Is finance a mortal sin ?

Dear Frank

Following your message.

Hello Francois.  Would you be so kind as to view this and share your insights with us?  There is something here.

FM


My comments:

Bad translations from Rome.

Example in the recent papal encyclical Caritas in Veritate…


Pawnbroking is not monte di pietà…

Can we translate the concept hospital by bordel  or brothel or whorehouse?

65. … Furthermore, the experience of micro-finance, which has its roots in the thinking and activity of the civil humanists — I am thinking especially of the birth of pawnbroking — should be strengthened and fine-tuned. This is all the more necessary in these days when financial difficulties can become severe for many of the more vulnerable sectors of the population, who should be protected from the risk of usury and from despair. The weakest members of society should be helped to defend themselves against usury, just as poor peoples should be helped to derive real benefit from micro-credit, in order to discourage the exploitation that is possible in these two areas. Since rich countries are also experiencing new forms of poverty, micro-finance can give practical assistance by launching new initiatives and opening up new sectors for the benefit of the weaker elements in society, even at a time of general economic downturn.

Real translation and its importance: 

A mount of piety is an institutional pawnbroker run as a charity in Europe from the later Middle Ages times to the 20th century, more often referred to in English by the relevant local term, such as monte di pietà (Italian), mont de piété (French), or monte de piedad (Spanish).

Micro-finance is maxi interests… from 30 % to nearly  1’000 % (sic)

In Switzerland,  e.g. the cantons of Bern and Zürich enacted elaborate laws for the regulation of the business. In Zürich the broker must be licensed by the cantonal government, and the permit can be refused only when the applicant is known to be a person underserving of confidence. Regular books have to be kept, which must be at all times open to the inspection of the police, and not more than 1% interest per month may be charged, just to cover the costs and not for profits, as asked by the Church, i.e. permitted by Medici Pope Leo X’s usury-for-a-good-cause: the Monte di pieta, so-called “charity banks” operated in the Renaissance in the name of the poor, with no profits. A loan runs for six months, and unredeemed pledges may be sold by auction a month after the expiration of the fixed period, and then the sale must take place in the parish in which the article was pledged. No more than two persons at a time have ever been licensed under this law, the business being unprofitable owing to the low rate of interest. In the canton of Bern there were once two pawnbrokers. One died and the other put up his shutters. The Zürich cantonal bank, however, conducts a pawnbroking department, which lends nothing under 4s. or over £40 without the special sanction of the bank commission. Loans must not exceed two-thirds of the trade value of the pledge, but 80% may be lent upon the intrinsic value of gold and silver articles. The swiss establishments make practically no profit.


Fribourg in Switzerland and Rerum Novarum, 


3…The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men….

Hunger in the world, population growth, wars, bad distribution of wealth, and the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor, call for a neutral and objective reflexion. We admit that there will always be disparities, but the present situation calls for urgent solutions, and most of the problems are yet to receive any beginning of efficient realization, except for a few rare exceptions.
After years spent studying the recent demographic phenomena, and because of their relationship with the present banking crisis, I can affirm that the following facts are of the utmost importance, their seriousness having been anticipated by only a few civilizations in the past. The non-respect of natural laws inscribed in nature will cost a high price, and the more we wait, the higher the bill will be for us, our children, and our grandchildren.
The main facts
The present demographic crisis in Europe is the most serious in history. One of the worst situations is that of Italy, with an average fertility rate of 1.2 children per woman, even 0.8 in Northern Italy. Soon Spain will beat Italy in this demographic pit. In the near future, Europe will have to consecrate more than half of its Gross National Product to the elderly. The European States will be ruined because of the lack of young people. The European economy is already declining. In an absurd reaction against this, some voices are raised in the mass media to promote the active euthanasia of the elderly and disabled. (Laws along this line have already been voted in in Zurich and the Netherlands.)
Most of the Western Nations can no longer manage to pay the interest on their debts nor control them, to the detriment of primary tasks. For example, Italy is socially bankrupt because of its taxes. There is widespread corruption, a decline of the GNP, the failure of the school system, young people on drugs, and the ever-increasing cost of health care (more than 50 billion Swiss francs in Switzerland alone): all of these facts carry a heavier burden on society. National pensions plans are going bankrupt.
The productivity due to robots and computers could save us, but it will have to be redistributed in a just way.

The role of credit and its demographic consequences
Today’s economy is based on loans. The public does not know that banks take huge liberties with the loans they make. If, for example, there are 100 dollars in deposits, the U.S. banking system lends a hundred times this 100 dollars, which makes $10,000, or a creation of $9,900 out of nothing. This creation of money is possible thanks to the trust in the banks and the law of large numbers, which says that it is never all of the depositors who will withdraw their savings at the same time. The globalization of the world economy aggravates this situation of the “miraculous” creation of money by the banks, which creates skyrocketting debts.
Since human nature has its limits, many people have begun to realize the limit of this system of the creation of money out of thin air, and its human cost, especially regarding unborn babies. There is a shortage of babies in every western nation, and the present crisis is due to this shortage. If all the depositors in the world wanted to withdraw their savings all at once, there would be a huge financial crisis. This is going to happen in developed nations because of the ageing of the population. We should be smart enough to prevent this fall, and prepare alternative solutions, by favoring families.
The role of interest rates
Through sudden raises of the interest rates and money creation, banks become gradually the owners of the real wealth of the nations, since all the fictitious money they lend has to return to them, plus the interest.
Families or small businesses borrow when the interest rates are low, and most often, are forced to pay back these loans when the rates are high. The consequence is the absence of children and the collapse of the economy.
In some nations, the real rate of interest is 7% per month, which amounts to 125% per year (shylocking), whereas the inflation rate is 9%. These rates are usurious, and are the plain representation of greed. And there are even worse systems.
The interest plays an even more pernicious role, when money is lent to developing nations. In this case, these loans are granted with advantageous rates, provided the creditor nations apply birth control policies (like China’s one child policy, which brings about forced abortions and the massacres of girls). This is the beginning of a vicious circle, with debts causing the sacrifice of human persons to the modern Moloch. Human rights and freedoms are crushed by the economic system.
Taxes and the social budget
Nations have borrowed from private banks huge sums of money which, for the most part, is scriptural money created out of nothing. This money is based on the wealth of the whole nation. This creation of money out of thin air is legalized, but immoral, just like abortion which, even legalized, remains a crime in the sight of God. These huge sums of borrowed money bring about ever-increasing debt payments, which take an increasing part of government budgets, leaving less money for health, education and other services, creating unemployment, cuts, stress, quarrels, divorces, downsizing, restructuration plans, etc.
The solution is obvious: the State must create its own money, interest free. Savage capitalism eats up its own children, but so slowly that some people actually get used to it.
Interest and usury condemned
Cardinal Ratzinger recently said that there are over 40 million (declared) abortions per year in the world. This means that if one counts the abortions through coils and abortive pills (undeclared), for the last ten years, there have been one billion human beings killed, not to mention those who were not conceived because of the prevailing contraception mentality. This slaughter is the worst of history. What are the causes?
In the Old Testament, God and the Church have always condemned any interest on the loan of money as usury, and not just high rates of interest, especially through the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. (See also Josue 3:15 and 4:18, Chronicles 12:15, Isaias 8:7 and 24:2, Daniel 8:16, Exodus 22;25, Nehemias 5:5, Leviticus 25:36, Psalms 15:5, Jeremias 15:10, Ezechiel 18:8, Proverbs, and in the New Testament, Matthew 25:27 and Luke 19:23.) In the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”), which Christians recite every day, the Latin version uses the words “debita nostra” (reported in Matthew 6:12: “forgive us our debts”), which has also to be understood in the literal sense, as taught by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
There is no difference between interest and usury, for it is the very principle of charging interest on time that is pernicious. Besides, it is obvious that the higher the interest, the more harmful it is. The condemnations of greed by Pope Pius II are very harsh: “heretical theories that are appaling and abominable.”
The penalty for this type of crime is the same as for all those who take part in an abortion: excommunication. Popes Paul II, Sixtus IV, Innocent VIII, Alexander VI, Julius II, and Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum also strongly condemned interest. ( an other form of voracious usury…)

