Church’s Position on “Usury”

The Church’s stance against “usury” changed because of a change in social context and a recognition that such a thing as a ‘secular community’ exists.    Simply put, the Church opposed usury for the same reason that ancient Judaism forbade usury when lending money to fellow Jews.   A Jew was, however, perfectly free to charge interest to a Gentile who was indebted to him.   But, he was forbidden to treat a fellow Jew this way, so as to promote a spirit of charitywithin the tribe, and not to create any resentment between fellow Jews.   And the early Christian Church naturally maintained this Jewish sensibility (part of its own Jewish heritage), and so forbade usury between Christians.   And, since the New Christian Covenant was recognized to follow a higher degree of righteousness than mere Judaism, it not only refrained from charging interest to fellow Christians, but also even to non-Christians –the idea being that all mankind is potentially part of the New Covenant.   And, indeed, when the Roman Empire became officially Christian, you suddenly had an actual civilization which presumed that every member of the society was part of the New Covenant, and so to be treated with deference as a fellow Christian.   This was the cultural situation in which the Church formally condemned usury during the Middle Ages –a time when only Jewish (or Muslim) bankers were free to (openly) charge interest on debts …although certain Christian bankers (e.g. the Knights Templar) got away with it too, by calling it a “donation” rather than “interest” on a loan.   🙂

Yet, starting with the Renaissance, which saw the rise of the great Christian banking families (like the Medici), the Church began to realize that there is a distinction between Christian (religious) society (i.e., inter-personal society) and secular society.   Charging interest as a matter of pure business (within a secular society –aka, the “business world”) is not the same thing as usury  …or charging interest to someone with whom you have a covenant bond.   Ergo, charging interest in “the business world” is not a violation of inter-personal charity, as would be the case with your own brother (whether by blood or in Christ) or with someone else who you supposedly love and are obligated (by covenant) to help without selfish profit.   To do such a thing (i.e., to charge me interest if I ask you to loan me $20 until the end of the month) WOULD (arguably) be the sin of usury.  …Because you would be taking advantage of me (your friend and brother in Christ), rather than helping me out of sincere charity and love, as our relationship should require you to do.   See the difference?

So, the development of capitalism and modern finance (a shift in societal context) is what forced the Church to change it’s position.   But, truth be told, the Church’s position hasn’t really changed (as I just illustrated in my example above).   It has merely re-applied its concern to the appropriate and pertinent context, which is inter-personal relationships, rather than the operations of the business world.

Mark  Bonocore

2 thoughts on “Church’s Position on “Usury”

  1. Usury is fraud. Theft. A crime against charity. Any interest or form of increase beyond what is lent on anything that can be given a money value is against Divine Law, a mortal sin, period. But it passes in this evil age seemingly unnoticed. Criminal banks are considered “respectable” institutions by Catholics.

    No interest at all you say? You must be mad.

    Corporate, secular, anywhere, anytime and at any age, it is still theft. St. Thomas charged usurers with fraud and theft because “usury was to sell something that doesn’t exist.” In Hebrew usury was called “neshech” (to bite, same word for snake). In Ezek. chap 18 God says not once, but three times over, no interest, no increase, to be a just man in His eyes.

    A little bit of usury is ok, like a little bit of fornication is ok. We can find any loopholes in this synagogue of satan. Let’s dialogue with the Pharisees.

    Those who try to justify and hide their usury in various ways, and there has been a multitude of weak justifications since the Renaissance, are treading on extremely dangerous ground interpreting God’s “no” to usury or increase. No increase means no increase, none, zip, but we still don’t seem to get it. We must be getting more and more stupid and hardened as the generations pass.

    St. Thomas also pointed out that the Israelites of old were only “allowed” to use usury on God’s enemies at one point in time because of their (Israelites) hard-heartedness, to keep them from using it on one another.

    God’s commandments are clear, it’s man who is degenerating and refuses to obey. Through usury, 1% of the population of the world now possesses almost the same collective wealth of the other 99%. Until the Bishops of Roman Catholic Church again teach the truth against usury as they had always done fearlessly before the Renaissance for 1500 years, the world will groan with debt and grievously burden and scourge the poor, and Christ also who is there with them.

    And still we say nothing.

    What good is giving charity to the poor, and not condemning the usury which made them so?

    The world debt, all countries combined, is currently over 52 trillion dollars. And that’s with their so-called “moderate” interest rates. Secular usury is just fine though, right?

    As a recently converted Roman Catholic this whole issue makes me literally sick.

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