I have complied a series of quotes about usury. These are collected from the book ‘Capitalism, Catholicism and Cooperativism’ authored by Estelle and Mario Carota, Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada 1990
It is interesting to note that much of Estelle and Mario’s research about ‘usury’ centred around archived documents pertaining to the Holy Office of the Vatican. In recent centuries, the Catholic Church has become very much involved in banking practices including exacting usury.
In fact, in this 21st Century, the Vatican has its own bank and practically all the dioceses are exacting usury as income from their investment portfolios and bank deposits. What’s going on here?
Rev Patrick Cleary from Ireland explains:
“It has been said that the Church has changed her doctrine on the subject of usury. The fathers condemned usury with no uncertain voice; the Councils time and time again pounced upon it; at Vienne the defenders of its legality were dubbed heretics; Benedict XIV synthesized the traditional doctrine; and all declared that for 100 pounds one may not receive 105 pounds. Yet, here we, educated Catholics of the 20th Century not only venture to take 105 pounds for 100 pounds, but declare that it is perfectly legal to do so. What was heresy in the days of Vienne is heresy no longer. Surely the Church has changed her doctrine – what need have we of witnesses, we have ourselves beheld the change.” Rev. Patrick Cleary, Ireland, June 17, 1914
Quotes about usury….
“The whole amount paid in usury, even when the sum has been paid regularly, should never exceed the original amount.” - The Justinian Code, 527 A.D.
“Usurers are commom – if there were not such a multitude of usurers, there would not be such a multitude of poor.” - St Gregory, Contra Usurarios
“All rulers and magistrates knowingly maintaining laws that sanctioned usury and that compelled debtors to observe usurious contracts are to incur excommunication, and requires the legislation in question to be revoked within three months. Since the true nature of usurious transactions is often concealed beneath various devices, money lenders are to be compelled by the ecclesiastical authorities to submit their accounts to examination.” - Council of Vienne, 1311
“As Christians we are obliged in many instances to help our sisters and brothers in Christ with a loan. Christ himself teaches this: ‘Do not refuse to len to him who asks you.’ In most circumstances, there is no other true and just way to help except through a loan contract. But, if we follow our conscience, we cannot do this and seek gain for ourselves by charging interest.” - Pope Benedict XIV, Vatican City, 1745
“Tend the flock of God … not yet for filthy lucre but willingly.” - St. Peter, (1 Peter 5:2) St. Paul (1 Timothy 3:8)
“Come, you men of riches, bemoan yourselves and cry aloud over the miseries that are to overtake you. Corruption has fallen on your riches; all your fine clothes are moth-eaten, and your gold and silver have long lain rusting. That rust will bear witness against you, will bite your flesh like flame. These are the last days given you, and you have spent them in heaping up a store of retribution. You have kept back the pay of the workmen who reaped your lands, and it is there to cry out against you; the Lord of hosts has listened to their complaint. You have feasted here on earth, you have comforted your hearts with luxuries on this day that dooms you to slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent man, while he offered no resistance.” - St James (James 5: 1-16)
“The so called prophets and martyers, as we shall plainly prove, collect money not merely from the wealthy but also from the poor, the orphan and the widow …. Answer me this: does a prophet dye his hair? Does he stain his eyelids? Does he seek to adorn himself? Does a prophet play with tablets and dice? Does he lend money out a usury? Let them honestly answer the question ‘may a prophet do such things or not’ ”- Apollonius, 2nd Century (History Eccelsiastical, Eusebius, Bk V, Chapter 18)
“The law prohibits a brother from taking usury; designating as a brother not only him who is born of the same parents, but also one of the same race and sentiments, and a participator in the same word, deeming it right not to take usury for money, but with open hands and heart to bestow on those who need. - Clement of Alexandria, Stromata,Bk. 11, Chapter 18)
“It is incumbent on Christians not to receive usury. On the contrary, Christians are bound to lend to such as are not likely to be able to repay.” - Tertullian, Adversus Marcion, Bk IV, Chapter 17)