The encyclical Vix Pervenit
On November 1, 1745, Pope Benedict XIV issued the encyclical letter Vix Pervenit, addressed to the Bishops of Italy, about contracts, and in which usury, or money-lending at interest, is clearly condemned. On July 29, 1836, Pope Gregory XVI extended this encyclical to the whole Church. It says:
“The kind of sin called usury, which lies in the loan, consists in the fact that someone, using as an excuse the loan itself — which by nature requires one to give back only as much as one has received — demands to receive more than is due to him, and consequently maintains that, besides the capital, a profit is due to him, because of the loan itself. It is for this reason that any profit of this kind that exceeds the capital is illicit and usurious.
“And in order not to bring upon oneself this infamous note, it would be useless to say that this profit is not excessive but moderate; that it is not large, but small… For the object of the law of lending is necessarily the equality between what is lent and what is given back… Consequently, if someone receives more than he lent, he is bound in commutative justice to restitution…”
The interest in one of the factors that triggers inflation, and not the opposite. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor reminds us that there are intrinsic evils and absolute sins. To ignore them may suppress personal sin (according to St. Thomas Aquinas, the borrower commits no sin), but society pays for this misdeed, even at the cost of its own disappearance, and those who favor the ignorance of the sin of usury are responsible for endangering the survival of the population.
What comforts us, however, is that this condemnation of usury is repeated in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, at the end of the comments on the Seventh Commandment.
Impossible contracts are null
It is impossible to pay back interest-bearing loans, either they are compound or not. Take the following example: Croesus borrows a principal of 100 at the birth of Christ. If one applies an interest rate of 10%, the sum to be paid back in the year 2000 is (100 x 1,12000), or six times ten to the power of eighty-four, or a number with 84 zeros, which simply blows the mind… It would represent 10 to the power of 68 houses for every person on earth. It is obvious that it is impossible to respect such a contract.
A French mathematician, M. Levy, showed that, after a while, all the wealth in the world will be owned by the banks, through the simple application of mathematical rules.
Money is a human creation which, if the interest is admitted, begets more money. This money is not only a sign; it really causes deaths and injuries, in every area. It is more prudent to forbid any new organism that is self-reproducing (like viruses, the development of new species in vitro, etc.), including abstract concepts like money that have consequences in real life. The common good called “money” is in the hands of people without scruples. It is a duty for society to take back control over the issuance of money.
It is said that everything has a cost, and so the interest would be the cost of money. However, money is not a thing, a commodity, but a sign, a common good that belongs to all, just like water or air. It is precisely the dream of the greedy to make people pay for the air and water they consume. Money is a universal, and to leave its creation into the hands of the supporters of death is a crime.
Today, money is more and more invested in labor-saving technology rather than in creating jobs. The interest causes the repayment of loans to the banks to go before the wages of workers, and to prefer to lay off these workers instead of paying them. This is how human rights work today: money, a sign or abstraction, comes before the human person, a reality. Where is the dignity of the fathers of families, who are not bankers? Besides, bankers do not have large families, for money comes even before their own children.
Abortion: a sacrifice to Moloch
This swindle of the “creation” of money by the banks, and the widespread use of interest on the loan of money, favor economic crises and abortion when loans have to be paid back. In Switzerland, the first reason given by women who had an abortion is the repayment of loans, contracted by themselves or their families. We know that there are other reasons (hedonism, selfishness, fashions, social pressure, frivolity, ignorance, etc.), but to shut up our eyes and do nothing against one of the causes is neither scientific nor Christian. To let the people who earn money without working (by collecting the interest on their loans) crush the poor who are defenseless, is ridiculous. However, to defend the poor is far from being ridiculous.
History of ancient Egypt shows the close link between mortgage rates and the decline, even disappearance, of the population. (See the analysis of Belgian historian Pirenne on the 20% rates that caused the deadly exposition of children to the sun.)
The new Catechism of the Catholic Church maintains the condemnation of interest and its harmful role at the end of the comments on the 7th Commandment, which forbids to steal. As lay people, we must make this condemnation understood by all, for it is a liberation for the poor; moreover, an economy based on investment in real developments and improvements (and not simply hoarding money through the gimmick of the interest rates), is much more dynamic, and favors a reduction of prices, while rewarding those who take risks in investing in new developments.
Justice is necessary to achieve holiness. It is too easy to wash one’s hands of the matter by saying that one understands nothing in economics. Economics is not so complicated, especially when one takes the trouble to humbly study solutions that are finally more practical than those who manipulate public opinion want to make you believe.
For many centuries, the Church has been suffering, because her sons are prisoners of a huge disinformation campaign. Maurice Allais, 1988 Nobel Prize winner in Economics, wrote that the present international financial system is the biggest disinformation system in human history. The sons of darkness control this disinformation and crush the weak, often with the help of the ignorant of good faith. Let us unmask them, to give some fresh air amidst this general atmosphere of corruption.
What to do?
Why not react now? The human race has survived for centuries without this so-called creation of money at interest by banks, and even with no banks at all. So, why not abandon these inhuman and outrageous interest rates that know no limits and steal time from us as educators of our children? The interest is time stolen from fathers and mothers.
Nations spend billions for research in physics. Let us spend a few million to study more carefully the social doctrine of the Church and the practical solutions it entails in favor of a sound economy. Let us create a center of studies and formation for social action.
Let us make the promise made to Abraham possible. The earth is huge and generous, as well as the seas. All the serious experts, after long studies (cf. Julius Simon), admit that our planet can feed all the population to come in the future. In fact, those who believe that the earth is overpopulated neither believe in God nor in His promise. Let us learn again to utter this greeting of the sons of Abraham: pax, peace, shalom, salam… This peace, as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, will come on earth only if abortions are stopped, and if we accept those who are different, the disabled.
A salary for housewives
Housewives, mothers who stay at home, work just as hard as those who are hired in the workforce. They deserve a real salary, which will create more job opportunities, boost consumption and the economy, and allow the Gross National Product to double. It was possible to finance two world wars, so there is no reason why it would not be possible to finance this wage to housewives. In Canada, it is estimated that the work of housewives represents 46% of the GNP. So it is simple justice, as Pope John Paul II said, to reward them with a salary.
Is is true that:
The less the children in a family, the less vocations to sharing and generosity?
The best school to teach the principle of subsidiarity is a large family?
The main flaw in world politics is this generosity in the existence of intermediary bodies?
The contraception mentality is directly aimed against large families?
The system of interest directly attacks the family?
The interest is a theft of time and children?
The creation of money through interest is a lie and a swindle, a theft to the detriment of future generations (unborn children)?
Can any person of good will take part in this slaughter, by action or omission? Can we stand up and stop this mechanism?
Is the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on usury still valid today? Can the time that belongs to God be stolen? This is a good explanation for stress.
Any human invention that has no limits is monstrous; the system of interest rates has no limits. Moreover, a means of exchange, or unit of measurement, cannot multiply by itself. If money breeds more money today, it is at the expense of our own children. This is criminal!
It is easy to show that the present crisis is in large part due to this search for zero population growth, based on flawed facts and analysis. What a mistake it is to think that the earth cannot support all of the present population, whereas Europe alone could feed many times the world’s population, not to mention the resources of the oceans that are barely developed.
For those who say: “We will have to change the way our deposits are managed in banks,” I reply: “This is true, and you will be rewarded a hundredfold, for a dynamic economy will benefit all, unless your selfishness make you sad to see others happy. How sad it would be it you were in such a situation, especially since you risk eternal damnation.
All this work is done with the hope that a few simple economic concepts can be explained for the good of the poor, the unborn, especially in Third-World countries. Don’t believe those who complicate everything to keep their control over the economy, for billions of human beings will never be born because of this control. True love cannot accept interest, but it can accept just profit. Let us entrust the future of mankind to the family, with mothers having for their model, Mary.
François de Siebenthal





