Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sodomy and Usury

Mark Shea examines "a curious connection Dante makes" — There's a Reason the Catholic Tradition is Suspicious of Usury. "Don’t see the connection? That’s understandable. You live in a civilization that no longer has a big problem with either."

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8 Comments:

Blogger love the girls said...

Mark Shea writes in the comments : "There may be very good reasons why modern practices of usury are compatible with the Christian tradition. I’m not an economist. I simply write to point out that something which our civilization takes for granted as no big deal was seen as a very big deal for our ancestors in the faith and to suggest that should at least give us pause."

No. Usury is not compatible.

What the article also inadvertently 'points out', is how far we have drifted from being able to understand Church teaching. Where for example Church teaching on usury is explained away so carelessly.

12:52 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Steve Kellmeyer has attempted a deeper explanation: Usury: Did the Church Change the Teaching?

3:33 PM  
Blogger Mark P. Shea said...

I'm no explaining away anything. I'm merely noting that, as somebody who has not studied the matter deeply, there may, for all I know, be development of doctrine here I'm not aware of.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Francis Xavier said...

The Catholic condemnation of usury - if we define usury as lending money and expecting interest - was far more nuanced than an outright condemnation. Many scholastic theologians allowed lenders to insist not only on repayment, but also on compensation for the gains the lender could have enjoyed by not lending his money (lucrum cessans) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usury#Scholastic_theology.

As such the ban on usury is better understood as a ban on demanding obscene interest rates and loan-sharking, both of which are (mostly) banned in our day.

2:33 AM  
Blogger Francis Xavier said...

Scholastic teaching required that the lender assume part of the risk of the venture when making a loan; one can argue that as long as a borrower has the opportunity to default, the lender does indeed bear part of the risk.

In earlier times and even today in third world countries, it was or is not unknown for borrowers who can't repay their loans to wind up as slaves or even dead. Such arrangements are usurious.

2:44 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Thanks for the clarification. Reminds me a bit of what little I know of Islamic finance.

It seems Catholic teaching would be opposed to derivitives.

5:27 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

Mr. Shea,

Substitute in homosexuality for usury. And reread what you have written.

5:47 AM  
Blogger Francis Xavier said...

If you read the Merchant of Venice with the usurious Shylock, you'll remember that he didn't want foreclosure proceedings or physical collateral, he literally wanted a pound of his creditor's flesh. Good riddance to those times!

One could argue that the changes to the US bankruptcy laws (student debt stays with you even after bankruptcy) are usurious.

4:57 PM  

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