“Everyone is desirous of increasing his estate, and forgetful of what believers had done before in the times of the Apostles, or always ought to do, Christians with the insatiable ardour of covetousness devoted themselves to the increase of their property. Among the priests there was no devotedness to religion, among the ministers there was no sound faith, in their works there was no mercy. Very many bishops who ought to furnish both exhortation and example to others, despising their divine charge, became agents in secular business, forsook their throne, deserted their people, wandered about over foreign provinces, hunted the markets for gainful merchandise, while brethren were starving in the church. They sought to possess money in hoards, they seized estates by crafty deceits, they increased their gains by multiplying usuries. What do not such as we deserve for sins of this kind.” - (St. Cypian, 251, ‘De Lapsis,’ Chapters 5 & 6)
“I have seen a sad sight, fine young fellows dragged to the market place, that they might be sold to pay their father’s debts.” - St Basil, Ps XIV
“Such a benefit is a fraudulent one, such kindness damnable. If you are a Christian why do you seek a return for your idle money … if you are a Christian I do not ask you to give as a gift, but I do ask you so to demand back your money that you rob not the other – remember that he is needy, and a poor man.” - St Hilary, (In PS. XIV. Migne, P.L. 9 col.307)
“It is the custom in the country to demand usury fro corn, wine and oil. Thus in the winter season one gives ten measures so that he may receive fifteen in the harvest time, justifying himself thus; is it not right that I get a half-meausre when by my liberality the other has nine measures and a half? Err not. God is not mocked. Did you give it to a prosperous person or not? If he were prosperous then you should not have given it, if he were not, then you should not ask it back as if he were.” - St Jerome (Migne, P.L. tom 25, col 176-7)
“All usurers are murderers of the poor.” - St Augustine
“Lend to those from whom you hope for no restitution.” - St Basil
‘Should any cleric be found to have taken usury, let him be degraded and excommunicated. Moreover, if any layman shall be proved a usurer, and shall have promised when corrected to abstain from the practice, let him be pardoned. If on the contrary, he perseveres in his evil-doing he is to be excommunicated.” - Council of Elvira, 305 A.D. (Mansi II, 9. Can 20)
“Since many so called Christians animated with the desire of increasing their property and for such purpose making illicit gain, forgetful of the divine scriptures which say: ‘He gave not his money in usury,’ lend their money taking usury thereon, this Synod decrees that, if hereafter any shall be found taking usury on money or goods, or carrying on trade for the sake of profit, he shall be deposed from the clergy and excommunicated.” - Council of Nice, 325 A.D.
“All Christians are compelled to avoid usury.” - Council of Meaux, 845 A.D.
“We denounce that detestable and disgraceful rapacity condemned alike by human and divine law, by the Old and the New Testament, that insatiable rapacity of usurers, whom we order that no archbishop, that no bishop, or abbot, or cleric shall presume to receive back usurers except with the very greatest caution, that on the contrary usurers are to be regarded as infamous and shall if they do not repent be deprived of Christian burial.” - Second Lateran Council, 1139 A.D.
“Since almost in every place the crime of usury has become so prevalent, that many people give up all other business and become usurers, as if it were lawful, regarding not its prohibition in both Testaments, we ordain that manifest usurers shall not be admitted to communion, nor if they die in their sins receive Christian burial, and that no priest shall accept their alms.” - Third Lateran Council, 1179 A.D.
“Individuals and corporations are forbade to let houses to strangers for the practice of manifest usury; and moreover, the owners of these houses should expel such persons within three months, if they have already taken up their residence in them. The wills of public usurers are declared invalid. Christians are forbade to act as witnesses to usurers. Priests might not hear confessions of usurers, nor give ecclesiastical burial to manifest usurers – unless they have completely restored their ill-gotten gain.” - Second Council of Lyons, 1274 A.D.
“If any person falls into such error that he pertinaciously presumes to affirm that it is not sinful to practice usury he is to be punished as a heretic.” - Council of Vienne, 1311 A.D.
“This is the proper interpretation of usury, when gain is sought to be acquired from the use of a thing not in itself fruitful, without labour, expense, or risk on the part of the lender.” - Fifth Lateral Council, 1512 A.D.
