      You may demand interest from a foreigner, but not from your countryman, so that the LORD, your God, may bless you in all your undertakings on the land you are to enter and occupy.”

      John T Noonan notes that in the Patristic times, usury seems to have been really about charging interest to the poor and you’ll see #2269 talk in line with that. The Church
      in the twentieth century obligated religious orders to take interest on their money in banks so that moderate versus
      immoderate is the line to be drawn. To suffer high interest from Visa can be necessary and non sinful for some people…what Aquinas called passive scandal.

      • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

        The modern view that moderate interest is acceptable but excessive interest isn’t is wrong.

        In truth, if it compounds, it’s immoral. That is what the Church has always taught. Her silence over the past 200 years does not change what she condemned in the Ecumenical Council of Vienna in the 1300s.

        Moreover, Noonan’s book “The Scholastic Analysis of Usury” was explicitly written by him with Contraception in mind. He said so himself. He wanted to show that the Church had changed her doctrine on one issue, and so she can change it on another. He subsequently wrote a book on contraception and opposed Humanae Vitae.

        In truth, the Church has not changed her doctrine on any issue.

        • Bill Bannon

          Anthony
          Show us a Church document that not only condemns usury but defines it…..not a theologian defining it and not a local bull like Vix Pervenit.
          A Church document that both condemns usury and defines usury. Both….not just one….define and condemn. Without both, there is failure to establish clear law.

          • Bill Bannon

            PS
            Check your sources on Noonan. He wrote the book on usury in 1957 and “Contraception” in 1968….not even that latter book endorsed contraception (I have it). In a later period he like Rahner and Haring changed on contraception but his original book on usury was written far before then. Perhaps you’re thinking of an essay within a later book or in a periodical but his original book on usury was long before he endorsed contraception.

            • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

              Noonan’s book on usury was indeed written before his book on contraception but he wrote it with the idea of writing a book opposing the Church’s teaching on contraception in his mind — he personally said this to someone who told this to me!

              He was being disingenuous from the start — he had an agenda when he wrote that book.

              In any event, I think we can use reason to arrive at a just conclusion with respect to what is and what is not usury. I attempted to that just that in my article.

          • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

            Bill,

            It has always been understood that charging interest for time is usury. You are probably correct that there is no document that both condemns and defines it precisely. However, that was because everyone knew that it meant charging money for time. Throughout the Church’s history, the debates were about extrinsic contracts — i.e. whether the lender could charge for things other than time. To dismiss the Ecumenical Council of Vienna, Vix Pervenit and Aquinas and others I do not believe is legitimate.

            Usury is defined as charging interest for time. The principle that the lender has the right to be made whole is what enables him to charge fees (not compound interest) for things like origination costs, risk, and/or late fees.

            The confusion over the issue historically in large part was due to the conflation of fees with interest.

            Fundamentally, charging interest for time is usury. All the rest is details. I address this in an article that should finally be published in December in Culture Wars magazine titled “What Is Usury?”

            • Bill Bannon

              Vienne is written in a pastoral style which reduces its relevance for dogma. This debate just proved that there is no clear law that condemns and simultaneously defines usury. This debate exists because there is no clarity worked on or achieved by the Vatican and placed in the catechism which after two millenia should be able to define what its condemning on this topic. One can find condemnations of usury in Councils and no definition and it does not suffice to claim everyone knew what was meant. The Dominicans attacked the Franciscans long ago on their pawn shop fees as being usury and a Council had to settle that. Lack of succinct definition by the Church is the problem. A hundred debating authors is not going to solve a thing with jurisdictional authority.

              • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

                Bill,

                Here’s a quote from a different website that seems to say that the Church HAS defined usury.

                “the Fifth Lateran Council (1515) defines usury as follows:

                “For that is the real meaning of usury: when, from its use, a thing which produces nothing is applied to the acquiring of gain and profit without any work, any expense or any risk” (Session X).

                Usury is profiting from something which produces nothing, without any effort. Depending on the circumstances, this could apply to money, bushels of wheat, widgets or other goods.”

                End of quote.

                I am agreeing with that. And, as Aquinas said, money is always sterile, asking for interest for time — when money does not automatically grow with time — is usury.

                But, I think you are right that the Chuch needs to define the whole issure more clearly.

              • Bill Bannon

                Anthony
                The Fifth Lateran is not listed by the Church as Ecumenical so that nothing infallible can be derived from it. There were too few Bishops and mostly only Italian Bishops present.
                Every loan has risk. Loan a nun $500 and she gets run over by a car three blocks away and the money gets blown all over the city streets and is taken by
                passersby and she has no will. I’d say that’s risky. As long as borrowers can die, there is risk. Don’t charge people $30 interest…call it a risk fee of $30. It does seem like one huge semantic exercise of lawyers.
                Calvin allowed no interest charged to the poor but moderate interest charged to the affluent and that was Noonan’s assessment of why the patristic age opposed interest…what it does to the poor….Aristotle, Aquinas and Vix Pervenit seem to lose that common sense essence.

              • http://works.bepress.com/brian_mccall/ Professor Brian M. McCall

                Gentlemen your debate about the extraordinary nature of various councils misses one point. The Church also acts through the ordinary magisterium. From Scripture throughout her history the Church has always and everywhere taught usury is sinful. The exact definition of what behavior exactly constitutes it is another issue. At least by operation of the Ordinary Magisterium, we can say that a sin called usury exists.
                Professor Brian M. McCall

              • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

                Dear Bill,

                By saying that the difference between interest and fees is semantic, I think you just granted my point that the Church has confused compound interest with fees, which is why it appears that the Church now allows moderate interest. If she understood the difference, she would oppose all interest.

                Here is the difference: $1 lent at the time of Christ at a 6% annual fee for 2000 years, where the fee occurs only on the principle and not on accrued fees, amounts to a total of 6 cents in fees for each of 2000 years or a total of $120.

                But, if you borrowed $1 at the time of Christ at a supposed low 6% compound interest, 2000 years later you would owe $4.09 x 10^50, or quadrillions of time more money than there is in all the world.

                This difference is not semantic. It is everything.

                The richest man in the world could not pay that interest. It is not just loans to the poor where compound interest is unjustified; all compound interest is unjustified. It is the reason why the governments of the western world are bankrupt — compound interest, not the debt itself but the interest ultimately bankrupts them. Please read my article which will be coming out next month in Culture Wars Magazine. I get into all of this. Or, watch the third video on this webpage:
                http://cathfin.com/events/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=9

                It is a 10 minute presentation I gave at the Catholic Finance Association’s Debate on Debt back in May of this year.

              • Bill Bannon

                Anthony,
                If any of us walked for 2000 years, we’d wear away the soles of our feet.
                That doesn’t indict walking. But I agree that especially in credit card interest, Rome and the Pope should be loud and constant in nagging the world and that is not happening. The Pope career path isolates them from knowing those realities. Lower income families put car repairs on a credit card
                and that bill goes on forever and gains another car repair…and Popes have no
                contact with that reality. I’ll watch that clip tomorrow.

              • Bill Bannon

                Anthony
                Could not run clip on ipad…maybe needs flash. I’m ipad only.

  • http://distributistreview.com/mag/ Brennan

    “What makes “social teaching” different from the faith-and-morals magisterium of the Catholic Church? Most of the latter was settled early in Church history, with developments coming over time as subtle elaborations and careful applications of eternal truths.

    Social teaching (including economics) is different. It has gone through many upheavals and changes throughout Church history, even complete reversals, many of which parallel historical developments.”

    “Economics is a science, one very late to develop in the history of ideas. It is not doctrine and it is not morals, subjects on which the Church pronounces infallibly.”

    What do you mean by “science”? That it is governed according to infallible laws akin to the law of gravity? With these particular sentences, Mr. Tucker seems to be saying we can safely ignore Catholic social teaching, particularly in regards to economics, because the Church simply doesn’t “get” economics the way Austrian economists do.

    Yet, from what I understand, economics has always been a subset of ethics (at least until the Reformation separated them) which is part of the moral teaching of the Church.

    Thus social teaching is not some sequestered and quarantined aspect of Church teaching that Popes have written about just because they had nothing better to do (and did not expect Catholics to actually listen or adhere to).

    Economics has everything to do with morals because it involves the interchange of men and societies with each other and thus it involves justice and the final end of man.

    • http://distributistreview.com/ David W. Cooney

      Excellent response. The social teachings of the Church are practical applications of Her binding moral teachings. To argue that, because they are “social” teachings, they are not binding pronouncements of the magisterium is to display a fundamental lack of understanding of the Catholic Faith.

  • http://distributistreview.com/ David W. Cooney

    1: Allowing interest *for* the money lent is not the same as allowing interest *on* the money lent. The Church has always allowed interest for money lent. For example, one could charge a percentage of profits until the loan is paid, but one could never charge interest on the money loaned itself.

    2: The Church has always admitted the principle of charging for losses of the lender, provided that the charges never exceed the actual losses. In other words, you had to prove the loss first and then you could justify the charge to compensate for it. However this argument used today to “justify” interest simply assumes the loss and forces the borrower to pay even if there isn’t any loss. Also, there is no loss for someone to be voluntarily deprived of money because they agreed to loan it to out.

    3: Interest as a service fee. This is certainly acceptable, provided that it is (a) modest, and (b) that it can be justified. I could, for example charge you a percentage of money loaned as a fee for loaning you the money. However, that would not allow me to continually charge you a percentage of the outstanding debt for on a monthly basis because I am not “re-lending” you the money each month. If you make the agreed-upon payments, there is no basis for further charges on the money loaned itself.

    4: Even if the Church’s hierarchy never voiced any opposition to the current practices, it makes no implication that the current practices are acceptable to the Church. At one point in time, the Church used to bring lenders to trail to prove that their loans were not usurious. It was deemed unjust to treat them as guilty without proof and the practice stopped. That does not mean that is was then acceptable for the lenders to practice usury.

    • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

      David,

      1. Your example of an investor earning a percentage of profits for an investment until the investment is paid back IS NOT interest. If the profits are zero, he gets nothing. With interest, the lender is owed whether or not the company is making money. That is a totally different contract. A bond is not a stock.

      2. You are correct. However, one is also free to charge a FEE for the risk of loss (not compound interest, but a fixed fee based on the risk of loss.)

      3. You cannot charge a percentage of money loaned as a fee for loaning the money. You can charge a fee that is proportional to the RISK that the lender will not pay you back. But, you are absolutely correct that lenders cannot compound the fees on their loans. That would be charging more than once for the same risk.

      4. You are right.

      • http://distributistreview.com/ David W. Cooney

        Anthony,

        1. You are applying modern concepts of interest. I am applying what I understand of the classical (medieval) concepts. The “interest” obtained by offering money to a business is in the profits. In other words, you are purchasing, even if only temporarily, an “interest” in the business. You are correct that, in this case, you could potentially not make any money. You could potentially lose what you invested. In medieval days, any financial arrangement for which only one side had any risk of loss was considered usurious and was, therefore illegal. Offering money for the compensation of a temporary interest in any profits was allowed and was referred to as “interest.”

        2. Again, I am applying the classical rules by which the Church allowed or disallowed certain practices. The Church always admitted the legitimacy of a claim of loss, but not of charging for it without justification or proof that a real loss occurred. It never justified charging against the mere “risk of loss” because risk-free transactions were not considered “natural.”

        Even if I took out insurance against loss for money I loaned to someone, I have to pay for that, which means that I lose my insurance payment if the insurance didn’t have to pay out. The lender always had to pay for such insurance, NOT the borrower. Charging the borrower interest to cover potential losses is to charge the borrower for both the service of having the loan and for the insurance to cover the lender’s risk of loss. That is unjust.

        3: I believe that the Church disagrees with your assertion that you cannot charge a percentage of the money loaned as a fee for loaning the money. You can certainly charge a larger fee for loaning larger amounts of money, and I have never seen an argument that claims that this fee cannot be based on a percentage of the money loaned.

        As far as the risk of the lender not paying you back, I refer you to #2 above about not being able force the borrower to pay for what is effectively an insurance that covers the lender. Even if we were to allow such a thing, justice would require the return of what was charged if no loss was incurred. Otherwise, I am essentially forcing you to make a wager on whether or not you will pay me back. In other words, if you pay me interest to cover my potential loss, and I incur no loss because you repay the loan on time, then I’ve really suffered no risk and have no legitimate claim to the money. Not only would you have to pay for the original loan, but you have to pay for what is effectively my insurance policy on the loan. If I want insurance on a loan I am making, then I should have to pay for it.

        When making a claim of a loss, the claimant had to prove that there was a real loss for which he could justly claim compensation. That cannot be known before the loss is incurred.

  • http://catholiceconomist.wordpress.com/ Chris Adams
  • Charles Lewis

    This is a great piece but wanted to mention something in reference to Mr. Tucker’s mention that Jews tended to be moneylenders. My understanding, and someone correct me if I’m wrong, given that all the guilds were closed to Jews as were almost all other accepted professions, being a moneylender was one of the few occupations open. It was also necessary because no Christian would touch it. I would imagine if Jews were just another normal part of European society this might not have been a desired career.

  • Chris Ferrara

    Tucker writes: “And thus began a long tragic history of the Catholic Church’s 1000-year war against interest and the money-lending profession. And it is a strange war indeed, one undertaken with little to no substantive basis from scripture (the above hardly suffices). Attacking lenders as heretics contradicts normal commercial dealings. It even contradicts Jesus’s own parable of the talents, which presumes and praises the existence of money lenders and condemns the failure to give them idle money as profligacy itself.”

    This statement is reckless. The Church has not conducted some unjust “war against interest and money-lending.” Rather, the Church condemned interest-taking as a *species* of usury—usury meaning all forms overreaching in business—during the centuries when money had no use value for which a use value could justly be charged. At one time, charging interest for coin was lacking charging interest for a loaf of bread loaned to a neighbor.

    With the rise of the banking system, financial markets, paper currency, and the problem of currency inflation, the Church came to recognize that that money had become an investment commodity of fluctuating value subject to risk, the lending of which occasioned a loss to the lender if not returned with compensatory interest.

    Tucker himself quotes the Catholic Encyclopedia passage which confirms that there been no essential change in teaching: the lender, even now, may charge only a *moderate* amount of interest, as determined by law (the law traditionally decides such questions of degree, as we see with anti-usury statutes).

    Noonan likewise confirms no essential change in his doctoral thesis, published as a book: the dogma—no overreaching in economic transactions—remains unchanged even if its application has been altered under modern circumstances.

    Tucker attacks a straw Magisterium. Catholic Austrians should cease their effort to convict the Magisterium of error or to accuse of it transgressing the field of “economics.”

  • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

    Jeff,

    It is good to see that you are addressing the issue of usury. However, I’d like to point out the following:

    1. The Catholic Encyclopaedia is not infallible. It is wrong in its discussion of usury.

    2. The Church is infallible, and she has condemned usury at the Ecumenical Counsel of Vienna in the year 1311. She cannot reverse what she has dogmatically defined. Vix Pervenit in 1745 reaffirmed it.

    3. You are absolutely correct that the vast majority of Church officials and theologians over the past 200 years seem to allow moderate interest. However, the Church has NEVER dogmatically reversed her previous position. It is just that most church leaders are in error on this point. I venture to say that this error is because they fail to differentiate between fees and compound interest. Moderate fees for risk are certainly legitimate. But never compound interest.

    4. If you want to see a clear differentiation between what fees are legitimate and what are not, and why compound interest is never legitimate, see my forthcoming article “What is Usury?” in Culture Wars Magazine, December issue.

    5. There are many scriptural verses against usury. Here are a few:

    Exodus 22:25 states: “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him.”

    Deuteronomy 23:19-20 says: “You shall not lend upon interest to your brother, interest on money…. To a foreigner you may lend upon interest….” (Interest was allowed to be charged against foreigners because it was considered an act of war by other means — a means of impoverishing your enemies.)

    Woe is me, my mother, That you have borne me, A man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent for interest, Nor have men lent to me for interest. Every one of them curses me. (Jeremiah 15:10)

    If he has not exacted usury Nor taken any increase, But has withdrawn his hand from iniquity And executed true judgment between man and man; If he has walked in My statutes And kept My judgments faithfully — He is just; He shall surely live!” Says the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 18:8-9)

    If he has exacted usury Or taken increase — Shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, He shall surely die; His blood shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:13)

    6. Jesus’ parable of the talents is the most misunderstood passage in all of scripture. It reveals that Christ OPPOSED the lending of money at interest. Let us paraphrase it here to provide the proper understanding:

    Unfaithful servant: “I know the kind of man you are. You are dishonest. You take what does not belong to you. You reap what other people sow, and you take up what others earn. I was afraid of you: here is all that you gave me and all that belongs to you.”

    The master’s reply: “You are merely excusing yourself. You are a lazy faithless slave. If I am the hard man you say I am, taking what does not belong to me and gathering the sowings and earnings of others, you could have met that condition without trouble to yourself by giving my money to the usurers and then at my coming I could have received my unjust gain. Your excuse is inconsistent; you condemn yourself. You are an indolent and worthless slave. Begone to your punishment.”

    Jeff, you are right that a lender may charge a fee for risk. But you have assumed — as the Time Preference Theory of Interest of the Austrian School does — that a present good is more valuable than a future good. That is not always the case. Someone who will be retired in 5 years and is earning $100K this year may choose to save $10,000 so that he has something 5 years from now, and he may be willing to save that money even if it earns a NEGATIVE rate of return, i.e. even if the bank charges him a fee to store his money in safe keeping. It is not his first dollar this year that is to be compared to his first dollar in 5 years. Sure, the former is more valuable than the latter. But that is not the decision that savers make. The 90,000th dollar this year versus the 1st dollar in 5 years — that is the savings decision, and many people would prefer to have at least something in 5 years rather than spend on luxuries today. So, time preference is NOT a valid explanation for charging interest.

    Your example where the borrower of the chicken gets to keep it after a month — he isn’t being charged interest. That contract is valid but it has nothing to do with interest.

    Conrad Summenhart was wrong; Aquinas was right. You say Summerhart says “When a money holder lends, he is giving up something that would be otherwise profitable, so he should be compensated for his loss, same as any merchant.” But NOT ALL INVESTMENTS ARE PROFITABLE! SOME SUFFER LOSSES! Why is it assumed that the opportunity cost is financial gain? Only real losses can be demanded by the lender because the lender has the right to be made whole. Opportunity forgone is not a legitimate claim for interest. If the other opportunity was so good, then the lender should have chosen that investment instead of this loan.

    Lastly, Noonan wrote his book on Usury with contraception in his mind — he said so himself. He sought to show that the Church has changed her position on one dogmatic issue, and therefore, she can change it on another. He wanted the Church to change her position against contraception, and he later wrote a book on that. He is wrong on both counts.

    One final point: usury is a major cause of the welfare state because it concentrates wealth into the hands of the few and forces governments to tax and print in order to give the poor something. If you want a small government with low taxes, you should oppose usury, i.e. all compound interest.

    • Bill Bannon

      Again, I’d urge you to check your facts on Noonan. He supported “contraception” later than his book by that name in 1968 which book did not support contraception.
      His usury book is from 1957…. 11 years prior to “Contraception” which did not endorse contraception. You may be thinking of a later article on usury that made a connection to contraception in a periodical.

      • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

        Bill,

        See my point above on the Noonan issue.

