November 20, 2017 § 1 Comment
Re-posting this since the Parable of the Talents was yesterday’s Gospel reading.
It is a fairly common misunderstanding to invoke the Parable of the Talents as a kind of ‘gotcha’ against the Church’s universal and constant condemnation of usury, that is, of any and all profit from mutuum loans. As is the case with most modern pro-usury apologetics, this rests on an equivocation which studiously fails to distinguish between mutuum loans (personal IOU’s) and other agreements: an equivocation which uses the same label “loan” to refer to fundamentallydifferent kinds of contracts.
Here is the money quote from the parable:
Therefore, you ought to have committed my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received my own with interest!
But of course someone who has familiarized himself with what usury is and is not knows that loans to the bank or deposit accounts are not mutuum loansin the first place. Loans to the bank are claims against the…
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November 15, 2017 § 7 Comments
Cane Caldo recently objected to my contention that violence is the besetting sin of incontinent men, citing federal prison statistics. One problem with citing federal prison statistics — even stipulating the veracity of official methods which categorize various crimes proximate to violence (e.g. burglary) as as nonviolent — is that the federal prison population is not representative of the prison population in general:
Obama made this a key point in his NAACP speech: “But here’s the thing: Over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before. And that is the real reason our prison population is so high.”
This claim, which is widely accepted by policymakers and the public, is simply wrong. It’s true that nearly half of all federal inmates have been sentenced for drug offenses, but the federal system holds only about 14 percent of all inmates. In the state prisons, which hold the remaining 86 percent, over half of prisoners are serving time for violent crimes, and since 1990, 60 percent of the growth in state prison populations has come from locking up violent offenders. Less than a fifth of state prisoners — 17 percent — are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.
In other words, for all the talk about nonviolent offenders, a majority of our prisoners have been convicted of a violent act, and even more have some history of violence.
November 14, 2017 § 49 Comments
The basic principles behind the prohibition of usury are simple. Financially, usury is any contractual profit for the lender stemming from making a “loan for consumption“: a loan which authorizes the borrower to consume or alienate the actual property lent, while personally guaranteeing that he will restore to the lender the amount lent. Morally, personally guaranteed loans are only licit as acts of charity or friendship made to a borrower in need: they are never licit under any circumstances as acts of financial self-interest on the part of the lender.
Intuitively, charging rent for the use of collateral property owned by the lender – actual alienable property which is later returned to the lender intact or ultimately bought out by the borrower – is not intrinsically uncharitable.
Intuitively, charging a man rent for the use of his own person, for each breath he takes from his own lungs, is intrinsically uncharitable. Interest on a personal IOU is a charge of rent against a man for the use of his own person, since his obligation to repay simply is personal.
It is also intrinsically uncharitable to make a mutuum borrower responsible for the lender’s changing circumstances. In general with a mutuum loan the borrower is not responsible – cannot be made responsible – for all of the circumstantial changes which occur in the universe during the duration of the loan.
People use terms like “inflation” in economic theory to refer to aggregate indexes of relative price changes over time. An index is just a representative sample of statistically aggregated spot prices of particular goods and services, measured in some particular unit (US dollars, McDonalds Big Macs, etc). There are as many possible relative price indices as there are discrete combinations of goods, services, transactions, and time periods. But folks tend to treat “inflation” as if it were a basic feature of reality as opposed to a particular heuristic/statistical guesstimate about certain historical circumstantial changes in relative prices (measures of who in fact bartered what in exchange for what) for certain goods and services (and only those goods and services, etc).
I once bought a house by selling some stock, paying for the house with the proceeds. When I sold the house it had “lost value” in terms of US dollars but had “gained value” in terms of the stock I sold. Whether the house had inflated or deflated in price over the period I owned it depends on what measure we use for price. If I had sold the stock, rented a place to live, and made an interest free mutuum loan of the remainder of the proceeds I would have been financially better off still, assuming the mutuum was repaid. If I had rented and not sold the stock at all I would be worst off of all, in terms of financial outcome.