“The Church has not changed her teaching
on usury and one can make a reasonable
argument for the validity of the intrinsic
injustice of usury itself.”
1. Introduction
In order to know whether usury is still a sin we must first understand
what it is. Although today usury commonly means charging
excessive interest on loans, or perhaps merely on loans intended for
consumptive purposes,1 the classical doctrine of the Church on usury
and the debates among some of her outstanding theologians were
concerned with another question. For usury as it was understood for
centuries meant the charging of any interest on a loan simply by
virtue of the loan contract, that is, without any other justifying cause
except that money is being loaned. The most recent relatively
complete papal discussion of usury occurred in Pope Benedict XIV’s
encyclical of 1745, Vix pervenit. The pope stated:
448 Thomas Storck
The nature of the sin called usury has its proper place and origin
in a loan contract . . . [which] demands, by its very nature, that
one return to another only as much as he has received. The sin
rests on the fact that sometimes the creditor desires more than he
has given . . . , but any gain which exceeds the amount he gave
is illicit and usurious.
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 . . . .
Although, as we will see, in this same encyclical Benedict expressly
allows for the possibility that there can be legitimate titles to interest
which do not fall under the head of usury, the central question is
simply whether interest is ever justified merely by virtue of a loan
contract, and we should keep this point in mind as we proceed.
Usury is a question that arises at the intersection of theology,
philosophy, economics, and law, and has implications for each.
Considering the weight of the Church’s consistent and centurieslong
condemnation of usury, obviously there arises a theological
question of development of dogma, as well as of the validity of
venerable arguments in scholastic moral theology and moral
philosophy, in canon law, and in the teachings of economic theory.
I will treat the subject mainly, however, from the standpoint of
moral philosophy and theology, which, along with canon law, is
where historically most of the controversy was conducted.
2. Historical background and development
Since the usury question has an unusually long and rich
history, I think that it is necessary to sketch this background,
without which both the importance of the controversy and the
weight of the intellectual argumentation on behalf of the Church’s
traditional position might not be clear. In addition, an historical
approach will help to show how gradually the essential features of
the condemnation of usury were worked out.
The negative judgment upon usury in the early Church
occurs against a backdrop of wide condemnation by Greek and
Roman writers as well as in the Old Testament. The list of classical
pagan authors who disapproved of it is impressive and includes
Is Usury Still a Sin? 449
2Laws, bk. V, 742.
3Politics, bk. I, 10, 11. Since Aristotle’s opinion on usury was the one most cited
of all pagan authors during the Middle Ages, I reproduce it here: “The most hated
sort [of wealth-getting], and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain
out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended
to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest,
which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money
because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of all modes of getting
wealth this is the most unnatural” (1258b, Oxford translation). Too much stress
should not be put on his statement about “the breeding of money” taken in
isolation, for the question of whether money can be fruitful is in large part a
semantic question.
4Clouds, 1283ff.
5De Beneficiis, bk. VII, 10.
6William C. Morey, Outlines of Roman Law, 2nd ed.(New York: G. P. Putman’s,
1914), 355–56.
Plato,2 Aristotle,3 Aristophanes,4 and Seneca.5 In addition to a general
condemnation of usury by some of the best minds of the classical
world, Roman law provided the legal concept from which canon
law would later draw its fundamental analysis of the usury question.
This was the Roman law contract of mutuum, and one can hardly
overestimate its importance for understanding the usury question in
the medieval period and thereafter.
The subject-matter of the mutuum must consist of things that can
be measured, weighed, or numbered, such as wine, corn, or
money; that is, things which being consumed can be restored in
genere . . . . From the nature of this contract the obligation is
imposed upon the borrower to restore to the lender, not the
identical thing loaned, but its equivalent—that is, another thing
of the same kind, quality, and value . . . .
With regard to the responsibility for loss, since from the
peculiar character of the contract the right of consumption passes
to the borrower, the latter is looked upon as the practical owner
of the thing loaned, and he therefore holds it entirely at his own
risk . . . .6
The two characteristics of the mutuum contract that were to figure
so greatly in subsequent discussions about usury were the fact that in
such a loan the actual good loaned was not returned but consumed
in some manner by the borrower, and therefore the borrower was
considered as the owner of the borrowed goods for all practical
450 Thomas Storck
7Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:36–37, Deuteronomy 23:19–20, Nehemiah 5:7–10,
Psalm 15:5, Proverbs 28:8, Jeremiah 15:10, Ezekiel 18:8, 13, 17, and 22:12.
8“The modern Rabbis give an extremely interesting explanation of the Torah
permission. There was, they say, at that time no law amongst the Gentiles which
prohibited the practice of usury; and it was only equitable that the Jews should be
entitled to exact usury of a people who might exact it of them. In this way, by a
system of compensation the Jews were secured against impoverishment by the
payment of usury, since what was paid in usury by some, was recovered by other
members of the race” (Cleary, The Church and Usury, 7).
9That an atmosphere of disapproval of usury existed throughout the Jewish and
Christian spheres of intellectual influence is clear also from the denunciations of
usury in the Koran. See 2:275–6, 3:130, 4:161, 30:39.
10On the pre-scholastic period, see John T. Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of
Usury (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1957), 12–17, and Cleary, The Church and
Usury, 37–62. Noonan’s work is exhaustive in its historical details, but he clearly
holds a bias in favor of the ultimate vacuity of the usury prohibition as such, and
this bias often shows in the manner in which he presents the opinions of
theologians and canonists. Most seriously, he states (57) that St. Thomas limits the
usury discussion only to money, whereas in fact in both the Summa theologiae II–II,
q. 78 and the De Malo, q. 13, Thomas spends most of his time talking about wheat
and wine. Noonan quotes from the latter work, but omits the section on food and
drink.
purposes. This is in contrast to the loan or rent of something that
will be physically returned, such as a house or a car.
The Old Testament also contains numerous strictures against
usury.7 Although those in the Pentateuch limit the prohibition only
to fellow Israelites, the later passages, for example Psalm 15 and
Ezekiel, are phrased as if they are meant to apply universally. I think
that the way to regard both the pagan and Jewish usury prohibitions
is to see them as part of a general framework of disapproval of usury,
without stressing too much the reasons given in any particular text
or even, as in the Pentateuch, the question of whether usury was
prohibited only to fellow Jews.8 Usury was suspect, it had a bad
odor, the upright did not exact it. This somewhat vague condemnation
of usury was the inheritance of the Church and explains the fact
that some of the early canons seem to condemn usury only when
taken by clerics, although there are also decisive prohibitions of it as
intrinsically unjust.9
The Church first manifests her opposition to usury during
the patristic period.10 Numerous writers condemn usury, including
Apollonius, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, Basil,
Is Usury Still a Sin? 451
11Arthur Vermeersch, “Usury,” The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert
Appleton, 1912), vol. 15, 235. The authenticity of the condemnation by Elvira of
lay usury is doubtful.
12Cf. Cleary, The Church and Usury, 48–56.
13Denzinger, 280–81.
14Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 15.
Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and John Chrysostom.
In addition, the Apostolic Canons, dating in their final form to
around 380, in their 44th canon prohibit the taking of usury by the
clergy, as do the Council of Arles in 314 (12th canon) and the First
Council of Nicaea in 325 (17th canon), while the Council of Elvira,
305 or 306, the First Council of Carthage in 345 (12th canon) and
the Council of Aix in 789 (36th canon) prohibit it to the laity also.11
Many of the patristic utterances against usury are in the form
of denunciations of exploitation of the poor and thus do not state
whether usury is an offense against justice or simply charity, or even
whether it is simply prohibited by the positive law of the Church.12
But among the patristic strictures on usury two deserve special
mention. The first is the letter of Leo the Great, Ut nobis gratulationem,
addressed to the bishops of Campania, Picene, and Tuscany in
October 443.13 This contained a section dealing with usury, known
from its opening words, Nec hoc quoque. John Noonan calls it “the
single most important document of the early Church on usury.”14 It
is important because it proceeds from the supreme ecclesiastical
authority, because it clearly includes the laity in its prohibition and
because it singles out usury as intrinsically unjust, not simply one of
a number of uncharitable practices which exploit the poor.
The second item is a remarkable statement known as Ejiciens,
once attributed to St. John Chrysostom, but now thought to be from
the fifth century. It was later incorporated by Gratian in the
Church’s canon law and anticipates the classical form of the
argument against usury given by St. Thomas, and presents the
clearest rationale for the usury prohibition of any of the early
documents. It is worth quoting at length.
Of all merchants, the most cursed is the usurer, for he sells a good
given by God, not acquired as a merchant acquires his goods
from men; and after the usury he reseeks his own good, taking
both his own good and the good of the other. A merchant,
452 Thomas Storck
15As quoted in Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 38–39.
16In De Malo, q. 13, ad 4, Thomas rejects the “wear and tear” argument. But
despite this, it seems to me to fit well with Thomas’ understanding of the question,
as we will see.
however, does not reseek the good he has sold. One will object:
Is not he who rents a field to receive the fruits or a house to get
an income similar to him who lends his money at usury?
Certainly not. First, because money is only meant to be used in
purchasing. Secondly, because one having a field by farming
receives fruit from it; one having a house has the use of inhabiting
it. Therefore, he who rents a field or house is seen to give
what is his own use and to receive money, and in a certain
manner it seems as if he exchanged gain for gain. But from
money which is stored up you take no use. Thirdly, a field or a
house deteriorates in use. Money, however, when it is lent, is
neither diminished nor deteriorated.15
Ejiciens makes the crucial distinction between goods which must be
returned to their original owner after being used, and goods such as
money, which are returned only in amount and kind, the subject of
a contract of mutuum. The first type of good normally deteriorates in
use and the owner can rightly charge something for the use and, of
course, expect the original thing back also. But with a good which,
as the saying goes, is consumed in its use, it is hard to see how one
can charge for wear and tear.16
The reasoning of Ejiciens is not altogether clear in every
respect, and there are more than hints of some of the popular
grounds for opposing usury which were ultimately rejected because
they did not stand up to examination, such as the idea that time
could not be sold and that money was purely a measure. Nevertheless,
we have here a very early and solid grasp of the Thomistic
argument, at least in germ.
Before we proceed to the scholastic period with its rich and
complex discussions of usury, we would do well to sum up where
we stand. Usury is clearly condemned by the Old Testament, several
notable classical pagan authors, and the early Church. But many of
these sources seem to condemn usury as a sin against charity, not
necessarily against justice, in the sense at least that they include it in
general denunications of acts that exploit the poor. There is usually
no clear reason given in these statements for saying that usury is
wrong, and most of them tend toward the rhetorical rather than
Is Usury Still a Sin? 453
17Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 16.
18Ibid., 17.
being rational examinations of what usury is and why it is wrong.
But no one could read this mass of material and come away without
understanding that usury offends against Christian morals, whatever
the ultimate basis of its depravity might be.
Next we turn our attention to the elaborate development of
theories about usury that began tentatively in the early middle ages
and lasted till around the middle of the eighteenth century. The
scholastic analysis of usury by no means ended with the end of the
medieval period, for the same kind of reasoning and arguments, even
if sometimes with different results, were employed for several
centuries afterwards. In discussing this period I will proceed as
follows: after some preliminary remarks I will set forth the scholastic
usury teachings that have the most force, chiefly official pronouncements
by the Church and the opinions of St. Thomas Aquinas. Then
I will discuss the kinds of contracts that became increasingly
common as means either to avoid or evade the usury prohibition,
noting in particular any official reactions to them. This will bring us
to the end of the period in which scholastic reasoning could be said
to be taken for granted in the world of Catholic theology and
philosophy, a period that, for our purposes, conveniently coincides
roughly with Benedict XIV’s encyclical, Vix pervenit. We should
keep in mind that throughout this period hardly any Catholic
attempted to justify the taking of usury as such; on that there was no
controversy to speak of. The controversy and the complex arguments
that characterize this period concern not whether it was licit
to take interest simply by virtue of a contract of mutuum, but why
this is so, and especially whether various other contracts do or do not
constitute usury and whether and when extrinsic titles can be
invoked by which one may justly receive interest on a loan.
During the Carolingian period both ecclesiastical and civil
authorities had promulgated numerous decrees against usury,
including excommunication for laymen guilty of usury.17 Scholastic
analysis proper may be said to begin with St. Anselm of Canterbury,
“the first medieval author to suggest the similarity of usury and
robbery . . . one of the earliest indications that usury is to be
considered a sin against justice.”18 In the high middle ages the
discussion of usury became more focused and clear. At the same time
454 Thomas Storck
19For a somewhat different interpretation of the natural law basis of the usury
prohibition, see Christopher A. Franks, “The Usury Prohibition and Natural Law,
a Reappraisal,” The Thomist 72, no. 4 (October 2008): 625–60.
20See also the De Malo, q. 13, a. 4.
writers sometimes took as the basis for their reprobation of usury a
ground that was subsequently to be disavowed or at least to fail to
find much support in other authors, for example, the selling of time,
which was held to occur in usury; the Aristotelian doctrine that
money was not fruitful or that money was purely a measure; and the
idea that a loan had to be gratuitous (cf. Lk 6:35) and thus the lender
could not hope for or receive any recompense beyond a return of
the principal. But the bases that were to provide the best means of
understanding the sinfulness of usury were also frequently mentioned,
and in the case of St. Thomas, constituted his principal
argument against it. These bases are chiefly the consumptible nature