    • Bill Bannon

      Anthony
      I find your interpretation of Deut.23 to contain too much reading in of your own view:

      ” Deuteronomy 23:19-20 says: “You shall not lend upon interest to your brother, interest on money…. To a foreigner you may lend upon interest….” (Interest was allowed to be charged against foreigners because it was considered an act of war by other means — a means of impoverishing your enemies.)

      That’s too weird because besides leaving the literal which Jerome said should be exceptional, it assumes that only one party knows it’s an act of war and the other group
      of savy mideasterners thinks it’s just a loan with interest.
      You’re interpreting in your favor by seeing war where there is none.

      • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

        Bill,

        It was an orthodox Jew who told me that interpretation. I am not the originator of it.

        If we read all of the scriptural verses on usury, if my memory serves me correct, I believe there are other verses that condemn treating non-Jews who live peacefully amongst them any differently than the way one would treat one’s fellow Jew. The only way to consistently read those passages is to understand the legitimacy of lending at interet to a foreigner as the lending to an enemy or at least not to a friend or someone you are at peace with.

        In any case, it is a mathematical fact that lending at interest rates that exceed the growth rate of the economy will, in the long run, lead to the concentration of wealth in the hands of the lenders. If, for example, the lender lends at 5% but the economy grows at 3%, then, the rich lender’s wealth grows at 5% but the average wealth of all in society (including the rich guy) grows at 3%. Wealth becomes more and more concentrated into the hands of the rich.

        • Bill Bannon

          Anthony
          You have an otherwise good mind. I would drop the heresay, oral tradition whether of the orthodox Jew interpreting scripture (means zero) or the friend telling you what Noonan said to him privately…..the latter is bizarre to anyone who read “Contraception”. It posits a 11 year plus conpiracy that doesn’t even appear in the book on the subject which book states that the Church always opposed abc.

          • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

            Bill,

            Thanks for the compliment. And point well taken.

            I think we can use reason and come to the conclusion that Noonan was wrong and that the orthodox Jew was right. Someone in a different comment indicated that a different interpretation of lending to foreigners is that the interest covers the risk that the foreigner will not pay back. I find that an interesting point, but it does not deal with the fact that one’s neighbor and friend may also have a risk that he won’t pay back. So, I don’t think that addresses the issue as well. I think a more detailed analysis of the OT on this issue, and the context in which those passages were written, (i.e. when the Israelites were taking the promissed land) would lead to the conclusion that usury could indeed have been used to weaken the opposition.

    • Mitchell Button, MSC ECON

      Thank you Dr. Santelli for injecting a bit of sense and expertise to the conversation.

      “How is it that people can get rich not by making things but merely by arbitraging between the present and the future? Isn’t there something morally suspect about this practice?”

      Dante, in all his poetic wisdom, places sodomizers and usurers in the same ring of hell, because both activities are fruitless and barren. Employing your “labor” through the arbitrage of goods and services that you have no interest in, nor labored to create can be considered usurious for the same reason sodomy is sinful. John Keynes warns of the reckless “rentier” class in the general theory when he calls to “euthanize the rentier” (he didn’t mean literally murder) because the rentiers act as “functionless investors” who contribute nothing to Effective Demand. Most of the present mess can be traced back to allowing the rentiers and financiers to carry a disproportionate share of the economic life of America and thereby, amputate American productive ability and introduce dangerous speculative financial risk.

      • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

        Mitchell,

        Yes, you have it correct.

        Since most Austrian Economists are for a small (and in some cases non-existent) government, when they realize that a major root of a large government and its welfare state is the existence of usury that concentrates wealth, maybe they will join us in opposing usury. I am hopeful that the will because, after all, I am an Austrian Economist who, after many years of research, came to this conclusion. Perhaps others will do the same.

        The real question now is: how do we get out of this mess?

    • Charles

      Anthony,

      Lets suppose the man in your example decided to purchase an acre of land with the $10,000 and subsequently rent the land out to a farmer for $500 who wanted to plant crops. Then after 5 years the same man decided to sell this plot of land so he could live off of the money. This man now has $10,500. Would he be guilty of sin?

      On the other hand, If he does not convert the $10,000 in to a land purchase, but instead lets the farmer use the money to purchase his own land but requires an interest payment totaling $500 until the loan is repaid. Would the lender be guilty of sin?

      Your example proves Jeff’s point that we get caught up in the form of the savings even though the saver views it the same way. The money or the land both represent savings to the owner. Why are we ok with a profit earned on the use of the land but not a profit on the use of the money (which we term interest)?

      • Michael PS

        The obvious difference is that, in the first case, the man remains the owner of the land and what he lets is the use of it, in other words, the annual product of it. At the end of the tenandry, the farmer must restore vacant possession of the land itself to the owner. If a river inundated the land, or the government requisitioned it for a road-widening scheme, or an invading army occupied it, the loss would fall on the owner, not the tenant.

        In this case, ownership and use are severable.

        In the second case, the farmer becomes the owner of the money at the time he borrows it. His obligation is not to restore the dollars themselves, but their equivalent and this he must do at all hazards.

        In the case of things lent for consumption, the ownership and the use are not severable.

        If I lend my neighbour a pint of milk, I would not be best pleased to receive back the self-same carton. In fact, I could reject it as not a true equivalent; fresh milk and milk a week old are not the same kind of thing.

        • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

          Michael,

          Good analysis. You are correct.

          One thing to add: it is not legitimate to charge a fixed fee for land use, only a percentage of what is produced.

          • Michael PS

            No.

            The parties can agree a pre-estimate of the future production, thus sharing the risk. The tenant benefits, if the land produces more and the landlord, if it produces less.

        • Charles

          Michael,

          So if a person converts his savings into land before he charges a fee for its use this is licit. But if a person lends the money to a farmer who converts it to land and I charge him a fee for the use of the money then it is illicit? I don’t se the obivous difference.

          How can the farmer own the money if he borrowed it. that seems to be a contradiction. It was either a gift or a loan.

          • Michael PS

            The farmer owes the money, even though the obligation to repay is postponed – a present obligation to make a future payment.

            That is why the lender can assign it to a third party: if the farmer did not have a present obligation, there would be nothing to assign.

      • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

        Great questions Charles.

        Strictly speaking, the fee that he can morally charge you is a PERCENTAGE of what the land produces. He does not have the moral right to charge you a fixed dollar amount, independent of whatever the land produces.

        If a drought comes, and the land produces very little, he does not have the right to charge you more than the sum total of the sale value of all that the land produced that year. That would be a violation of the just price, which is a function of the just wage to the farmer.

        If, on the other hand, it is a dweling that you are renting, there is a risk that the dwelling may be in need of repairs, and you have the right to charge a fee for that risk. Of course, the obligation to make repairs are on the owner (not counting destructive behavior on the part of the tenant).

        So, you are right in thinking that there is some degree of equivalence between the rental of something that cannot be destroyed — raw land — and the rental of money. But, instead of concluding that both are legitimate, the right conclusion is that both are illegitimate.

        Someone is free to invest money and earn a proportion of the product (royalty) or a proportion of the profits (income) that the company produces. He is not morally free to earn a fixed rate of return independent of whatever the company (or in this case farm) produces.

        Now, in practice, if the rental rate for the land is low, and the farmer earns a lot more than the fee, it amounts to the same in practice as being contracted to pay a percentage of what the land produces. But, strictly speaking, such contracts are illegitimate.

        It was precisely the theft of Church properties in England, followed by the nobles raising land rental rates (the Church rented to the poor for very low rates) that led to the masses being poor.

        So, when seen from this perspective, my example hopefully shows that there is no catch or difference in savings types.

        • Charles

          Anthony,

          Thanks for tking time to engage this issue. I have a couple of issues with your reply.

          1. You use the term “what the land produces” twice in the first paragraph, but it seems to me that the land is producing nothing without the effort and work of the farmer. This distinction seems significant for reasons beyond semantics. You use the example of a drought that limits output on the property and certainly calls for Christian charity. However, if the farmer rents the land so that his competitor does not have access to it and then decides to let it lay fallow, how do I quantify the price I should receive. The land still benefitted the farmer but there is no production to show for it.

          2. How is the moral fee that you mention in the first paragraph determined in a given transaction.

          3. Why is it legetimate to charge rent on a dwelling where there is a risk of damge, but it is illegtimate to charge rent for money that may not be retuned in total or for land that may be less productive beacuse the nutirents were depleted and thus less valuable?

          4.”It was precisely the theft of Church properties in England, followed by the nobles raising land rental rates (the Church rented to the poor for very low rates) that led to the masses being poor.”

          I am not really sure what this has to do with interest since clearly this is not a market transaction and is the result of coercive force.

          5. Regarding Chuch doctrine on the matter, I will defer to those wiser than me on the issue of usury. However, I know that the Catholic Diocese I live in charges the individaul Catholic parishes interest when they borrow money from the diocese. That of course is not proof of doctrine, but can anyone elaborate on the morality of that practice.

          • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

            Charles,

            1. Indeed, the land does not produce anything without the effort of the farmer. But the farmer wouldn’t produce anything either without the land.

            In your example, it assumes a kind of competition that wouldn’t really exist in a just social order, but explaining that is outside of the scope of the issue here. I would simply say this: in the case of the farmer renting land and then letting it lie fallow, it would be a breach of contract with the owner. The owner would have the right to take back the land and lease it to someone else. This deals with the issue of the Universal Destination of Goods and Solidarity — to much to discuss here.

            2. For example, if the farm produces 100 bushels of corn, 1000 chickens, etc., the contract with the owner can be written in one of two ways. Either A. as a percentage of what is produced, (say 20%), in which case he would drive to the farm with his pickup truck and take 20 bushels of corn and 200 chickens; or B. as a percentage of the money from the sale of what is produced. In which case, he would get 20% of the revenue.

            I hope that helps with the explanation.

