Usury Made Easy

What does the Church say about usury?

I can’t say much to the history of the teaching on usury, but I can point to some clear problems in the linked presentations. First, as always, is the presumed univocity between what moderns mean by “loan” and “interest” and what the term (“mutuum”) has meant in the history of the Church.

The second is the presumption that Christians’ abhorrence with usury finds it ground principally if not exclusively in Scripture. This ignores the long history of pagan condemnations of usury including Aristotle, Plutarch, Cicero, among others. Moreover, it ignores the actual argument that Aquinas makes against usury and his replies to the use of Scripture and civil law to justify it (actually linked to in the article!)

Then the fall into the modern use of the term usury as excessive interest. In certain contracts, charging an “excessive” interest may be illicit as charging an “excessive” rent for an apartment or farm may be illicit. But that is a separate issue from usury as such.

An equivocation with a side of red herring, appeal to incompetent authority, and ignoring the substantive argument, and “The Catholic Church isn’t opposed to charging or paying interest on a loan per se.”

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