of money, and hence the fact that in loaning money the same thing
is not returned but something of the same kind and value, and thus
ownership in a sense passes to the borrower. The important point
about the development of scholastic doctrine on usury is that almost
all writers sought to ground the Church’s prohibition in the natural
law itself, however variously they explained it.19
St. Thomas’ most mature discussion of usury is in the Summa
theologiae II-II, q. 78.20 I will quote extensively from the Respondeo
from article 1, which contains his theory in a nutshell.
I answer that to receive usury for money loaned [mutuata] is in
itself unjust, because that is sold which does not exist, by which
clearly an inequality is constituted which is contrary to justice.
For the evidence of which it must be known that there are
certain things the use of which is the consumption of those
things; as we consume wine by using it for drinking or we
consume wheat by using it for food. Whence in such things the
use of a thing ought not to be computed separately from the
thing itself; but to whomever is granted the use from that fact
itself is granted [possession of] the thing; and on account of this
in such things through the loan [mutuum] ownership is transferred.
If anyone therefore wishes to sell separately the wine, and
again wishes to sell the use of the wine, he would sell the same
thing twice, or he would sell that which does not exist; whence
clearly he would sin by injustice. And by a similar reason he
commits injustice who loans [mutuat] wine or wheat seeking to
be given two recompenses; one indeed the restitution of an equal
Is Usury Still a Sin? 455
21Canon 13 forbids Christian burial to usurers (Denzinger, 716).
22Denzinger, 906. “The Council of Vienne presents a variety of difficulties. With
the exception of some fragments, the acts of the Council have perished . . . .
Joannes Andreas . . . tells us that Pope Clement V made very considerable
modifications in the constitutions . . . hence it is difficult to decide what decrees
were passed in the Council” (Cleary, The Church and Usury, 74–75).
23On the contractus trinus, see Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 202–29,
and Cleary, The Church and Usury, 126–32.
amount of the thing, the other, on the other hand, the price of
the use which is called usury.
Below I will consider this argument in more detail and attempt to
show how it provides a solid intellectual justification for the
proposition that in a loan of mutuum nothing may be asked except
the principal, unless some other title to interest is also present.
In addition to numerous papal condemnations and those by
local councils, it is worth mentioning the several condemnations of
usury by ecumenical councils during this period, including Lateran
II in 1139,21 Lateran III in 1179, Lyons II in 1274, Vienne in
1311–12,22 and Lateran V in 1512–17. I will mention this latter again
in connection with the question of the montes pietatis.
Although as I said, in view of the repeated condemnations of
usury by the Church, it was extremely rare for anyone directly to
defend the practice during the scholastic period, the needs of
business, or it may be the greed of men, sought ways to ensure a safe
and guaranteed return and yet avoid the sin of usury or at least the
severe canonical penalties to which usurers were subject. One such
method was the contractus trinus or triple contract.23
Briefly, a contractus trinus was a three-fold contract existing
between two business partners. The first contract was the simple
contract of partnership by which one partner undertook to provide
the funds and the other to do the trading. The second contract was
a contract of insurance by which the active partner insured the
principal of the inactive partner, and the third contract, similarly a
contract of insurance by which the inactive partner was guaranteed
a profit, smaller than the enterprise was likely to make, but guaranteed,
whereas the profit of the partnership itself was always in some
doubt due to uncertain business conditions, the possibility of loss,
etc. The silent partner paid for the two contracts of insurance by
forgoing the difference between the profit he might have made as a
456 Thomas Storck
24On the census, see Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 230–48, and Cleary,
The Church and Usury, 121–26.
25On implicit contracts, see Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 269–80, and
Cleary, The Church and Usury, 153–55.
full partner and what he would receive as guaranteed profit, say the
difference between an expected 8% and a guaranteed 4%. Thus even
if the enterprise miscarried the active partner would be required to
restore the principal plus a guaranteed profit to the inactive partner.
Although a bull of Sixtus V in 1586 could be interpreted as condemning
the contractus trinus, it was largely without effect. Theologians
argued that it did not ground its condemnation of the triple
contract in natural law, but was merely positive legislation on the
part of the pope, and in addition that its apparent ambiguity left
doubt as to exactly what contracts were included in its strictures.
During the sixteenth century it became widely used even without
definitive approval by the Church.
The other popular contract used to avoid usury was the
census or rent-charge.24 The census was a curious sort of contract, at
least to modern ears. In its original form someone would buy the
right to receive the income, or even the actual produce, from some
definite thing, such as a farm. Later, with the personal census, this was
extended to be merely the right to a return from the work of a
certain person, or a census could be established based upon the tax
revenue of a city or even upon the income from another and prior
census. In addition, the census contracts had many variations, for
example, some provided that the census could be terminated at the
call of the buyer or of the seller or of either party. Pope Martin V in
1425 approved the more conservative types of the census, but the
more exotic and speculative kinds never received official approval,
although they were defended by some theologians.
Both the contractus trinus and the census assumed many forms
according to the needs or wishes of merchants. Even more remarkable,
however, was the growth of the notion of implicit contracts.25
Merchants, and even the notaries who drew up contracts, often did
not take the trouble to put them in the form required by theological
authority, e.g., to specify clearly and distinctly the three parts of a
contractus trinus, so that a contract document that was phrased
ambiguously might appear on its face to be a contract of mutuum,
Is Usury Still a Sin? 457
26Duke William V of Bavaria in 1581 had tried to stop this movement toward
easy acceptance of loosely-worded contracts by drawing up several model contracts
for use by his subjects. See Cleary, The Church and Usury, 154–55.
27Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 279.
with the guaranteed return simply an instance of usury.26 This too
found its theological defenders who developed the theory, which
became generally accepted, that if a contract, no matter how its
wording ran, could be analyzed into some acceptable type, then it
was licit, and that merchants needed to have only an implicit
intention of entering into some kind of licit contract, even if they
could not state what that was. “Not only were the effects of the
triple contract and census those of a loan, but even their form did not
need to be explicitly different from a loan, if the form could be
analytically reduced to a licit contract.”27
Although among Catholics usury as such still found almost
no defenders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, theological
opinion working hand in hand with the inventiveness of merchants
and lawyers had succeeded in furnishing several substitutes that
allowed for both safety of the principal and a guaranteed return. But
before discussing the dramatic, if confusing, turn of affairs after 1745,
we must look at the titles to legitimate interest on loans that had
been developing since the middle ages, and that ultimately became
of more significance than either the contractus trinus or the census,
because they could be applied to a loan contract directly and without
any necessity for using a particular form of words in drawing up the
contract. These were the titles to legitimate interest that were
considered extrinsic to the mutuum contract itself, that is, they might
or might not exist depending on extrinsic circumstances, even if
some of these circumstances were nearly always present. These were
chiefly lucrum cessans and damnum emergens.
Lucrum cessans and damnun emergens are in a sense two sides of
the same coin. The first refers to the profit that someone might have
made with his money had he not instead made a loan of mutuum, and
the second is damage or loss that a lender suffered or might suffer
because he did not have access to his money for the duration of a
loan. Admitted in principle, at least in isolated cases, early in the
debate, they become generally accepted later. One point to note,
however, is that here the question of one’s intention in making a
loan, a point that loomed large at certain times in the usury debates
458 Thomas Storck
28On the montes, see Cleary, The Church and Usury, 106–13, Noonan, The
Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 294–310, and Umberto Benigni, “Montes Pietatis,” in
The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 10, 534–36.
29For the text of the decree, see Denzinger, 1442–44.
and that we have not looked at, must be mentioned. If a merchant
accustomed to trading used a sum of money for a loan of mutuum
instead of in a business venture, then clearly he could claim lucrum
cessans, since he was always engaged in profitable activities with his
money. But what of someone who simply wanted a safe means of
earning a return? It is true that theoretically he could engage in
trade and therefore would qualify for lucrum cessans, but in many
cases there was no real likelihood that he would do so, either
through inexperience or fear of loss, for example. I raise this point
here in connection with the extrinsic titles, and we will look at it
again when we discuss the moral questions of lending in today’s
economy.
One last subject that must be mentioned in our historical
review are the montes pietatis.28 These were institutions, sponsored
usually by municipal governments or the Church, which made loans
at low rates of interest to provide an alternative to usurers. They had
some similarities to pawn shops in that they required that a pledge
be left to cover the possibility of the loan not being repaid. As a rule
they charged interest to cover their expenses, including salaries of
their employees. Was this interest usury, and therefore despite the
good intentions of their founders were the montes illicit? Previously
it had been generally held that a loan of mutuum could be made only
by a merchant who diverted funds to a loan, and probably out of
charity toward the borrower. To justify the montes seemed to open
the way for justification of lending itself as a business, for if the
montes could charge for their employees’ salaries, why could not a
private pawnbroker do the same? Because of considerations such as
this, they had many opponents, but the popes gave their approbation
to numerous individual montes throughout Italy, and definitive
approval came in 1515 with their acceptance by the Fifth Lateran
Council, despite opposition by the famous Thomistic commentator,
Cardinal Cajetan.29 We will see that this approval of interest charges
for expenses figures in our discussion below of licit and illicit
interest.
Is Usury Still a Sin? 459
30Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 357.
31Denzinger, 2546–50.
Questions concerning what was and was not usury continued
to be debated, sometimes bitterly, by theologians throughout
Catholic Europe down to the middle of the eighteenth century. At
this point (1745) there appeared the papal encyclical, Vix pervenit,
already mentioned. Vix pervenit was the most extended discussion of
usury ever to come forth from a pope, and it reaffirmed the essentials
of the traditional teaching, while at the same time giving express
allowance for extrinsic titles. Although originally addressed only to
the bishops of Italy, and thus not a teaching binding on the entire
Church, “it was extended to the universal Church by a decree of the
Holy Office of July 28, 1835.”30 Since it is the controlling authority
for our discussion, I will quote it again and more fully.
The nature of the sin called usury has its proper place and origin
in a loan contract [in contractu mutui]. This financial contract
between consenting parties demands, by its very nature, that one
return to another only as much as he has received. The sin rests
on the fact that sometimes the creditor desires more than he has
given. Therefore he contends some gain is owed him beyond
that which he loaned, but any gain which exceeds the amount he
gave is illicit and usurious.
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 . . . 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 . . . .
By these remarks, however, We do not deny that at
times together with the loan contract certain other titles—which
are not at all intrinsic to the contract—may run parallel with it.
From these other titles, entirely just and legitimate reasons arise
to demand something over and above the amount due on the
contract.31
Shortly after the appearance of Vix pervenit occurred the
series of events, chiefly responses from various Roman congregations,
which seem to some to constitute the Church’s repudiation
460 Thomas Storck
32On developments in the early nineteenth century, see Noonan, The Scholastic
Analysis of Usury, 377–82, and Cleary, The Church and Usury, 168–77.
33Some of these are reproduced in Denzinger, 2743 and 3105–09.
34In addition, in a letter to an Irish priest in 1823, Rome specifically reaffirmed
the doctrine of the encyclical. Cleary, The Church and Usury, 169–72.
35This is numbered as section 2 of the Paulist transation as published in Seven
Great Encyclicals and elsewhere. The Latin text runs, “Malum auxit usura vorax,
quae non semel Ecclesiae judicio damnata, tamen ab hominibus avidis et
quaestuosis per aliam speciem exercetur eadem.” The characterization of usury as
vorax was traditional and goes back at least to the Roman poet Lucan, Pharsalia, bk.
I, 181.
of its hitherto constant teaching.32 The decisions emanated from
either the Holy Office, the Sacred Penitentiary, or the Sacred
Congregation of Propaganda, beginning in 1822,33 some of them
with explicit approval by the reigning pope. They were addressed to
confessors and their general tenor was the same: persons demanding
interest on loans within the limits allowed by civil law should be left
undisturbed and not denied absolution. Sometimes the proviso was
added that penitents should be prepared to submit to any future
decision of the Holy See. At the same time Rome never retracted
the doctrine of Vix pervenit and even reaffirmed and applied it to the
entire Church, as we saw above.34
After this period of acquiescence in the practice of taking
interest on loans without any clear extrinsic title we come to more
recent times, where the first thing to mention is the condemnation
of usury in 1891 by Leo XIII in the encyclical Rerum novarum.
Rapacious usury has increased the evil [of unrestrained competition,
etc.] which, more than once condemned by the Church, is
nevertheless, under a different form but in the same way,
practiced by avaricious and grasping men.35
Although Leo does not explain what he means by “under a different
form,” I think it is clear that what he terms usury is simply what the
Church always meant by it, especially since he states that it has been
“more than once condemned.” Thus we can see this as a simple
reaffirmation of the traditional doctrine as stated previously in Vix
pervenit.
Then the 1917 Code of Canon Law (canon 1543) reads,
Is Usury Still a Sin? 461
36The footnotes to canon 1543 refer to the decrees of Lateran V, to the encyclical
Vix pervenit, and to decisions of Roman congregations on usury in 1821 and 1878.
Of course, the 1917 Code, since it has been abrogated by the 1983 Code, is now
simply a witness to official understanding of doctrine at the time.
37Like Pope Leo, Benedict does not say what he means by the term “usury.” But
there is reason to think that he had in mind the historical rather than the modern
notion. In the same section of the encyclical, the English version when speaking of