            3. Sorry for the confusion. It IS legitimate to charge a risk FEE (not compounded) for money lent if there is a risk that the money lent will not be returned. The lender has a right to be made whole, that is the principle of justice being applied here. Read my article forthcoming, or other comments I make here for a more detailed explanation.

            3b. The issue of land being less productive: it depends. Some farmers would add fertilizer and make it more productive. If the farmer was negligent in his use of the land, then the owner would have a claim against him in the same way a landlord would have a claim against a renter who destroys the property.

            4. My point was to show how rents that are too high have historically led to as much disaster as usury. In other words, usury isn’t the only problem with the current institutions of society.

            5. I live in such a diocese too. Two points on this: A. the Diocese isn’t about to foreclose upon a parish’ church if the parish doesn’t pay back its loan. So, the circumstances are not quite an arms length transaction. B. Just because a diocese does something doesn’t make it doctrine.

            • Charles

              Anthony,

              1)We don’t live in a just social order nor have we since the fall of Man. There is no possible way to formulate all of the possible scenarios which would lead to a breach of contract. This seems to me the beauty of an agreed upon interest rate for the use of saved money. It certainly does not eliminate the possibilty that an injustice will occur on either side of the economic transaction, but it does protect both parties engaged in the transaction since they would freely agree on the rate and it also encourages the use of a saved resource in the community.

              2) An interest rate, which reflects the actual supply and demand of money, fluctuates accordingly. Thus it discourages consumtion sometimes and encourages it others. What mechanism determines the risk fees you mention? How would a potential lender discern whether the risk fee is just?

              • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

                Charles,

                $1 borrowed at the time of Christ at 6% interest compounded for 2000 years would leave the borrower in debt to $4.09 x 10^50, or more money than there is in all the world.

                On the other hand, if the borrower paid an annual fee of 6% on the principal borrowed, but not on accrued interest, then he would owe only $120.

                This is all the difference in the world. Therefore, there is a major difference between compound interest and fees. The former mathematically guarantees the concentration of wealth over time.

                Compound interest most emphatically does not protect both parties in a contract.

                2. Interest rates vary with the risk of the project the loan is for. There is no market rate of interest based on the supply and demand of money, especially not in the current world order with central banks and fiat currencies. These days, banks lend out as much money as they think is worth the risk — independent of whether they have deposits upon which to lend or not! Banks today simply create money, and if they don’t have the deposits to cover their reserve requirements they just borrow a little from the Fed.

                So, in today’s world, there is absolutely no clearing of the markets between the supply and demand of money. The Fed makes the supply infinite to the banks, who in turn regulate the money supply by making loans only to those who they think are worth the risk (or worth the chance of unloading those loans onto unsuspecting buyers of CMOs, CDO, etc.)

                To answer your question, what mechanism determines the risk fees, it is the negotiation between the lender and borrower, no differently than how they negotiate the interest rate on a loan today.

                The lender can discern whether a risk fee is just as follows. He goes to an insurance company and asks: how much will it cost me to have you insure against this loan defaulting? The price of that insurance policy (plus a small origination fee, plus a small premium to cover counter party risk) would be the risk premium.

  • John Zmirak

    Is this an argument of Natural Law, or a point that came from Divine Revelation, which ended with the death of St. John the Evangelist? If the former, then we are free to argue about it, and no Church teaching CAN be infallible (just as Cardinal Ratzinger permanently ruled out an ex cathedra statement re-affirming Humanae Vitae). We must submit with religious deference to Church readings of Natural Law, but they rest on human reason not divine guarantees. Church councils do not have a permanent source of ongoing inspiration, which permits them to create new revelations. (We’re not Mormons.) So, the issue is whether the condemnations of usury are a) comprehensive and b) authoritative interpretations of scripture (and hence universally binding) OR if they are c) The best opinions offered by good men on how to interpret the Natural Law. If c) they could be wrong, and Jeff Tucker’s argument suggests that they were. So do 200 years of papal practice, the silence of Pius XII concerning any absolute ban on usury in his radio address to bankers, the absence of such a statement in the recent Catechism, etc.

    So either the Church has been woefully, criminally remiss for 200 years in neglecting a point of Divine Revelation–whose violation is the very basis of the modern economy….

    Or… the absolute ban on lending at interest is an intellectual mistake, a piece of imperfect Natural Law reasoning which more informed minds corrected, with the Church’s acquiescence.

    Pick one.

    Also: “lastly, Noonan wrote his book on Usury with contraception in his mind — he said so himself. He sought to show that the Church has changed her position on one dogmatic issue, and therefore, she can change it on another. He wanted the Church to change her position against contraception, and he later wrote a book on that.” This is completely irrelevant. Noonan was making Natural Law arguments in both cases. If you think they fail, argue against them on their merits. The thinker’s intention has no bearing on the validity or invalidity of logical propositions.

    • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

      John,

      Good to hear from you.

      Just because someone can use reason to come to a conclusion of divine revelation does not mean that it no longer can be dogmatically defined.

      The teaching against usury is both in scripture and also can be reached through mathematics. Please read my responses to others here for some details. Much more can be found in my article in Culture Wars Magazine written 6 months ago, but it should be published in December.

      As far as Noonan is concerned, I do argue against his arguments on the merits. Please read my article for a comprehensive explanation of the subject of usury.

      And, as far as the Church being woefully negligent — just look at the state of the economies of the world today. There is obviously something very wrong. And, the root problem right now is usury. Without borrowing at compound interest, the governments of the western world would not be bankrupt! And the Church has been silent on this. So, sadly, she has been negligent. This wasn’t the first time in history that the majority of Church officials were in error. You know better than I do about the Arian crisis.

      • John Zmirak

        The past 200 years of unprecedented prosperity, which made it possible for the population of the Christian world to multiply many, many times over; which generated modern medicine; which produced the Green Revolution, putting an end to famines in the Hindu world; which gave the West such military superiority that the Ottomans tried to secularize their empire to catch up… if the price of all that (in secular terms) is a banking crisis, I’ll take it. What is more, Tucker’s argument about the elimination of the gold standard seems a sufficient explanation of the collapse of the current system.

        If your argument is that prosperity doesn’t matter, that we should prefer to follow traditionalist readings of Church doctrine that the popes don’t even mention anymore, even if it means we revert to the condition of Russian peasants under the Tsar (who could, after all, pay, pray, and obey)….

        Well at least that’s consistent. How about this idea: The Church denies a “double truth” theory. She learns from secular science when it comes to real conclusions, such as those regarding the movement of the earth, the age of the earth, even the beginning of life (which better science than Aristotle’s taught us is at conception). So she learned from Classical economics that money-lending is NOT unproductive, but immensely useful in doing what money is supposed to do–allocate resources efficiently, for the enrichment of all. So she redefined “usury” just as she redefined “baptism.” The development on usury is no more shocking than the rise of NFP as an approved Catholic practice–which would have horrified Augustine. Of course, one COULD reject that too, but it’s hard to see how you thereby become anything more than the Russian Old Believers, who held that any change in doctrine or worship was a sign of the Antichrist.

        • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

          John,

          My argument is that prosperity would have occurred with or without usury.

          The fact is, usury has concentrated the wealth that all could now be enjoying. Instead, fewer people are enjoying the prosperity that has resulted from human ingenuity and technological advancement (not usury) than what would otherwise be the case without usury.

          The elimination of the gold standard occurred because all governments were bankrupted by compound interest on their debts. Usury was the cause of the elimination of the gold standard.

          Money lent is not productive. The borrower MAY be productive with it, but he also may use it producing products that people do not want and suffer a loss. To say that money is always productive in a modern society is to fail to recognize reality. You use a slight of hand when you use the term “money lendING”. That term mixes the productivity of the borrower with that of the money itself.

          I urge you to read my article on usury forthcoming in December in Culture Wars Magazine. It is too lengthy to repeat it all here. I would enjoy hearing your opinion on it after you have read it.

          Terms that have already been defined and then dogmatically declared as good or bad cannot be redefined. I would not put baptism or NFP in the class of redefinitions but doctrinal development. Those teachings are clarifications on the old, not reversing what was previously taught. On usury, the acceptance of compound interest (as opposed to fees) would be a reversal of past teaching not a development of it.

          Besides, we can use reason to reach the conclusion that all compound interest is usury. Read my article.

  • Chris Ferrara

    “So either the Church has been woefully, criminally remiss for 200 years in neglecting a point of Divine Revelation–whose violation is the very basis of the modern economy….

    “Or… the absolute ban on lending at interest is an intellectual mistake, a piece of imperfect Natural Law reasoning which more informed minds corrected, with the Church’s acquiescence.

    But there is a third alternative: the strict ban on lending at interest was premised on the lack of use value for currency. There was a time when a ducat, for example, had no more use value than a loaf of bread. Demanding two ducats in return for one loaned was no more just than demanding two loaves of bread in return for one given to a hungry neighbor. The principle of equivalence of exchange was violated in both cases.

    With the emergence of a use value for money, usury—the immoral charging for the *use* of a thing that has no *use* value—no longer obtained in many cases of advances of money. If I lend someone ten dollars today—a piece of paper with the number ten written on it—I am not being repaid in full if I receive in return another piece of paper with the number ten written on it two years from now.

    Again, the core of usury is overreaching, the violation of the principle of equality of exchange. Today, the charging of a premium on currency advanced no longer violates that principle per se over the term of a loan. It would, however, continue to violate that principle if the interest charged were excessive: e.g., 2% per day. The matter is now a question of degree, which is what the law considers all the time in other areas.