“He who takes usury for a loan of money acts unjustly for he sells what does not exist, and such an action evidently constitutes an inequality and consequently an injustice. To understand this we should note that there are certain things whose use consists in their consumption, as in using wine we consume it, or as we consume wheat in using it for food. In such cases then, the use of a thing is inseparable from the thing itself, hence he, to whom the use is granted has the thing itself granted to him. Hence in loans of articles of this description, ownership itself is handed over. If therefore a man wanted to make two distinct sales, one of the wine, the other of the use of the wine, he would either be selling the same thing twice, or selling what does not exist – wherefore manifestly he would commit a sin against justice. Similarly, he commits injustice who lends wine or wheat seeking double recompense; the one, the return of a quantity equal to the loan; the other, which we call usury, a payment for its use. But there are some things, which to use is not to consume (that is which are not consumed in use): thus one uses a house by dwelling in it, not by destroying it, and in such a case, a man may transfer the ownership of the house to another, keeping for himself the right to dwell in it for some time, or conversely, one may grant the use of the house to another whilst reserving its ownership. Such a man might lawfully receive a price for the use of the house, whilst in addition he may demand back the house which he has lent – the course of action adopted in letting and hiring of houses. Now Aristotle tells, in the fifth book of his Ethics and the first book of his Politics, that money was chiefly devised for making exchanges – hence the primary and proper use of money consists in its consumption or spending (consumption sive distraction), after the fashion in which it is spent in exchange. It follows then that it is wrong in itself to take a price (usury) for the use of money lent, and as in the case of other offenses against injustice, one is bound to make restitution of his unjustly acquired money.” - St Thomas (Sum. Theol. 2, 2, Q.78, art. I)
“In the contract of mutuum ownership passes, for the mutuum signifies I give you what is mine; from this it follows that if the lender of a sum of money takes any return for that sum, he takes it from what does not belong to him – he sells what is not his own. Even admitting that the money remains the lender’s, still money does not naturally produce any fruit like other productive things – there is merely a sort of fruit arising from the industry of the borrower. Hence, he who wishes a return for money lent seeks what is really the fruit of another’s labour, and moreover, it is the fruit of labour which has not been handed over in virtue of the contract of mutuum.” - Scotus, a prominent scholastic (Lib. iv, Sententiarum, dist. xv. Q. ii)
“It is filthy lucre when one in the harvest of time through avarice and not through necessity gets grain at two denarii per peck and keeps it till he gets four or six.” - Pope Julius, 337 A.D.
“There is injustice in usury. Usurers should make restitution either to the persons from whom they exacted their usuries or to their heirs.” - Pope Alexander III
“He is to be accounted a usurer, who lends a certain sum to one who is about to make a voyage, or attend a market, on condition of receiving more than he lent merely because he undertakes the risks.” - Pope Gregory IX
“The contract (a contract of loan at usury) in the form given is usurious, nor can it be reduced to any form other than that of mutuum with a stipulation for an income derivable from the mutuum itself. Since such stipulations are forbidden alike by divine and natural law, it follows that there can be no excusing cause arising from custom or even from civil law; for the same reason it is unlawful for rich and poor alike, it is unlawful ever for the most miserable, to draw money from such contracts, or to retain it.” - Pope Gregory XIII
“The nature of the sin called usury, has its proper place and origin in a loan contract. This financial contract, as long as it is made between consenting parties, demands, by its very nature, that the borrower only return to the lender as much as was 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.” - Pope Benedict XIV 1745 A.D.
“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 borrowed money is not left idle but is spent usefully, either to increase one’s wealth, to buy real estate or to finance some business transactions. The law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what is borrowed and what is returned. They have to be equal. Once that equality is established, and agreed upon, then if the lender demands more than an equal return, that is a violation of the terms of the loan. Therefore, if one receives interest, he must make restitution according to the laws of justice; its function in human contracts is to assure equality for each person. This law is to be observed in a holy way and in a way that God wants us to follow His laws. If observed exactly, reparation must be made.” - Pope Benedict XIV 1745 A.D.