“the experience of micro-finance,” goes on to make mention of “the birth of
pawnbroking.” This might seem a strange thing to bring up until one looks at the
Latin text of the encyclical, as well as the versions in the Romance languages (all
available on the Vatican website). Instead of “the birth of pawnbroking,” the Latin
text has “de Montibus Pietatis constitutis,” while the French has “la création des
Monts de Piété,” the Italian, “alla nascita dei Monti di Pietà,” and the Spanish, “el
origin de los Montes de Piedad.” Clearly Pope Benedict was thinking of medieval
conditions and institutions in this section.
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.36
Here again we see a restatement of the doctrine of Vix pervenit,
followed, it is true, by words that seem to deny much significance to
the doctrine. Finally in the very recent encyclical of Benedict XVI,
Caritas in veritate (2009), in section 65, after noting the necessity of
reorienting the financial sector toward the common good, the pope
twice mentions protecting and helping to defend “the more
vulnerable” or the “weakest members of society” from usury.37 But
let us now conclude our historical treatment and enter upon a
discussion of whether and how the usury doctrine still binds
consciences today.
3. Was there a change in the Church’s teaching?
Without question the vast majority of those who are at all
aware of the usury question would say that there was at least some
change or evolution in the Church’s teaching, however they might
want to explain it. For certainly it appears that usury is no longer a
sin that Christians need to worry about. But there is something
curious about saying the Church’s teaching has changed. When did
462 Thomas Storck
38“Development in Moral Doctrine,” Theological Studies 54, no. 4 (December
1993): 663.
this occur? When did usury in the sense which we mean by it here
cease to be a sin? If we look in the first half of the nineteenth
century as the best place to locate such a change, we find no
statement by the Church during that time that says anything about
repudiating the teaching of Vix pervenit, but rather the contrary, as
we saw. Then in Rerum novarum we have a matter-of-fact reminder
of the evil of usury, in the 1917 Code a bald-faced assertion of the
medieval doctrine in its full rigor, followed by qualifications whose
meaning and significance we will look at below, and most recently
another denunciation of usury in Caritas in veritate. Even John
Noonan, in an article written expressly for the purpose of proving
that there had been changes, or developments as he called them, in
moral doctrine, admits: “Formally it can be argued that the old usury
rule, narrowly construed, still stands: namely, that no profit on a loan
may be taken without a just title to that profit.”38 It is true that he
continues, “in terms of emphasis, of perspective, of practice, the old
usury rule has disappeared.” What this means and what, if anything,
can or should be done about this we will take up subsequently. But
I do not think that there is any special difficulty in saying that Pope
Benedict XIV’s teaching from 1745 still retains its force today. One
can certainly find a nearly universal practical neglect of the question
of usury, but one looks in vain to find that the Church ever
retracted, abrogated, or substantially altered her teaching on usury.
Something of course did occur, and that we will try to understand
and explain, but no one should have any hesitation about proclaiming
the doctrine of Vix pervenit as the doctrine of the Catholic
Church.
We have seen that beginning in the sixteenth century interest
began to be routinely justified on loans by one or more of the
extrinsic titles, and that about the same time the contractus trinus and
the census allowed a lender pretty much the same security that he
might seek in a simple loan at interest. Moreover, by the late
sixteenth century these contracts did not even have to be correctly
drawn up in order to avoid the stigma of usury, for an implicit good
intention was widely accepted as sufficient. There is no doubt that
theologians, well before the nineteenth century, while formally
upholding the condemnation of usury, allowed for much that their
Is Usury Still a Sin? 463
39Aquinas, for example, had denied lucrum cessans because of the merely
speculative quality of the lost gain. See Summa theologiae II-II, q. 78, a. 2, ad 1.
40Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 317.
41John F. Cronin, Catholic Social Principles: the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church
Applied to American Economic Life (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1950), 44–45. Apparently this
was nothing new, though, since Domingo de Soto (d. 1560) complained that few
theologians of his day understood the details of the banking system. Cited in
Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, 336.
medieval predecessors would have looked askance at.39 Although in
some instances these developments were sanctioned by Rome, by no
means all of them were. The real change, not in doctrine, but in the
application of that doctrine to economic life, came during these
centuries and not in the 1820s or 1830s. Let us try to understand
what took place.
When one reads the subtle analyses of usury by the theologians
of the Baroque era, one cannot help but be impressed by their
painstaking efforts. Nevertheless, the increasing complexity of
commercial life made it difficult to say with any assurance what was
and what was not usury. Even in the fifteenth century, Fra Santi
(Pandolfo) Rucellai, who had been a banker before entering the
Dominican order and who, at Savonarola’s request, wrote a treatise
on the morality of exchange banking, was unable to give a definite
opinion on certain points.40 And things did not improve as time
went on and as contracts and commercial practices grew more
exotic. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, or so it appears
to me, the Roman authorities basically threw up their hands and
decided it was better to allow penitents to take moderate rates of
interest on loans than to continue to analyze contracts and reach
decisions on matters more and more opaque, especially because in
many or most cases probably some kind of just title to interest did
exist. In general moralists and moral theology textbooks began to
retreat from an engagement with the facts of economic life. Fr. John
Cronin notes this as follows:
Our moral theology texts were, in general, hopelessly out of date
in applying moral principles to economic life. Apparently few
moralists knew enough about economic facts to work out a
realistic and complete solution. Hence moral teaching generally
confined itself to obvious justice and injustice and clearly defined
motives.41
464 Thomas Storck
42Francis X. Funk in the middle of the nineteenth century suggested such an
explanation based on the changed use of money. Cf. Noonan, The Scholastic
Analysis of Usury, 385–87. Heinrich Pesch proposed that the “expansion of
production and commerce” and the fact that “everyone who has the necessary
funds at his disposal could actively participate in commercial life” justified routine
interest taking. Lehrbuch der Nationalökonomie/Teaching Guide to Economics, translated
by Rupert J. Ederer (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, c. 2003), vol. 5, book 2, 197–99.
John A. Ryan stated, “The money in a loan [today] is economically equivalent to,
convertible into, concrete capital” (Distributive Justice, 3rd ed. [New York:
Macmillan, 1942], 124).
In other words, it was easier to say of those involved in transactions
the usurious nature of which was doubtful, that they ought not to be
disturbed, than either to try to apply the principles of the usury
doctrine to the complex facts of the situation or still less to make the
gigantic efforts required to orient the economy away from financial
speculation and emphasis on individual enrichment toward an
economy based on production for use and a recognition of the
claims of society as a whole.
This change in the Church’s approach to usury did not pass
unnoticed. Various authors explained it in various ways, commonly
arguing, however, that in modern times the nature of economic
activity or the function of money differed essentially from what
obtained in the middle ages.42 In our last section we will try to
understand what really happened when we try to understand what
the Church’s teaching on usury should mean for Christians today.
4. Argumentation in support of scholastic doctrine
Before proceeding to look at the significance for us today of
the Church’s prohibition of usury, I want to argue anew for the
correctness of the teaching of Vix pervenit, based on St. Thomas’
argumentation, which looks to the consumptible nature of money
as the key point. I do this so that we might approach the question of
the meaning of the usury rule with a positive appraisal of the
scholastic doctrine and regard it as something that must be understood
rather than disregarded as a relic of the past.
We might remember that as far back as Ejiciens thinkers had
distinguished between something loaned that “deteriorates in use”
and something that, “when it is lent, is neither diminished nor
Is Usury Still a Sin? 465
43I noted above that St. Thomas rejected the “wear and tear” argument;
however, this argument seems to me the best reason why it is licit to charge for the
use of something such as a house, whose ownership is separable from its use.
44Ryan, Distributive Justice, 176.
deteriorated.”43 Money is certainly the most common representative
of the latter class, but is not the only one. As we saw, St. Thomas
based his argument on the more general class of consumptible things.
And I think that if we look at more humble consumptibles, such as
food or drink, we might be able to look at the question afresh and
understand the Church’s doctrine better. Let us consider the
following analogy.
Suppose we have a small businessman who owns a catering
service, catering food and drink, and let us suppose further that all
the supplies that accompany the food and drink are disposable, such
as plastic forks, paper napkins, etc., so that there is nothing he
provides to his customers that he must reuse. Now what may he
licitly charge his customers for? For the replacement cost of the food
and drink and the other disposable supplies, certainly. In addition, he
may charge each customer for a share of the overhead for his shop,
including rent, utilities, etc., his delivery van, for wages for any
employees, for any legitimate interest payments he must make, and
for a “return for his labor of organization and direction, and for the
risk that he underwent.”44 But as regards the food and other
consumptibles that he provides, it is hard to see how he can charge
a customer for more than the amount purchased. If he furnishes 100
bottles of wine, the caterer may charge what it will cost him to
replace a similar kind and amount of wine. Anything he charges a
customer in addition must come from one of the other titles I
mentioned above, such as costs incident to the running of his
business and wages for his employees and for himself.
This last is what is generally called profit, a term that is often
used loosely and inexactly. As we see here, Ryan reduces it to the
proprietor’s labor, plus his entrepreneurial abilities and risks. It is not
an open-ended invitation to charge as much as the market will bear,
but rather there must exist some title of justification such as Ryan
enumerates here. Looked at in this way the limiting of the reimbursement
for the consumptibles sold seems obvious. Of course the
caterer cannot charge for 110 bottles of wine if he delivers only 100.
His profit, in reality his salary and compensation for risk, etc., comes
466 Thomas Storck
45“The great majority of businessmen in competitive industries do not receive
incomes in excess of their reasonable needs. Their profits do not notably exceed the
salaries that they could command as hired managers, and generally are not more
than sufficient to reimburse them for the cost of education and business training,
and to enable them to live in reasonable conformity with the standard of living to
which they have become accustomed” (Ryan, Distributive Justice, 190).
46Pesch, Lehrbuch der Nationalökonomie/Teaching Guide to Economics, vol. 5, bk. 2,
200.
47Another way of looking at this example that yields the same conclusion is to
regard a mutuum of money as a sale. As in the case of the caterer who provides 100
otherwise and is not gained at the expense of expecting more in
return than what he supplied.
We can now easily apply this analogy to loans of mutuum.
Supposing someone is in the business of making loans, then similar
expenses could justly be taken from customers. The montes pietatis
acted in similar fashion. Of course the montes were not profit-making
in the sense that they intended to earn more than their expenses,
including salaries. But according to Ryan’s analysis of business, no
business is profit-making in the sense that it can justly seek as wide
profits as it can obtain. The owner can seek a fair “return for his
labor of organization and direction, and for the risk that he underwent.”
Although one cannot calculate such returns with mathematical
exactness, neither can one maintain that they have no theoretical
limit.45 And even if one were to argue that there should be no limit
on such a return for labor, skill and risk, still that is not the same as
saying that usury for the lending activity itself may be taken, for we
have seen that here the entrepreneur can require only the same
amount as the consumptible good that he has provided, “the equality
of what is given and returned,” as Benedict XIV taught.
Of course in the case of our caterer he receives immediate or
nearly immediate payment for his expenditure on food and other
consumptibles. A loan, however, is generally paid back after a period
of time, or gradually during such a period. Is not the lender entitled
to some compensation on account of this delay? No, for “the mere
time differential by itself does not cause a difference in value. There
must be added the possibility of earning a profit in the intervening
time period.”46 In other words, one must have a title such as lucrum
cessans or damnum emergens to justify receiving interest, for the mere
fact of delay by itself does not equate to the right to contract for
more than the principal.47
Is Usury Still a Sin? 467
bottles of wine and receives as part of his total payment the price of the 100 bottles,
no more and no less, if we look at money loaned as a sale of money we see that the
price of $100 is obviously $100. Any other just charges come from the same titles
as the caterer had, such as overhead expenses, wages, etc. For the product provided,
money, one can charge only what it is worth, which is always its face value.
I have argued both that the Church has not changed her
teaching on usury and that one can make a reasonable argument for
the validity of the intrinsic injustice of usury itself. On both these
points, it seems to me, assent to the scholastic teaching is not where
the real difficulty is. That lies elsewhere, in the question, what does
it mean? Or better, does it have any meaning except as an empty and
antiquated formalism? Assuming that we accept at least some of the
extrinsic titles and other practices that grew up during the Renaissance,
would adherence to the usury prohibition today make any real
difference in our economic and legal practices?
5. Application of usury theory to contemporary economies
If what I have said is correct—if, based both on arguments
from reason as well as on a failure to find that the Church ever
retracted her papal and conciliar teaching on usury, it is the case that
the “law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what
is given and returned”—then there are two chief questions that
concern us in this last section. In the first place, returning to my title,
Is Usury Still a Sin?, we have to ask what effect the intrinsic evil of
usury should have on the moral conduct of the Christian. Is there
anything that Christians should do or avoid in their financial or
economic behavior as a result of the sinfulness of usury? Secondly,
what meaning does usury have in an economy hopelessly enmeshed
in all kinds of interest-bearing transactions as a matter of course and
without a thought as to any justifying title? Given that for centuries
theologians have found it easy to justify most forms of interest, are
we committing the Church to a ridiculous anachronism, a relic of
the past? Are we hankering after a silly formalism in order to justify
something that it is easier and more honest simply to call interest on