  • Chris

    There is a serious flaw in this whole line of reasoning. Basically it presents usury and the capitalist system as a fact and a success. It is wrong for Christians to charge interest on loans. Moslems get around it paying lending money say for a house loan but charging rent as well. (Which is interest plus the principle.) Also the loss of monetary value through inflation needs to be considered.
    Christianity has objections and problems with the economic systen we have. In many ways it produces a boom and crash cycle. It is built on selfishness.
    There are ample scriptural proofs to condemn usury. The greatest proof being custom.
    I would reason it wrong for a Christian to profit from lending to another Christian.

  • Joseph Girod

    First of all, I haven’t read the previous replies, so please excuse me if there are repetitions.

    It would be interesting to find a discussion on the many specific reasons alleged to lending with interest after the middle-ages (they are in latin)

    1 – Periculum sortis: this is the risk that the borrower will not be able to reimburse. Nowadays, this is covered by an insurance beyond the official interest rate: life and sometimes unemployment insurances, Without it, it would be possible in most cases, but not always, to get reimbursed by selling the borrowers belongings (what was bought with the money….)

    2 – Damnum emergens: this is the risk that the lender will need the money earlier than foreseen (that is, before the borrower has reimbursed). This too can be a serious issue; however the interests in themselves do not solve the problem.

    3 – Lucrum cessans: this is the inconvenient that the lender cannot invest the lent money in a business and getting profit from it, This point is the most questionable. First the lender is supposed to lend money he/she does not use at the moment. Second, the borrower does not necessarily make profit with the money (however the hen lays eggs, this is a specific examples, as she is a live being) Third the profit does not come only from the money, but from the work that is made with the capital goods that the moneys gets. If the money is lent to a business (this is what a share is), the Church allows to get benefit but in counterpart requires to bear the losses).

    Now comes an interesting point: since lending with interest has become a common practice, the money supply needs to increase constantly (notably when the central banks borrow to issue currency). The actual wealth of the country increase less fast (if at all), Consequently, the cost of living increases, so that to buy exactly the same good of service (except computers!) you will have to pay more and more money as time elapses. For this reason, it is sensible to ask to be reimbursed to the equivalent purchasing power.

    Note also that the banks lend part of the money deposited by the customers, so that, just with book keeping handling, the same money appears on two different accounts. This works until people want to withdraw all of their money: it is no more in the bank, this is what happened on black Thursday.

    • Michael PS

      Etienne Bauny, ((1564-1649) the celebrated Jesuit moral theologian, in his “Somme des péchés qui se commettent en tous états” [Summary of sins committed in all walks of life] (Paris, 1634) having declared usurers “infamous in life and unworthy of Christian burial in death,” offers the following advice: –

      “The person from whom the loan is asked must answer, then, in this manner: I have got no money to lend, I have got a little, however, to lay out for an honest and lawful profit. If you are anxious to have the sum you mention in order to make something of it by your industry, dividing the profit and loss between us, I may perhaps be able to accommodate you. But now I think of it, as it may be a matter of difficulty to agree about the profit, if you will secure me a certain portion of it, and give me so much for my principal, so that it incur no risk, we may come to terms much sooner, and you shall touch the cash immediately.”

      He concludes: “Such, in my opinion, is an excellent plan by which a great many people, who now provoke the just indignation of God by their usuries, extortions, and illicit bargains, might save themselves, in the way of making good, honest, and legitimate profits.”

      Small wonder that Père Bauny’s obituary describes him as “a skilful guide of souls, full of charity towards sinners, prudent in the management of affairs…”

      • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

        Michael,

        It is immoral to profit without taking risk. The example that Bauny sets out leaves open the possibility that the borrower suffers losses from a bad investment and yet still owes the borrower more and more at compounding rates. That is unjust.

        The lender may licitly lend in exchange for a portion of the profits or a portion of the revenues but not for a guaranteed return.

        • Michael PS

          But, in Bauny’s example, the investor first stipulates for a share of the profits and THEN commutes this for a fixed sum. It is a pre-estimate of the profit, discounted for an indemnity against loss of the principle (the latter being, in effect, a contract of insurance)

          It is like a modification of teind, where teind is commuted into a ground annual, a fixed sum of money. In any given year, either party may gain or lose by the commutation and so it is with the pre-estimate of profits,

          • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

            Michael,

            I would have to see the details of Bauny’s example. I am not clear on what you are trying to say. It sounds like the lender is not making a loan but an investment in exchange for a fixed percentage of the profits. That is always legitimate. The Church has never disputed that.

            • Michael PS

              In fact, you have three contracts (1) a partnership in which the investor provides capital (2) a credit default swap, in which the other party indemnifies the investor against the loss of his capital, in effect, an insurance contract, the premium being a reduced share of the profits (3) a compromise, in which the the investor exchanges the variable returns of the partnership for a guaranteed fixed return, say, 5% of the principle, which, in any given accounting period, may be more or less than the actual profits; again, a form of insurance.

              Indeed, this arrangement was often called the “triple contract,” its practical result being identical to a loan at 5%, whilst avoiding the sin of usury

  • Ted K

    Economics may offer some knowledge (scientia) about the world, but does it predict anything with reasonable accuracy or certainty? The hallmark of a modern science is its ability to predict with precision, such as the empirical sciences. Neither psychology or the social sciences can do that, and modern economics seems to be in that position too. Is economics, then, really a science?

  • Michael B Rooke

    Any article on usury should include the etymology of the word and given the dual meanings of the word throughout European history ie interest and excessive interest what should be explored is who meant what and when. References to Hebrew, Greek and Roman use would also seem to be appropriate.

    In older translations of the Bible, KJV and Douai-Rheims the word usury is used in
    Mt 25:27 “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.”
    Lk 19:22-23 “…Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow. Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?”

    In modern translations the word “interest” is used. From the context it is clear that the servant who ought to have invested the money with the bank had a passive action and would take what the bankers offered hence usury used in that context meant what we now call interest. The Latin Vulgate uses the word usura which translates as use or enjoy.

    St Thomas Aquinas was writing about double charging and hence not simple interest.

    There may be a connection there with problems that arose Biblical times as identified in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopaedia (JE) which arose when someone borrowed a quantity of grain but when they came to pay back the grain the market price for wheat had altered.

    It also makes the point that Medieval mistranslation of the Latin Vulgate changed the meaning of Luke 6:35 ( Douai-Rhiems)
    “and lend, hoping for nothing thereby:” “et mutuum date, nihil inde sperantes :”

    should have translated “Mutuum date, nihil inde sperantes,” as “lend, never despairing”

    The JE also quotes historical cases of high rates of interest that we might regard as usury in the modern sense but approved by secular rulers.

    “Very high interest was permitted the Jews in France under Philip Augustus, two deniers on the pound per week, or 43.3 per cent per annum, and King John in 1360 allowed this even to be doubled. In Sicily Frederick II. allowed 10 per cent in 1231. In Castile Alfonso X. allowed 25 per cent, while in Aragon the Cortes of Tarragona put 20 per cent as the maximum, and this was reduced to 12 per cent in the year 1231. In Navarre Philip III. established 20 per cent (“5 for 6″) in 1330, while in Portugal Alfonso IV. (1350) fixed the maximum at 33⅓ per cent.”

    http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14615-usury

    Throughout history the Catholic Church has endorsed interest as spoken of by Jesus but has condemned excessive charges that we now call usury.

  • Rick DeLano

    Thanks for the two articles. Suffice it to say that the one at the top of this page ignores infallible magisterial teaching condemning the taking of any interest whatever on a loan (Vix Pervenit). The argument that this is a local encyclical is irrelevant, since the Holy Office subsequently affirmed that it constituted a teaching applicable to the whole Church, precisely *because* it represented teaching of the infallible ordinary magisterium. The fallacy of the above article consists in its implication that such authoritative magisterial teaching can be reversed by (a) theologians (b) articles in the Catholic Encyclopedia (c) articles of canon law or (d) a prudential cessation of enforcement. For this reason, the above article is an extended apologia for dissent from the infallible magisterium of the Catholic Churvch, *on precisely the same grounds the advocates of female ordination dissent from “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”*.

    • Bill Bannon

      Rick
      Infallibility has to have an infallible source. The case you give of Vix Pervenit being affirmed by the Holy Office is two non infallible venues…one affirming the other. Here is Ott from the Intro to his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:


             “With regard to the doctrinal teaching of the Church it must be well noted that not all the assertions of the Teaching Authority of the Church on questions of Faith and morals are infallible and consequently irrevocable. Only those are infallible which emanate from General Councils representing the whole episcopate, and the Papal Decisions Ex Cathedra (cf. D 1839). The ordinary and usual form of the Papal teaching activity is not infallible. Further, the decisions of the Roman Congregations (Holy Office, Bible Commission) are not infallible.”

  • Chris Ferrara

    “The past 200 years of unprecedented prosperity, which made it possible for the population of the Christian world to multiply many, many times over; which generated modern medicine; which produced the Green Revolution, putting an end to famines in the Hindu world; which gave the West such military superiority that the Ottomans tried to secularize their empire to catch up… if the price of all that (in secular terms) is a banking crisis, I’ll take it. What is more, Tucker’s argument about the elimination of the gold standard seems a sufficient explanation of the collapse of the current system.”

    I do not see an argument against usury here. Praise for the market does not answer the immorality of one man exploiting another in a given transaction. Once again, the core of the usury doctrine is overreaching in violation of the principle of equivalence of exchange.

    “So she learned from Classical economics that money-lending is NOT unproductive, but immensely useful in doing what money is supposed to do–allocate resources efficiently, for the enrichment of all.”

    The Church did not “learn from classical economics” that money-lending is not unproductive. The Church merely recognized the changing reality according to which what was once usury—the charging of interest on coins or other currency that were not productive—ceased to be usury when the coins or currency acquired productivity in emerging financial markets and banking systems.

    Why insist that the Church has been corrected by Austrian economists when the truth is that the facts have changed, not the principle of morality?

    Finally, that a teaching is no longer mentioned does not repeal the teaching.

  • Rick DeLano

    Bill: What has been believed always and everywhere is infallible by virtue of the ordinary magisterium. Such a case in modern times is found in “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”, an encyclical which explicitly refers to the ordinary magisterium as the source of its authority. Just as in the case of “Vix Pervenit”, a subsequent affirmation of the Holy Office (now CDF) confirms that the teaching is infallible, not by virtue of definition, but by virtue of its unanimous witness through the constant teaching of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes, and Councils of the Church.

    The teaching therefore remains binding, has never been reversed, and cannot be overturned by anything short of an extraordinary definition.

    The crucial point at issue, of course, consists in the present, unfolding catastrophe of the global, usry-based financial system0- precisely *because* of the rejection of the Church’s ancient, apostolic, and unanimous condemnation of the taking of interest on loans.

    We shall all, presently, have plenty of time to reflect on the folly of exchanging the Truth of Faith for the best thinking of men on the question of the sin of usury.

  • Bill Bannon

    Rick
    You contradict yourself when you say it “cannot be overturned by anything short of an extraordinary definition”. Ergo you’ve got in your paradigm of dogmatics, an infallible universal ordinary magisterium position which nevertheless can be overthrown by an extraordinary definition. That is logically impossible.
    If it’s really infallible, there will be no overturning possible.

    The real problem is that the universal ordinary magisterium….is in the eye of the beholder once there is dispute. That is why ex cathedra settles the disputed. And canon law seems to admit this battleground nature of the universal ordinary magisterium and what is in it and what is not in 749-3:

    §3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.

  • Bill Bannon

    ps
    Usury is surely condemned but what is it:

    Calvin and some Fathers: charging interest to the poor or immoderate interest to the non poor.
    or
    Aquinas and Aristotle and Vix Pervenit and Fifth Lateran (non ecumenical thus non infallible): even the tiniest interest charged to anyone.

  • Rick DeLano

    Bill: An extraordinary definition can, of course, decisively overturn any even widely-held view within the Church (the Immaculate Conception, with which Aquinas himself struggled mightily, is an example).

    I did not mean to suggest that a definition will be forthcoming to overturn the condemnation of interest-taking. Such a thing were impossible, since heaven is elf will not allow the Church to reverse what is infallible under the ordinary magisterium (as the condemnation of interest taking- aka usury- certainly *is*.

    My point was intended to demonstrate that even were we to grant your interpretation- that the anathematization of interest taking was not the subject of a definition- it would still be binding under the ordinary magisterium, and in the absence of an exercise of the Extraordinary magisterium, will remain so forever.

    It is conceivable that an extraordinary definition might develop the teaching of Vix Pervenit.

    It can never reverse it.

    But speculations about definitions are actually irrelevant. The Catholic who is serious about forming their conscience in accordance with the actual, authoritative decisions of the heaven-protected magisterium, will find that the taking of interest on loans is condemned as sinful, and there has been no subsequent teaching amending or reversing that authoritative act of the ordinary magisterium.

    Again- the wisdom of the magisterium stands splendidly vindicated as global dollar liquidity freezes up before our eyes this very day- the best thinking of man has led us to a catastrophe.

  • Bill Bannon

    People buying homes without understanding the dangers of variable rate mortgages which can baloon after year one and obtaining those mortgages no doc…..no documented income…. was part of the problem. Wall Street bundling those loans with good loans into CDO’s which were then rated by S&P as triple A and sold to still other parties was a second part. Vix Pervenit and Aquinas’ tiniest interest at all had zero to do with that catastrophe. I was recruited into a mortgage brokerage at the time but quit in one month when I saw the dangers of the whole enchilada.

  • Rick DeLano

    ” Vix Pervenit and Aquinas’ tiniest interest at all had zero to do with that catastrophe.”

    Zero? Why, Bill, it was my understanding that the precise catastrophe consists in the inability of those paying usurers to service their usurer’s demands.

    It seems to me that a very significant part of the problem is that a 200,000 dollar mortgage requires the repayment of 400,000 or so. The other 200,000 dollars fictitious- they do not exist. They must be produced, somehow, and remanded to the usurers. That would constitute a significant diversion of wealth into the pockets of the usurers, I should think.

    Like any parasite, it were possible to justify the portion of blood required from the host, right up to the day that the parasite requires more blood than the host can supply.

    That day has come.

    • G.

      Indeed. There are big bucks in fees and penalties, especially where higher interest can make it harder to pay, whether through variable mortgage rates or credit account “default” rates.

      That setup calls instant money out of non-existence into an additional balance due. It also makes an incentive to sell debt to the vulnerable.

  • Bill Bannon

    Yes but Calvin forbade what went on there by forbidding immoderate interest without his contradicting Deut.23:20..”you may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest…”

    Every 20th century Priest, Bishop or Pope (usually diocesan and no vow of poverty) who took moderate interest on their bank accounts were actually following Calvin’s 1545 position. If you are paying on a house, you are paying interest.

    • Michael PS

      No, you are not.

      The home owner dispones his house in security to the lender in security of the loan, subject to a right of reversion on repayment. In the meantime the house is the lender’s property; the borrower has a mere right of redemption. The lender, as owner, can do what he likes with the property. What he usually chooses to do is let it and the person he lets it to is the borrower.

      That is why mortgages were never covered by the ban on usury.

  • Rick DeLano

    Every 20th century Priest, Bishop, or Pope who took moderate interest on their bank accounts were acting in direct violation of the teaching of the Church. That applies to every Catholic as well. There are likely to be subjective mitigating factors at work- after all, it is highly unusual for the Church to cease enforcing an anathematization formally enacted by an ecumenical council (btw Bill, it is an ecumenical council which has condemned usury):

    “If indeed someone has fallen into the error of presuming to affirm pertinaciously that the practice of usury is not sinful, we decree that he is to be punished as a heretic”– Council of Vienna, 1311, Decree #29

    • Bill Bannon

      Vienne didn’t define what it was condemning. That’s the whole problem. You can’t find the definition of usury in an infallible context. Go to the New Catholic Encyclopedia in your public library and look up usury…go to page 499 lower right:
      ” the Holy See now puts out its funds at interest and requires ecclesiastical administrators to do the same…”

      Seems the Pope thinks as I do. Outside the internet, I’ll bet if you asked one thousand non ideological Catholics “Is
      usury all interest or simply immoderate interest?”. They would say immoderate interest is usury and they would accord with the Papal practice. But this is the internet.

  • Rick DeLano

    PS: It is not sinful to pay usury, merely to exact it.

  • Rick DeLano

    “Vix Pervenit” defines what Vienna is condemning, Bill. The definition is infallible under the ordinary magisterium, in *precisely the same way* that “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis* is infallible under the ordinary magisterium: in both cases, the magisterium has taught that the encyclicals teach infallibly based on the ordinary magisterium.

    It is of course a widely-employed tactic of dissenters with this or that treating of the Church to confuse “infallible” with “defined by extraordinary means”.

    This is a distinction utterly irrelevant to the question at hand. The Church’s anathematization of usury is authoritative- it objectively binds the conscience of every Catholic as a matter of Faith.

    • Bill Bannon

      The definition in Vix Pervenit can be found in few instances of the papal magisterium…..that’s not universal. If that were universal, then the slavery permission of Romanus Pontifex 1455 would be universal since it was reaffirmed by three Popes in writing….. and it’s not…now slavery is condemned.

      • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

        Bill,

        The slavery that is condemned is not the same as the slavery that was affirmed. The affirmed slavery is akin to an employee. Or to a house servant. After all, what would you rather be: Bill Gates’ house slave, or a poor starving free person in Somalia?

        In this case — slavery — we do have a situation where the term “slavery” was not explicitly defined. Usury was. It is the compounding of interest over time.

        • Bill Bannon

          Anthony
          Section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth” calls all slavery an intrinic evil in an unqualified manner. Vatican II calls it a shame in an unqualified manner.
          Do I agree? No….because of Leviticus chapter 25.
          When there are primitive economies with no prisons, a type of slavery was affirmed by God…Leviticus’ period of developement.

  • Rick DeLano

    Bill, if you can provide us with the Ecumenical Council that taught slavery, and combine with it the papal encyclical which defined precisely what forms of slavery were to be affirmed as permissible under the infallible teaching of the ordinary magisterium, then you might have a point.

    You can’t.

    So you don’t.

    Now, of course it seems a bit of a stretch right off the bat, to argue about usury, by having recourse to slavery.

    But this would, again, be a tactic often employed by those who personally dissent on one point of doctrine or another.

    Look, Bill, nobody is going to excommunicate you for rejecting the Church’s teaching on usury. Nobody is enforcing it. Nobody has for a long time.

    But the Church’s teaching on usury is………exactly what it says.

    It is nothing other than what it says.

    Surely in your heart of hearts you know this.

    • Bill Bannon

      Rick
      It took me all night (actually five minutes).

      Third Lateran Council canon 24

      ” There are even some who for gain act as captains or pilots in galleys or Saracen pirate vessels. Therefore we declare that such persons should be cut off from the communion of the church and be excommunicated for their wickedness, that catholic princes and civil magistrates should confiscate their possessions, and that if they are captured they should become the SLAVES of their
      captors.”
      —————————————————————-
      Now that was an Ecumenical Council whereas so was Vatican II which condemned all slavery as did section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth”. That is why claims of infallibility are only crystal clear with ex cathedra. For all other claims, it sure seems uncertain….whether universal ordinary or is an Ecumenical Council really defining or is it not defining …and who knows for sure….or does it have all orthodox Bishops present….etc.etc.etc

  • Anthony Santelli, Ph.D.

    Rick,

    Thanks for joining the anti-usury side (or should I call it the Church’s side). There are but a few of us, but I think our numbers are growing. I wasn’t on this side 15 years ago. The reasoned arguments are very convincing. And the evidence about the magisterium having infallibly opposed it is also pretty clear.