a loan?
In regard to our first question, in light of the various Roman
decisions of the nineteenth century and of the 1917 Code, no one
468 Thomas Storck
48“Even higher rates of interest are not unheard of, as one Indiana payday lender
offered a loan of $100 with interest of $20 per day—an APR of 7,300%” (John
Skees, “The Resurrection of Historic Usury Principles for Consumption Loans in
a Federal Banking System,” Catholic University Law Review 55, no. 4 [Summer
2006]: 1132). As late as the mid-1970s most state usury laws set a limit of 10%, and
the model Uniform Consumer Credit Code proposed a maximum of 18%
(Lawrence P. Galie, “Indexing the Principal: the Usury Laws Hang Tough,”
University of Pittsburgh Law Review 37, no. 4 [Summer 1976]: 764).
49The 1978 Supreme Court decision, Marquette National Bank v. First of
Omaha Service Corp., 439 U.S. 299, made inevitable the eventual demise of state
laws regulating interest rates.
can be condemned for taking the legal or customary rate of interest
on a loan, provided that it is not excessive. The reason for this, I
argued above, is that the complexity of modern finance renders it
safer simply to allow moderate interest than to engage in probably
fruitless endeavors to determine the presence or absence of extrinsic
titles. The Church presumes these titles to exist generally and makes
the judgment that even if in some cases they do not, it is better for
the sake of consciences to ignore that fact. The remedy always exists,
moreover, for restitution to be made via almsgiving in case a
penitent is troubled or there seems a well-founded and probable case
of real usury.
Of course, it should go without saying that the interest rates
of loansharks and others on so-called payday or similar loans, which
can reach even 500% per annum, have clearly no justification in any
extrinsic title, and no Catholic can lawfully have anything to do with
such loans.48 Such usury is a serious offense against justice and ought
to be strictly prohibited by the civil law. Unfortunately, since 1978
in the United States judicial decisions and the gradual repeal of state
laws regulating usury have allowed such gross injustices to flourish.49
The ecclesiastical decisions of the 1820s and 1830s were
addressed to confessors and did not purport to change the usury
doctrine as expressed in Vix pervenit. So even though no one can be
criticized for taking moderate interest, I think that in some cases one
can detect the presence of usury in modern interest. For example,
while it is certainly correct to point out that today there is usually
opportunity for productive investment, and that therefore those who
put money out at mutuum but would otherwise invest it in some
manner are entitled to claim lucrum cessans, this reasoning does not
always hold. In certain cases of depression or recession, “the profit
Is Usury Still a Sin? 469
50Paul Samuelson, Economics, 9th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973), 336.
51John F. Cronin, Economics and Society (New York: American Book Co., 1939),
131.
52John P. Kelly, Aquinas and Modern Practices of Interest Taking (Brisbane: Aquinas
Press, 1945), 33.
53Summa theologiae II-II, q. 78, a. 2, ad 2.
expectations of businessmen are likely to be so low that they would
not employ men and machines on new investment projects even if
you let them borrow temporarily at a zero interest rate.”50 In such
cases “some savings will follow the sterile path of debt-financed
consumption, with eventual repayment at the expense of current
consumption.”51 In other words, in such situations a lack of
consumer demand makes spending on productive investment
unprofitable, so it is likely that someone putting money out at
mutuum is not truly forgoing investment profit, because no profit is
to be had for the time being. Thus when there is excess savings with
no outlet for profitable use, it is hardly in accord with the common
good to reward those who choose to loan by giving them a rate of
interest based on a merely hypothetical opportunity cost.
We must remember that since the extrinsic titles were never
given official approval except as compensation for lost opportunities
for investment earnings “they can never be advanced as a justification
of a general loan system based on motives of profit.”52 Thus it
seems hard to justify lucrum cessans for those who have no real
intention of making investments, simply because such opportunities
are readily available to all. What of ordinary savers who desire to put
their money into insured savings accounts at banks and who because
of inexperience or fear of loss have no desire to invest in business
ventures, even to buy shares of stock or mutual funds? They are not
undergoing a real loss of investment income on account of their loan
of money to the bank, since otherwise they might have simply
hidden the money in a mattress. I do not see how the merely
theoretical possibility that they could make gains from investments
applies to them, since they are too risk-averse to do so. Can they
licitly claim interest on bank accounts and under what title? I think
there is a reason for thinking such interest just, but it is not one of
the extrinsic titles that theologians approved. It is the mere fact of
inflation. “He who receives a loan of money . . . is not held to pay
back more than he received by the loan”53—but with our ability to
470 Thomas Storck
54Garrick Small, “Rapacious Usury: Fact or Fiction?” unpublished paper
presented at the Campion Fellowship meeting in Toongabbie, Australia, in January
2002, p. 7. Used with permission of the author.
monitor the level of inflation in an economy, we realize that money
simply left alone, as in a mattress, will actually diminish in value.
Therefore payment for inflation for money deposited in a bank or
credit union seems just.
Moreover, it does seem possible to roughly distinguish a just
rate of interest, anything above which would be usury. If we
consider the rate of interest on government bonds, historically the
safest investment possible, as risk-free for all practical purposes, we
can then examine other interest rates in their light. The following
discussion refers to Australian interest rates.
For example, on 5 January 2002, the ten year government bond
rate was 5.21%, and home mortgages were 6.3% while inflation
was about 2.5%. The gap between home mortgage rates and
government bonds of about 1.1% was due to the riskiness of
lending to home buyers compared to the government. By
subtracting inflation, the government bond rate is reduced to
about 2.7% which is known as the real rate of interest. Markets
anticipate a fall in rates, so there is a negligible liquidity preference
effect. This means that 2.7% of the loan interest on government
bonds, home mortgages and all other lending is purely the
result of the expectation of the lender for a return in excess of the
principle. That looks suspiciously like usury.54
This analysis justifies the interest paid on government bonds only on
the basis of inflation, apparently without considering the presence or
absence of any extrinsic title. Nevertheless it suggests an interesting
way of approaching the question. Another method of analysis is to
recall that interest legitimately taken is compensation for an investment
opportunity forgone. Thus a just rate of interest could in
principle be formulated based on the expected return of an investment
which the lender had the opportunity of profiting by, assuming
that it was possible to specify a general rate of profit for any particular
place and time.
Abstracting from statutory regulation of interest, and from any
special expense or risk of loss incurred by a lender . . . the
criterion [of a just rate of interest] is the just rate of profit from
investment. This does not mean that the just rate of interest is
Is Usury Still a Sin? 471
55Lewis Watt, “Usury in Catholic Theology” in Readings in Economics, ed.
Richard Mulcahy (Westminster, Md.: Newman, 1959), 278.
56Kelly, Aquinas and Modern Practices of Interest Taking, 20.
57“The Idea of a Christian Society” in Christianity and Culture (San Diego:
Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, [1939] 1977), 77.
58Pope Benedict also commends credit unions in his encyclical, Caritas in veritate,
65.
exactly the same as the just rate of profit . . . [for] the profits of
any business are due, at least in part, to the activities of those who
are running it; and also that ordinary investment involves
financial risks which are not inherent in loans of money. Consequently
. . . the just rate of interest will be lower than the just
rate of profit. How much lower? Evidently by as much as
corresponds to the differential advantage of lending rather than
investing.55
We must remember that “the modern world . . . has ordered
its economic affairs with little reference to moral scruples, and in
such a world it is exceedingly difficult to assess the moral implications
of loan contracts.”56 Often we will agree with T. S. Eliot’s
confession: “I seem to be a petty usurer in a world manipulated
largely by big usurers.”57 The point of these last examples is simply
that even in an economy that gives and receives interest as a matter
of course we can at times distinguish what might be legitimate
interest from what is probably usury. Although the praxis of the
Church for the past two hundred years has been not to disturb
consciences on the subject, that does not mean that there is anything
wrong with discussion of the matter and with attempts to identify
usury where it is present. An increased consciousness of the evil and
the ubiquity of usury today (cf. Rerum novarum) cannot but help to
make Christians more aware of what to our ancestors was one of the
greatest of sins.
Another benefit of discussion of the presence of usury in
today’s financial transactions is that it might lead to steps to establish
institutions which avoid or minimize usury. One possible means of
overcoming loansharking, for example, is an institution with some
resemblance to the medieval montes pietatis, the credit union.58 A
commercial bank has stockholders who expect to receive a return on
their investment. If establishing a commercial bank can be considered
as a legitimate investment activity, then some return for the
472 Thomas Storck
59One very important topic which space prevents me from taking up is the
question of bank-created money. Although it would be possible for a banking
system to work otherwise, ours operates by creating money as debt. Most of the
money supply today originates in this way. The banking system creates money out
of nothing and yet banks charge interest on this money as they loan it out to
borrowers. Almost all of the interest on such loans seems to be nothing but usury.
See Rupert J. Ederer, “Is Usury Still a Problem?” Homiletic & Pastoral Review 84,
nos. 11–12 (August–September 1984): 18–20.
60Islamic banks claim to engage in risk-sharing agreements with their borrowers,
although there is some dispute about whether in fact they do that as much as they
claim. See Timur Kuran, “Islamic Economics and the Islamic Subeconomy,”
Journal of Economic Perspectives 9, no. 4 (Fall 1995): 155–73. Kuran claims that the
whole notion of Islamic banking originated with Maududi (or Mawdudi), an
Indian/Pakistani Moslem theorist of the mid-twentieth century. But see the two
bibliographies on Islamic banking, part of a bibliography on Islamic law, the first
of which lists works earlier than Maududi’s activity: Law Library Journal 78, no. 1
(Winter 1986); the section on Islamic banking is at 161–62. The update appeared
in the same journal, vol. 87, no. 1 (Winter 1995); the section on banking appears
at 122–25.
bank stockholders is just. But still, whatever the stockholders receive
must be paid for by higher interest rates on loans and higher bank
fees. This is not the case with credit unions, which are not profitmaking
institutions in that sense. Of course they pay wages to their
employees, as did the montes pietatis, and for the necessary expenses
of providing loans.59
Today the only financial institutions that operate with the
goal of avoiding usury altogether are Islamic banks.60 If usury is
unjust, why are Christians not as active in promoting these sorts of
financial institutions as Moslems? Let us in conclusion look briefly
at a few more financial practices and institutions which Christians
might promote were we to recover the zeal for economic justice that
characterized Catholics at an earlier period.
The whole Christian doctrine of property with its responsibilities
of ownership which the modern world has forgotten is wrapped
up in this question of money and the taking of interest thereon.
If I am in possession of money, I am in possession of something
that is vital to the society in which I live. I, as a Christian,
therefore, have very definite responsibilities with respect to the
ownership of that money. Christian morality knows of no theory
of an unqualified and unconditional ownership of property of any
description. Property must be used according to its true end and
purpose and in the case of money that true end and purpose is as
Is Usury Still a Sin? 473
61Kelly, Aquinas and Modern Practices of Interest Taking, 46–47.
62Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno, 49 (Paulist translation).
a means of exchange. Therefore, the wrongful withholding of
that money from circulation for the purpose of making a profit
by waiting is a misuse of property.61
Such a doctrine of money is akin to Paul VI’s doctrine of property
in Populorum progressio.
[P]rivate property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and
unconditioned right. No one is justified in keeping for his
exclusive use what he does not need, when others lack necessities
. . . . If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity
because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because
they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests
of the country, the common good sometimes demands their
expropriation. (23–24)
Clearly expropriation of funds that are being used merely in idle
usury should be a last resort, and normally the law will use financial
incentives and penalties to direct such funds toward uses more in
accord with the common good. But no Catholic need be afraid to
acknowledge that “the public authority, in view of the common
good, may specify more accurately what is licit and what is illicit for
property owners in the use of their possessions.”62 A Christian
society, then, by outlawing true usury completely, and by forbidding
or discouraging the kinds of contracts that during the Renaissance
helped undermine the usury prohibition among both theologians
and merchants, would seek to direct money toward its proper use.
Some form of credit union might be adequate to provide financing
for non-productive consumer loans. The demand for commercial
credit could be satisfied either by merchants diverting funds from
investments, and licitly claiming lucrum cessans, or by some form of
commercial credit union run by associations of businesses.
Just as in the Great Depression of the 1930s, so also now
events are forcing theologians and moralists to turn their attention to
the economy. But in reality, Catholics should have as lively a sense
of the demands of the moral law relative to the economy as they do
relative to sexuality or war.
474 Thomas Storck
63Cronin, Catholic Social Principles: the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church Applied
to American Economic Life, 43.
In the Middle Ages, it was taken for granted God’s law applied
to the totality of life. The idea of a double standard of morality,
with a strict code for private life and a minimum of moral
obligation for business and public life, is an innovation based on
philosophical and religious individualism of the eighteenth
century.63
However far we are today from a Christian society or a Christian
economy, the goal “to impress the divine law on the affairs of the
earthly city” (Gaudium et spes, 43) is always present. With respect to
usury the Church has been clear in setting forth a principle, a
principle it is true that must be intelligently applied to the complex
circumstances of financial life, but which nonetheless is a standard for
both individual and social conduct. The doctrine on usury establishes
a social goal, and even if we cannot fully achieve that now there are
various intermediate goals that we can work toward implementing. G
THOMAS STORCK is the author of The Catholic Milieu, Foundations of a
Catholic Political Order, Christendom and the West and numerous articles and
reviews on Catholic culture and social teaching. He is a member of the editorial board
of The Chesterton Review.