    I think it is time that the Church revisits this and finally formally makes an ex-Cathedra statement on usury: what it is, and what it isn’t.

  • Rick DeLano

    Thank you kindly, Dr. Santelli. I am simply trying to form my conscience in accordance with the teaching that Jesus Christ has promised me is bound and loosed in heaven. It is very clear to me that all other approaches have failed.

  • Michael PS

    Canon 1543 of the 1917 Code provides a very clear definition of usury, completely in accord with the understanding of every civilian and every canonist that ever discussed the subject

    ““If a fungible thing is given to someone in such a way that it becomes his and later is to be returned only in the same kind, no gain can be received by reason of the contract itself; but in the payment of a fungible thing, it is not in itself illicit to contract for the gain allowed by law, unless it is clear that this is excessive, or even for a greater gain, if a just and adequate title be present”

    The only novel element is the affirmation that the civil law, the “lex principis,” as it used to be called, can constitute an extraneous title; something that had been left undecided in the 19th century cases, when, as Cardinal Gregorio said “The Sacred Penitentiary
    wished to define nothing at all about the question, debated by theologians, of the title derived
    from the law of the prince…” This doubt Canon 1543 resolved.

    Although no longer in force, its declaratory value is obvious enough

  • Rick DeLano

    Michael: Not only is it no longer in force, it had no power whatsoever to reverse, amend, or derogate magisterial teaching, which proceeds from the sources of Faith under the protection of God.

    It does serve as another piece in the remarkable puzzle of how the teachings of God’s sacred magisterium came to be, by various machinations, effectively set at nought by the best thinking of very intelligent men.

    May God have mercy on the prelates and clerics who managed to persuade themselves that the clear and unambiguous teaching of the magisterium against usury was to be effectively abandoned and substituted for by the laws of men; which laws explicitly rejected the teaching of God.

    The results are now unfolding before our eyes, in a global, systemic collapse of the usury-based financial system.

    Ideas have consequences.

    The consequences of the Church’s decision to cease enforcement of Her teaching anathematizing usury have turned out to profound indeed.

    It will all be even much more clear soon.

    • Michael PS

      It reaffirms the condemnation of usury, as clearly as words can do it: “no gain can be received by reason of the contract itself”

      What more do you want?

      • Michael PS

        Here is the original, with the words highlighted:
        “Si res fungibilis ita alicui detur ut eius fiat et postea tantundem in eodem genere restituatur, NIHIL LUCRI, RATIONE IPSIUS CONTRACTUS, PERCIPI POTEST; sed in praestatione rei fungibilis non est per se illicitum de lucro legali pacisci, nisi constet ipsum esse immoderatum, aut etiam de lucro maiore, si iustus ac proportionatus titulus suffragetur”

  • Michael B Rooke

    A comment on Vix Pervenit.

    The document is to be found on the academic and freelance site Papal Encyclicals Online and on the New Advent website. The documents on both web sites other than some formatting are shown to be the same using Document Compare.

    While it is not suggested that the translation is in anyway inaccurate it must be borne in mind it is not an official translation as would be the case if it were on the Vatican web site.

    It might might be questioned whether the document is in fact an encyclical or a Papal Bull or in modern terms a letter or message.

    Vix Pervenit is stated on the web site “Papal Encyclicals Online” to be an encyclical. On the New Advent web site is is listed as a Church document.

    The definition of an encyclical is considered in New Advent.

    The page in New Advent on “Encyclical” which is Nihil Obstat 1 May 1909 states

    “According to its etymology, an encyclical (from the Greek egkyklios, kyklos meaning a circle) is nothing more than a circular letter. In modern times, usage has confined the term almost exclusively to certain papal documents which differ in their technical form from the ordinary style of either Bulls or Briefs, and which in their superscription are explicitly addressed to the patriarchs, primates, archbishops, and bishops of the Universal Church in communion with the Apostolic See. By exception, encyclicals are also sometimes addressed to the archbishops and bishops of a particular country. Thus this name is given to the letter of Pius X (6 Jan., 1907) to the bishops of France, in spite of the fact that it was published, not in Latin, but in French; while, on the other hand, the letter “Longinqua Oceani” (5 Jan., 1895) addressed by Leo XIII to the archbishops and bishops of the United States, is not styled an encyclical, although in all other respects it exactly observes the forms of one. From this and a number of similar facts we may probably infer that the precise designation used is not intended to be of any great significance. From the nature of the case encyclicals addressed to the bishops of the world are generally concerned with matters which affect the welfare of the Church at large. They condemn some prevalent form of error, point out dangers which threaten faith or morals, exhort the faithful to constancy, or prescribe remedies for evils foreseen or already existent. In form an encyclical at the present day begins thus — we may take the encyclical “Pascendi” on Modernism as a specimen:”

    Vix Pervenit is addressed to “To the Venerable Brothers, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops and Ordinary Clergy of Italy.”.

    As the New Advent article on encyclicals elucidates, documents whose focus is regional can be classed as encyclicals as distinct from Papal Bulls if they have sufficient universal importance. Mit Brennender Sorge (1937) comes to mind as an important example of a regional document that has universal importance.

    Vix Pervenit opens “Hardly had the new controversy (namely, whether certain contracts should be held valid) come to our attention,…”
    The new controversy subject matter is not defined or explained. The Pope states he has widely consulted on the matter and in section 6 says

    “ Concerning the specific contract which caused these new controversies, We decide nothing for the present; We also shall not decide now about the other contracts in which the theologians and canonists lack agreement..”

    In section 7 usury is condemned but the word “invest” does not imply an interest free loan.

    “First of all, show your people with persuasive words that the sin and vice of usury is most emphatically condemned in the Sacred Scriptures; that it assumes various forms and appearances in order that the faithful, restored to liberty and grace by the blood of Christ, may again be driven headlong into ruin. Therefore, if they desire to invest their money, let them exercise diligent care lest they be snatched by cupidity, the source of all evil; to this end, let them be guided by those who excel in doctrine and the glory of virtue.”

    In the absence of qualifying additional text my suggestion would be that this is not an encyclical. It deals with a then topical social issue that is regional and because the fuller context is not explained to those outside of immediate audience it cannot be classed as an encyclical.

    From the text nor does it imply that usury is other than an interest free loan.

    • Michael PS

      The original text of Vix Pervenit can be found on the Domus Ecclesiae website, if you wish to verify the translation – Enter “Vix pervenit ad aures Nostras” in your search engine

      • Michael B Rooke

        Thank you for your comment.
        It is a case of which came first the Latin version or the Italian version as on the Papal Encyclicals Online. You may note that in section 5 the Italian version uses the singular Lettera Enciclica “encyclical letter” and not the plural “lettere”. The Latin and English versions on line use the plural “letters”. That being the case it might be thought that other documents were included or associated with Vix Pervenit.

        “ Therefore We address these encyclical letters to all Italian Archbishops, Bishops, and priests to make all of you aware of these matters.”

        Papal encyclicals down through the ages are clear documents. Vix Pervenit refers to a situation in C18th Italy that everyone then seems to understand what the issue was then but without further clarification it is unclear to what the reference is to to people outside of that era.

        Loans were not an invention of C18th Italy. There would seem to be a new commercial practice that was a divergence from the norm that is why it was written.

        We have only so many possibilities.

        1) That any interest is immoral which some posters here are suggesting. Jesus endorsed interest in

        Mt 25:
        27 Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
        http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_PVY.HTM#FF

        Interest is not usury.

        2)That compound interest is immoral and represents an aspect of usury. That is possibly the subject of which St Thomas wrote. Would that have been a novel situation in the C18th.?

        3) A situation happened where contracts were being altered for some reason possibly because of change in market conditions.

        4)Other

        It seems to me that Benedict XIV was writing a letter to an Italian audience in the event that some new commercial interpretation was happening in the market place that the Church regarded as usury.
        Guidance is required from Church historians who have access to all relevant documents of the period.

  • Rick DeLano

    It is endlessly fascinating to me to note how similar are the arguments of the modernists who wish to ignore “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”, to the arguments of those searching for some way to get around the even more clear and unambiguous anathematization of interest-taking.

    Both begin by questioning the level of authority attached to the clear papal teaching: the modernist quibbles over whether “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” is “infallible”; those uncomfortable with the anathematization’s against usury quibble with whether “Vix Pervenit” is an encyclical or a bull.

    Both ignore (a) the subsequent dubium submitted to the Holy Office- in 1836 the Holy Office affirmed that the teaching of “Vix Pervenit” applied to the whole Church, and (b) the instruction of CDF similarly affirming that “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” likewise was binding the whole Church.

    The Church has tried to distinguish between the infallibility exercised by extraordinary means such as a papal definition or solemn definition of a Council, and the infallibility proper to the ordinary magisterium by virtue of a given doctrine having been believed always and everywhere.

    The simple truth is that the Church has authoritatively taught, employing her heaven-protected power to bind and loose, that (a) all int4rest on a loan is sinful, and (b) the ordination to the priesthood is reserved to men.

    • Bill Bannon

      Rick
      The Church is at fault for not having a system of dogmatics that is beyond question. Above I show you Third Lateran giving slavery as a reward in canon 24 and Vatican II calling all slavery in an unqualified manner “shameful”. Pardon the world outside your private Idaho for finding such contradictions… contradictory… within two Ecumenical Councils. No one questions ex cathedra. Do you see any debates on the Catholic internet about the Immaculate Conception? No…because ex cathedra is not the mess that pervades the other venues of dogma. Solution: have a Pope appoint a team of dogmatic theologians to prepare all hot button issues in ex cathedra form….and then the Popes reviews them and signs them.
      Debate over. As long as this is not done, this usury debate will be on the internet in the year 2089 and once again no dogmatic theologian will be present.
      The Church needs to clarify such issues as She did with the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception…..neither of which are debated by anyone on the Catholic net.