Maurice Allais, a french Nobel price, described the ex nihilo ( ex nihilo means out of nothing, out of thin air, out of a pen, out of a computer, out of a subtle robbery from your pocket…) creation of money by the banking
system as identical to the creation of money by “counterfeiters,”
the only difference being that those who profit are different.

He proposed, therefore, that although all banks would be
private, except for the Central Bank, all income derived by the
Central Bank’s creation of money should be returned to the
State, enabling the latter, under present circumstances, to do
away with practically the whole of the progressive tax on income.
This would eliminate the present circumstance where profits
and their beneficiaries are not transparent. Such revenues, he
wrote, “merely generate inflation, and by encouraging investments
that are not really profitable for the community…

The Wall Street Pentagon Papers: Biggest Scam In World History Exposed – Are The Federal Reserve’s Crimes Too Big To Comprehend ?


By David DeGraw, AmpedStatus
The Wall Street Pentagon Papers: Biggest Scam In World History Exposed - Are The Federal Reserve's Crimes Too Big To Comprehend?What if the greatest scam ever perpetrated was blatantly exposed, and the US media didn’t cover it? Does that mean the scam could keep going? That’s what we are about to find out.
I understand the importance of the new WikiLeaks documents. However, we must not let them distract us from the new information the Federal Reserve was forced to release. Even if WikiLeaks reveals documents from inside a large American bank, as huge as that could be, it will most likely pale in comparison to what we just found out from the one-time peek we got into the inner-workings of the Federal Reserve. This is the Wall Street equivalent of the Pentagon Papers.
I’ve written many reports detailing the crimes of Wall Street during this crisis. The level of fraud, from top to bottom, has been staggering. The lack of accountability and the complete disregard for the rule of law have made me and many of my colleagues extremely cynical and jaded when it comes to new evidence to pile on top of the mountain that we have already gathered. But we must not let our cynicism cloud our vision on the details within this new information.
Just when I thought the banksters couldn’t possibly shock me anymore… they did.
We were finally granted the honor and privilege of finding out the specifics, a limited one-time Federal Reserve view, of a secret taxpayer funded “backdoor bailout” by a small group of unelected bankers. This data release reveals “emergency lending programs” that doled out $12.3 TRILLION in taxpayer money – $3.3 trillion in liquidity, $9 trillion in “other financial arrangements.”
Wait, what? Did you say $12.3 TRILLION tax dollars were thrown around in secrecy by unelected bankers… and Congress didn’t know any of the details?
Yes. The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves. The original copy of the Constitution spontaneously burst into flames. The ghost of Tom Paine went running, stark raving mad screaming through the halls of Congress.
The Federal Reserve was secretly throwing around our money in unprecedented fashion, and it wasn’t just to the usual suspects like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, etc.; it was to the entire Global Banking Cartel. To central banks throughout the world: Australia, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, England… To the Fed’s foreign primary dealers like Credit Suisse (Switzerland), Deutsche Bank (Germany), Royal Bank of Scotland (U.K.), Barclays (U.K.), BNP Paribas (France)… All their Ponzi players were “gifted.” All the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations got their cut.
Talk about the ransacking and burning of Rome! Sayonara American middle class…
If you still had any question as to whether or not the United States is now the world’s preeminent banana republic, the final verdict was just delivered and the decision was unanimous. The ayes have it.
Any fairytale notions that we are living in a nation built on the rule of law and of the global economy being based on free market principles has now been exposed as just that, a fairytale. This moment is equivalent to everyone in Vatican City being told, by the Pope, that God is dead.
I’ve been arguing for years that the market is rigged and that the major Wall Street firms are elaborate Ponzi schemes, as have many other people who built their beliefs on rational thought, reasoned logic and evidence. We already came to this conclusion by doing the research and connecting the dots. But now, even our strongest skeptics and the most ardent Wall Street supporters have it all laid out in front of them, on FEDERAL RESERVE SPREADSHEETS.
Even the Financial Times, which named Lloyd Blankfein its 2009 person of the year, reacted by reporting this: “The initial reactions were shock at the breadth of lending, particularly to foreign firms. But the details paint a bleaker and even more disturbing picture.”
Yes, the emperor doesn’t have any clothes. God is, indeed, dead. But, for the moment at least, the illusion continues to hold power. How is this possible?
To start with, as always, the US television “news” media (propaganda) networks just glossed over the whole thing – nothing to see here, just move along, back after a message from our sponsors… Other than that obvious reason, I’ve come to the realization that the Federal Reserve’s crimes are so big, so huge in scale, it is very hard for people to even wrap their head around it and comprehend what has happened here.
Think about it. In just this one peek we got at its operations, we learned that the Fed doled out $12.3 trillion in near-zero interest loans, without Congressional input.
The audacity and absurdity of it all is mind boggling…
Based on many conversations I’ve had with people, it seems that the average person doesn’t comprehend how much a trillion dollars is, let alone 12.3 trillion. You might as well just say 12.3 gazillion, because people don’t grasp a number that large, nor do they understand what would be possible if that money was used in other ways.
Can you imagine what we could do to restructure society with $12.3 trillion? Think about that…
People also can’t grasp the colossal crime committed because they keep hearing the word “loans.” People think of the loans they get. You borrow money, you pay it back with interest, no big deal.
That’s not what happened here. The Fed doled out $12.3 trillion in near-zero interest loans, using the American people as collateral, demanding nothing in return, other than a bunch of toxic assets in some cases. They only gave this money to a select group of insiders, at a time when very few had any money because all these same insiders and speculators crashed the system.
Do you get that? The very people most responsible for crashing the system, were then rewarded with trillions of our dollars. This gave that select group of insiders unlimited power to seize control of assets and have unprecedented leverage over almost everything within their economies – crony capitalism on steroids.
This was a hostile world takeover orchestrated through economic attacks by a very small group of unelected global bankers. They paralyzed the system, then were given the power to recreate it according to their own desires. No free market, no democracy of any kind. All done in secrecy. In the process, they gave themselves all-time record-breaking bonuses and impoverished tens of millions of people – they have put into motion a system that will inevitably collapse again and utterly destroy the very existence of what is left of an economic middle class.
That is not hyperbole. That is what happened.
We are talking about trillions of dollars secretly pumped into global banks, handpicked by a small select group of bankers themselves. All for the benefit of those bankers, and at the expense of everyone else. People can’t even comprehend what that means and the severe consequences that it entails, which we have only just begun to experience.
Let me sum it up for you: The American Dream is O-V-E-R.
Welcome to the neo-feudal-fascist state.
People throughout the world who keep using the dollar are either A) Part of the scam; B) Oblivious to reality; C) Believe that US military power will be able to maintain the value of an otherwise worthless currency; D) All of the above.
No matter which way you look at it, we are all in serious trouble!
If you are an elected official, (I know at least 17 of you subscribe to my newsletter) and you believe in the oath you took upon taking office, you must immediately demand a full audit of the Federal Reserve and have Ben Bernanke and the entire Federal Reserve Board detained. If you are not going to do that, you deserve to have the words “Irrelevant Puppet” tattooed across your forehead.
Yes, those are obviously strong words, but they are the truth.
The Global Banking Cartel has now been so blatantly exposed, you cannot possibly get away with pretending that we live in a nation of law based on the Constitution. The jig is up.
It’s been over two years now; does anyone still seriously not understand why we are in this crisis? Our economy has been looted and burnt to the ground due to the strategic, deliberate decisions made by a small group of unelected global bankers at the Federal Reserve. Do people really not get the connection here? I mean, H.E.L.L.O. Our country is run by an unelected Global Banking Cartel.
I am constantly haunted by a quote from Harry Overstreet, who wrote the following in his 1925 groundbreaking study Influencing Human Behavior: “Giving people the facts as a strategy of influence” has been a failure, “an enterprise fraught with a surprising amount of disappointment.”
This crisis overwhelmingly proves Overstreet’s thesis to be true. Nonetheless, we solider on…
Here’s a roundup of reports on this BernankeLeaks:
Prepare to enter the theater of the absurd…
I’ll start with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). He was the senator who Bernanke blew off when he was asked for information on this heist during a congressional hearing. Sanders fought to get the amendment written into the financial “reform” bill that gave us this one-time peek into the Fed’s secret operations. (Remember, remember the 6th of May, HFT, flash crash and terrorism. “Hey, David, Homeland Security is on the phone! They want to ask you questions about some NYSE SLP program.”)
In an article entitled, “A Real Jaw-Dropper at the Federal Reserve,” Senator Sanders reveals some of the details:

At a Senate Budget Committee hearing in 2009, I asked Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to tell the American people the names of the financial institutions that received an unprecedented backdoor bailout from the Federal Reserve, how much they received, and the exact terms of this assistance. He refused. A year and a half later… we have begun to lift the veil of secrecy at the Fed…
After years of stonewalling by the Fed, the American people are finally learning the incredible and jaw-dropping details of the Fed’s multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and corporate America….
We have learned that the $700 billion Wall Street bailout… turned out to be pocket change compared to the trillions and trillions of dollars in near-zero interest loans and other financial arrangements the Federal Reserve doled out to every major financial institution in this country.…
Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations including two European megabanks — Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse — which were the largest beneficiaries of the Fed’s purchase of mortgage-backed securities….
Has the Federal Reserve of the United States become the central bank of the world?… [read Global Banking Cartel]
What this disclosure tells us, among many other things, is that despite this huge taxpayer bailout, the Fed did not make the appropriate demands on these institutions necessary to rebuild our economy and protect the needs of ordinary Americans….
What we are seeing is the incredible power of a small number of people who have incredible conflicts of interest getting incredible help from the taxpayers of this country while ignoring the needs of the people. [read more]

In an article entitled, “The Fed Lied About Wall Street,” Zach Carter sums it up this way:

The Federal Reserve audit is full of frightening revelations about U.S. economic policy and those who implement it… By denying the solvency crisis, major bank executives who had run their companies into the ground were allowed to keep their jobs, and shareholders who had placed bad bets on their firms were allowed to collect government largesse, as bloated bonuses began paying out soon after.
But the banks themselves still faced a capital shortage, and were only kept above those critical capital thresholds because federal regulators were willing to look the other way, letting banks account for obvious losses as if they were profitable assets.
So based on the Fed audit data, it’s hard to conclude that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was telling the truth when he told Congress on March 3, 2009, that there were no zombie banks in the United States.
“I don’t think that any major U.S. bank is currently a zombie institution,” Bernanke said.
As Bernanke spoke those words banks had been pledging junk bonds as collateral under Fed facilities for several months…
This is the heart of today’s foreclosure fraud crisis. Banks are foreclosing on untold numbers of families who have never missed a payment, because rushing to foreclosure generates lucrative fees for the banks, whatever the costs to families and investors. This is, in fact, far worse than what Paul Krugman predicted. Not only are zombie banks failing to support the economy, they are actively sabotaging it with fraud in order to make up for their capital shortages. Meanwhile, regulators are aggressively looking the other way.
The Fed had to fix liquidity in 2008. That was its job. But as major banks went insolvent, the Fed and Treasury had a responsibility to fix that solvency issue—even though that meant requiring shareholders and executives to live up to losses. Instead, as the Fed audit tells us, policymakers knowingly ignored the real problem, pushing losses onto the American middle class in the process.” [read more]

Even the Financial Times is jumping ship:

Sunlight Shows Cracks in Fed’s Rescue Story
It took two years, a hard-fought lawsuit, and an act of Congress, but finally… the Federal Reserve disclosed the details of its financial crisis lending programs. The initial reactions were shock at the breadth of lending, particularly to foreign firms. But the details paint a bleaker, earlier, and even more disturbing picture…. An even more troubling conclusion from the data is that… it is now apparent that the Fed took on far more risk, on less favorable terms, than most people have realized. [read more]

In true Fed fashion, they didn’t even fully comply with Congress. In a report entitled, “Fed Withholds Collateral Data for $885 Billion in Financial-Crisis Loans,” Bloomberg puts some icing on the cake:

For three of the Fed’s six emergency facilities, the central bank released information on groups of collateral it accepted by asset type and rating, without specifying individual securities. Among them was the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, created in March 2008 to provide loans to brokers as Bear Stearns Cos. collapsed.
“This is a half-step,” said former Atlanta Fed research director Robert Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist at Cumberland Advisors Inc. in Sarasota, Florida. “If you were going to audit the facilities, then would this enable you to do an audit? The answer is ‘No,’ you would have to go in and look at the individual amounts of collateral and how it was broken down to do that. And that is the spirit of what the requirements were in Dodd-Frank.” [read more]

See also:

  • Fed Data Dump Reveals More Contradictions About its $1.25 Trillion MBS Purchase Program
  • Fed Created Conflicts in Improvising $3.3 Trillion Financial System Rescue
  • Meet The 35 Foreign Banks That Got Bailed Out By The Fed
  • Ben Bernanke’s Secret Global Bank
  • Here’s the only person on US TV “news” who actually covers and understands any of this, enter Dylan Ratigan, with his guest Chris Whalen from Institutional Risk Analytics. This quote from Whalen sums it up well: “The folks at the Fed have become so corrupt, so captured by the banking industry… the Fed is there to support the speculators and they let the real economy go to hell.”