  • Rick DeLano

    Bill: The confusion you report is self-inflicted. Canon 24 of the Lateran Council imposes a punishment upon collaborators with the enemy in time of war. The term “slavery” as used in that canon refers to the same deprivation of freedom which would be (is!) imposed on collaborators with the enemy in time of war today.

    The second aspect of your confusion consists in misapplying the refuted “contradiction” above, to a matter entirely unrelated to it.

    In the case of usury, we have a clear and unambiguous anathematization by an ecumenical Council (Council of Vienna #29), subsequently clarified by an authoritative act of the papal magisterium (Vix Pervenit), subsequently affirmed to bind the whole Church (Holy Office response to dubium of 1836).

    So the teaching is as clear as can be.

    That being said, you have a point concerning the confusion engendered by the manifest cessation of enforcement in practice by the Church.

    This highly anomalous (and hugely regrettable) prudential decision certainly creates conditions under which dissent will flourish ( you are a perfect example).

    The flourishing of such dissent has led to the creation of a globe-engirdling, usury-based, scam called “the global financial system”, which is now in its death throes and which will most likely bring about the miserable deaths of hundreds of millions if not billions of human beings in the coming decades.

    So, we do agree on one point: the Church has allowed conditions to arise which demand of Her a fearless and thorough exercise of the magisterium in defense of the anathematization of usury.

  • Bill Bannon

    If the teaching were clear, they’d be no one here.

    You like the chaos and the debating and you can’t get that on the IC because the Church clarified it perfectly as She should do on all hot button issues.

    Your note on slavery was delusional. Slavery in Lateran III’s canon 24 is clearly not merely freedom depriving incarceration which would cost the captor money. The slavery of canon 24 was an incentive to potential captors
    ergo it was chattel labor which alone of any incarcerations
    is an incentive to capturing dangerous men.
    I stopped reading your post at the bs on slavery…it was so flip. You like the chaos because it produces debate
    when probably in all our homes, there is something else we
    all should be doing than spending hours on this while Pope Benedict (no vow of poverty) collects interest on his money as do all religious orders….tiny though that interest is in 2011.

  • Don S.

    In the Middle Ages they allowed for fees to re-coop the money you lost by loaning it–3 to 4% above inflation. Even in this “Protestant” country usury was illegal until recently, and when the laws against usury were removed our economy went into a tailspin.

  • Rick DeLano

    LOL! Bill, the condition of slavery described in Lateran #24 is *precisely* the same condition imposed today upon collaborators with the enemy in time of war- it has nothing whatever to do with “freedom depriving incarceration which would cost the captor money”. Of course it cost the captor money. Just as it costs the captor money today.

    Don S: The practice you allege was condemned and anathematized by the Catholic Church, see “Vix Pervenit” for details. You are absolutely right that the practice of usury will, lawfully and predictably, destroy every economy in which it is introduced. The only variable is the timeline, which has been adroitly extended through recourse to elaborate extensions on the basic scam of usury, including fiat currency created out of thin air and lent at usury, derivatives created out of thin air and denominated in fiat currencies created out of thin air, and associated refinements of the basic form of theft condemned by the Church as “usury”.

  • Bill Bannon

    Gee Rick….then the Pope had no word for “prisoner” and was forced to use “slave”.

    A war prisoner now sits in a cell as in Quantanamo. They soak up money via food and guards’ pay and bathroom facilities.

    Lateran III was trying to motivate princes etc. to capture those helping Saracens by promising slavery which does not soak up money but produces a profit….you don’t motivate by promising a cost producing status….you motivate in the 12th century by promising slavery:

    “… and that if they are captured they should become the
    SLAVES of their captors.”

    In canon 27 which is also brand new to you this Friday, the same promise is made against anti-Christian groups within Italy:

    ” Their goods are to be confiscated and princes free to subject them to slavery.”

    • Bill Bannon

      ps. war prisoners are paid now if they work…per Geneva Convention 3 art.62

      Art 62. Prisoners of war shall be paid a fair working rate of pay by the detaining authorities direct. The rate shall be fixed by the said authorities, but shall at no time be less than one-fourth of one Swiss franc for a full working day.

      Looks like Lateran III slaves were not precisely modern war prisoners when the latter do work. Officers when captured only have to do supervisory work now.

  • Rick DeLano

    Bill: when a prisoner is remanded to the custody of the DState for a crime, that prisoner is deprived of the rights free persons enjoy, and that condition is indistinguishable from the condition of slavery.

    Whether this or that historical period includes such ameliorations as three squares instead of bread and water, or pay (I assume even you would not be so hysterically committed to your, logical fallacy as to allege that the Al Qaeda detainees are being paid at Guantanamo), the principle remains: collaborators with the enemy during time of war are legitimately remanded to the State authority for punishment consistent with the laws of the State.

    While you can make a limited amount of hay by (intentionally?) ignoring the historical circumstances under which the term “slavery” has variously been employed, your example fails utterly in the face of the specific limitation of the Lateran Council’s teaching it is strictly limited to application in time of war, to collaborators with the enemy, and hence constitutes a disciplinary, not a dogmatic, teaching.

    As is often the case with dissenters from this or that point of doctrine, you first misrepresent the teaching, and then proceed to the logical fallacy of applying it to an entirely unrelated matter.

    This, again, is a tactic which is flourishing in the Church today, given the prudential decision of the magisterium to cease enforcing Her own teachings.

    Therefore, I admit that you are entirely free to pursue your false argument to whatever conclusions you intend it to serve. Your bishop will not intervene, and certainly I possess no power over you in any way whatever.

    I simply remind you, in charity, that you are wrong, it is possible to identify where you have gone wrong, and I invite you to consider the possibility that it were best to submit the entirety of your conscience to an authentic fidelity to the heaven-protected magisterium of the Catholic Church.

    All the best to you.

  • Bill Bannon

    Rick..now in your first sentence, you’re contradicting the Geneva convention that you just read which says pow’s retain the right to a wage….which is very distinguishable from slavery.
    Neither Augustine nor Aquinas nor the decretals (old canon law lasting til 1917) nor Lateran 3 or 4 condemned chattel slavery probably inter alia because Leviticus 25:44-45 has God giving it to Jews over foreigners:

    44
    “Slaves, male and female, you may indeed possess, provided you buy them from among the neighboring nations. 45 You may also buy them from among the aliens who reside with you and from their children who are born and reared in your land. Such slaves you may own as chattels,

    Now a Pope in a major encyclical has called slavery an intrinsic evil which mens it could not have been good even at the time of Leviticus. So God erred according to Vat.II and “Splendor of the Truth” by John Paul II.

    That my good man is why all hot button issues should go through the ex cathedra process or it’s speedier twin used in Evangelium Vitae in section 62 against abortion by the Pope polling all Bishops by email etc. and getting unanimity on that and euthanasia and killing the innocent.
    Clearly manifest infallibility in those three moral issues as per canon 749-3.
    This issue of parsing the dogmatics of usury has you sans any degree in dogmatics….more pure than every Pope and religious order since 1830. Good luck with that but that feeling you have nowhere passes muster with canon 749-3.

  • Bill Bannon

    ps….the Magisterium you invited me towards is currently collecting interest on bonds in their 1 billion dollar estimated monetary investments….which however are slipping with Italian stocks and bonds.

  • Rick DeLano

    Bill: Remanding of convicted enemy collaborators in time of war, to be punished in accordance with the laws of the State, is nowhere condemned in any Catholic magisterial teaching. Slavery as employed in the Lateran Council teaching is *indistinguishable* from the condition presently imposed upon the detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba by our government, and no, Bill, they are not receiving pay per the Geneva Convention.

    Therefore you persist in misapplying the Lateran Council decree- disciplinary in nature- to the case of usury- dogmatic in nature.

    This is clearly a willful decision on your part, but since it is manifestly false, this must be pointed out in charity.

    No practice, no precept of canon law, has the slightest authority to overturn, or amend, an authoritative exercise of the heaven-protected magisterium, and it is a very relevant aspect of each and every argument against the usury condemnation of the Church (most especially including yours), that *all of them* depend upon hornswoggling the unsuspecting into accepting a prudential practice, or a Catjolic Encyclopedia entry, or a Canon Law prescript, as if these had the slightest power to overturn or amend the magisterium of the Church.

    They do not.

    Your argument is therefore shown to be false in its initial premises.

  • Bill Bannon

    The heaven protected magisterium that since 1830 allows moderate interest and takes it…like Deut.23:20? Where did heaven go?

    • Bill Bannon

      Deut.23:21 that is:
      “You may demand interest from a foreigner…”

      similar to Calvin’s moderate interest to affluent
      similar to the 1830′s and after Vatican permissions of moderate interest.

      • John Zmirak

        I find this point very interesting. If Jews could demand interest from ANYONE, then it doesn’t violate the Natural Law. It isn’t intrinsically evil. Period. God never gave permission for intrinsic evils, even to His chosen people during emergencies.

        So, charging interest is not unjust, but MAY be uncharitable if practiced against fellow Christians.

        I don’t grant this point, but even if I did, it would have zero application to politics. It would be a violation of religious liberty for us to impose a positive command of charity on non-believers using the coercive power of the State. We have no right to stop Protestants from eating meat on Fridays in Lent, or to force Muslims to eat pork. So we have no right to impose canonical, intra-Catholic restrictions on our fellow citizens.

        Only the Natural Law may be enforced by the State without injustice to non-believers, and if God explicitly permitted Jews to charge interest to ANYONE, it can’t be intrinsically evil or contrary to Natural law in itself.

        We might say that EXCESSIVE interest is unjust, and regulate interest rates and contracts to promote greater justice. But we have no more right to demand Charity at gunpoint (e.g, through the State) than we do to impose Faith or Hope.

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