    The Progressive’s Matthew Rothschild has a good quote: “The financial bailout was a giant boondoggle, undemocratic and kleptocratic to its core.”
    Matt Stoller on NewDeal 2.0:

    End This Fed
    The Fed, and specifically the people who run it, are responsible for declining wages, for de-industrialization, for bubbles, and for the systemic corruption of American capital markets. The new financial blogosphere destroyed the Fed’s mythic stature…. With a loss of legitimacy comes a lack of public trust and a vulnerability to any form of critic. The Fed is now less respected than the IRS…. Liberals should stop their love affair with conservative technocratic myths of monetary independence, and cease seeing this Federal Reserve as a legitimate actor. At the very least, we need to begin noticing that these people do in fact run the country, and should not. [read more]

    In case anyone is confused into believing that this is just another right vs. left partisan issue, enter Fox Business host Judge Andrew Napolitano with his guest Republican Congressman Ron Paul, who is, of course, a longtime leading Fed critic. Paul hopes to see some Wikileaks on the Federal Reserve:

    The Sunlight Foundation shines a light on Bank of America and the Federal Reserve’s brother money manager BlackRock:

    Federal Reserve Loan Program Allowed Bank of America to Benefit Twice
    Bank of America was one of several banks that was able to play both sides of a Federal Reserve program launched during the 2008 financial crisis. While Bank of America was selling its assets to firms obtaining loans through the Fed program, the investment firm BlackRock—partially owned by Bank of America—was potentially turning a profit by using those loans to buy assets similar to those sold by Bank of America. [read more]

    Gretchen Morgenson at the New York Times jumps into the act:

    So That’s Where the Money Went
    How the truth shines through when you shed a little light on a subject….
    All of the emergency lending data released by the Fed are highly revealing, but why weren’t they made public much earlier? That’s a question that Walker F. Todd, a research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, is asking.
    Mr. Todd, a former assistant general counsel and research officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said details about the Fed’s vast and various programs should have been available before the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform law was even written.
    “The Fed’s current set of powers and the shape of the Dodd-Frank bill over all might have looked quite different if this information had been made public during the debate on the bill,” he said. “Had these tables been out there, I think Congress would have either said no to emergency lending authority or if you get it, it’s going to be a much lower number — half a trillion dollars in the aggregate.” [read more]

    Welcome to the “global pawnshop:”

    The Fed Operates as a “global pawnshop:” $9 trillion to 18 financial institutions
    What the report shows is that the Fed operated as a global pawnshop taking in practically anything the banks had for collateral. What is even more disturbing is that the Federal Reserve did not enact any punitive charges to these borrowers so you had banks like Goldman Sachs utilizing the crisis to siphon off cheap collateral. The Fed is quick to point out that “taxpayers were fully protected” but mention little of the destruction they have caused to the US dollar. This is a hidden cost to Americans and it also didn’t help that they were the fuel that set off the biggest global housing bubble ever witnessed by humanity. [read more]

    “No strings attached.” Financial reporter Barry Grey unleashes the truth:

    Fed report lifts lid on Great Bank Heist of 2008-2009
    The banks and corporations that benefited were not even obliged to provide an account of what they did with the money. The entire purpose of the operation was to use public funds to cover the gambling losses of the American financial aristocracy, and create the conditions for the financiers and speculators to make even more money.
    All of the 21,000 transactions cited in the Fed documents―released under a provision included, over the Fed’s objections, in this year’s financial regulatory overhaul bill―were carried out in secret. The unelected central bank operated without any congressional mandate or oversight.
    The documents shed light on the greatest plundering of social resources in history. It was carried out under both the Republican Bush and Democratic Obama administrations. Those who organized the looting of the public treasury were long-time Wall Street insiders: men like Bush’s treasury secretary and former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson and the then-president of the New York Federal Reserve, Timothy Geithner….
    The Fed documents show that the US central bank enabled banks and corporations to offload their bad debts onto the Fed’s balance sheet. Now, in order to prevent a collapse of the dollar and a default by the US government, the American people are being told they must sacrifice to reduce the national debt and budget deficit.
    But as the vast sums make clear, the “sacrifice” being demanded of working people means their impoverishment―wage-cutting, mass unemployment, cuts in health care, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.
    The very scale of the Fed bailout points to the scale of the financial crash and the criminality that fostered it…. The entire US capitalist economy rested on a huge Ponzi scheme that was bound to collapse…
    The banks were able to take the cheap cash from the Fed and lend it back to the government at double and quadruple the interest rates they were initially charged―pocketing many billions in the process….
    The ongoing saga of the looting of the economy by the financial elite puts the lie to the endless claims that “there is no money” for jobs, housing, education or health care. The ruling class is awash in money. [read more]

    Here’s an old Jim Rogers interview from two years ago when this whole thing was originally going down:

    Here are two videos that I made last year, with an assist from Alan Grayson and Dylan Ratigan:
    The Wall Street Economic Death Squad – Part I

    The Greatest Theft in History – Wall Street Economic Death Squad – Part II

    And on a final note, you may as well rock out to this new song while Rome burns…
    WORLD PREMIERE ~ Ben Bernanke: Public Enemy #1 – Mr. Big Shot (((Music Video)))

    Ben Shalom Bernanke is wanted for violating the United States Constitution, committing acts of financial terrorism and crimes against humanity. As a leading member of the Global Banking Cartel, he is considered a highly dangerous enemy combatant. Citizens of the United States hereby demand that he be properly detained under the laws and customs of war.



    After Cardinal Agré and Archbishop Concessao, a new Cardinal, Cormac Murphy O’Connor, says credit crisis has killed capitalism.

    After Cardinal Bernard Agré and Archbishop Concessao, a new Cardinal, Cormac Murphy O’Connor, says credit crisis has killed capitalism…

    The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has declared that capitalism is dead because of the credit crunch.


    http://www.michaeljournal.org/agree.htm
    http://www.michaeljournal.org/concessao.htm

    Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor stands inside Westminster Cathedral, London, after launching a £3 million appeal to fund major restoration work including urgent repairs to the cathedral domes, heating and electrical systems. January 17, 2008.

    The Cardinal has set up a £3 million appeal for Westminster Cathedral which he fears will be forced to close within a decade if cash is not found for urgent repairs
    Photo: HEATHCLIFF O’MALLEY

    Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, 76, made the astonishing claim at a lavish fund-raising dinner at Claridges which secured pledges of hundreds of thousands of pounds for the catholic church.
    The Cardinal, dressed in his full clerical regalia, said in a speech at the black tie dinner that he had worried whether the dinner should go ahead because of the troubled economic times.
    But he went on to say that in 1989, with the collapse of the Berlin wall, that “communism had died”. In 2008, he said, ” capitalism had died”.
    The remarks will cause dismay in Downing Street as the Cardinal’s remarks will be interpreted as a signal that the entire economic order has collapsed.
    The Government has clashed with the Cardinal before over homosexual adoption, abortion and the Embryology Bill. One Whitehall source said: “We would like the church to work with us, not against us.”
    The remark caused astonishment in the ballroom, where the dinner was held, to launch an £8 million Faith in the Future appeal for money for the work of the bishops in England and Wales.
    One guest who was present, who declined to be named, said: “I could hardly believe my ears. The Cardinal announced that, in his view, that Communism had died in 1989 and capitalism had died in 2008 because of the credit crisis.
    “His remarks were part of a carefully considered thesis that it was capitalism that had got us into this mess and had died because of it. It was not just remarkable that he thinks that but it was remarkable that he said it in a room packed with some of the richest and most influential catholics in the land. Those same capitalists pledged a six figure sum to the church appeal.”
    The four course dinner, with a champagne reception, had been provided free of charge by Derek Quinlan, the property developer, who owns Claridges who is worth an estimated £60 million.
    Sir Rocco Forte, the hotelier and prominent Roman Catholic, was in charge of the decoration. He decked out the ballroom in red flowers and red lights to match the Cardinal’s clerical outfit.
    The guest list included Baroness Williams, the Lib Dem peer and former Labour Cabinet minister, Lord Brennan, the Labour peer, Lord Guthrie, the former Chief of Defence staff, the Conservative MP Nicholas Soames, and a clutch of bishops from England and Wales.
    Nicola Benedetti, the violinist, serenaded the guests and Julie Etchingham, the presenter of the ITV News at 10, compèred the proceedings.
    Last month the Cardinal, 76, issued a statement on the economic crisis which said: “Religious leaders are not normally economists, however, they cannot ignore the damaging human consequences of the rise and fall of economic indicators. Behind the gloomy headlines are cities, neighbourhoods, families, individuals deeply affected by the economic breakdown; and the hardest hit will be the poor: those already struggling to survive. Christians have a paramount concern for the poor. This “preferential option for the poor” is a constant theme in Catholic social teaching”.
    A sopokesman for the Cardinal said: “They were private remarks at a private dinner.”
    The Cardinal has also set up a £3 million appeal for Westminster Cathedral which he fears will be forced to close within a decade if cash is not found for urgent repairs.
    Parts of the building, which opened in 1903 but has never been completed, are in danger of structural collapse. The cathedral is recognised as one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture and Byzantine art.
    The remarks by the Cardinal come as leading bishops in the Church of England have launched a withering attack on the Government, questioning the morality of its policies.
    Five of the Church’s most senior figures said the Government now presided over a country suffering from family breakdown, an unhealthy reliance on debt and a growing divide between rich and poor.
    The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, accused Labour of being “beguiled by money” and “morally corrupt”. He said: “The Government believes that money can answer all of the problems and has encouraged greed and a love of money that the Bible says is the root of all evil. It is morally corrupt because it encourages people to get into a lifestyle of believing they can always get what they want.”
    The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, said: “Labour made a lot of promises, but a lot of them have vanished into thin air,” he said. “We have not seen a raising of aspirations in the last 13 years, but instead there is a sense of hopelessness.
    “When a big bank or car company goes bankrupt, it gets bailed out, but no one seems to be bailing out the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and seeing their savings diminished.”
    The bishops of Hulme, Winchester and Carlisle joined in the attacks. 

    Kucinich “…the manipulation of the Federal Reserve!”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsLiS8UlZyo&NR=1

    Kucinich: Federal Reserve No More “Federal” Than Federal Express!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR2EtMteHCg&feature=channel_page


    Kampf der kathol. Kirche in Oesterreich gegen den Liberalismus (=Kathol. Stimmen aus Oesterreich N. Ausz. (H. 1) ) 1873



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