This all would have been the result of changing circumstances. In general it is not the responsibility of mutuum borrowers – it cannot be a mutuum borrower’s responsibility in justice – to compensate lenders for changes in the lender’s circumstances.
Inflation is a heuristic measure of aggregated circumstances in the economy, crafted and reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even if inflation were a measure of the actual concrete and personal changing circumstances of the actual lender, which it isn’t, it remains intrinsically unjust to charge mutuum borrowers rent for the use of their own persons simply because of the changing circumstances of a lender.
November 5, 2017 § 89 Comments
Since 1999, I have directed a pastoral counseling agency that conducts over 12,000 [hours] of pastoral counseling per year. That means that, over the last 18 years, I have either personally conducted, or been directly responsible for, over 216,000 hours of pastoral counseling, which is all about asking how one can apply the teachings of our Catholic faith to some of the most complex situations one could encounter in life. Our agency’s services are delivered in English and Spanish to Catholic couples, families, and individuals across North and South America, Europe, Asia (primarily Hong Kong and India), Australia, and Africa, which has given me a uniquely multi-cultural lens through which to view this question of pastoral practice. I am a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and I serve as the Chair of the Education Committee for the Catholic Psychotherapy Association, which is responsible for the professional development of the next generation of pastoral psychotherapists. I also direct a graduate program in pastoral studies which is forming the next generation of pastoral ministers. I have written over 20 books and programs on a host of serious, practical, faith-based topics that have been translated into at least 7 languages.
The idea that the laity are doomed to be spiritual also-rans strikes me as a particularly pernicious failure of pastoral practice. I am, frankly, appalled that what appears to be driving the progressive advocacy of an interpretation of Chapter 8 of AL that supports communion for Catholics who are remarried without the benefit of annulment is that lay people are just too weak to live holy lives. It seems to me that some 50 years after Vatican II, lay people deserve a little better than “we think we have to lower the bar because, well, you suck.”
… I happen to work with an awful lot of people who have been heroically bearing the cross of living faithfully in their irregular marriages for years and who are a testament both to the fact that the current teaching bears real personal and relational fruit AND the fact that heroism is for the average Christian (thank you very much). On their behalf, I can only say, “How dare you.” to anyone, who out of their misguided approach to pastoral practice would seek to demean the witness of such faithful, courageous, godly, and yes, heroic people.
(HT: LMS Chairman)
October 25, 2017 § 71 Comments
Now and then you’ll encounter the claim that although usury (contractual profit from a mutuum loan) is morally wrong as an agreement between individuals, it becomes morally licit when it is authorized by the positive law, sometimes referred to as “the law of the Prince”. Various rationalizations were suggested for this proposed title to interest – German positive law at the time enforced contracts charging up to 5% interest on mutuum loans – as within the legitimate power of the Prince, starting with the theories of Adam Tanner (SJ) of Ingolstadt in 1620. Tanner and his pupil Christopher Haunold argued that:
This custom … was morally justified, even though the lender had no title to interest. The State validated the custom by its power of eminent domain, transferring the property of the borrower to the lender [in the form of interest]. The State, it was generally admitted, had the power of eminent domain to dispose of private property for the common good. — Noonan, The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, page 353.
According to Noonan this purely positive law argument gained no traction outside of Ingolstadt (a two and a half hour drive from Cardinal Kasper’s see today) until 1736, when Vitus Pichler (SJ) and Francis Barth worked it over into a theory. Noonan describes the theory:
The premium paid for a loan in such a situation was not usury in a strict sense, but a reward to a lender which the law allowed on the occasion of a loan. … As in the conferring of property rights by adverse possession, a private person was given the right, which he would otherwise not have, to take the property of someone else, in order that the general welfare be promoted.
No surprise that this is yet another case of selective, willful amnesia. Because centuries beforehand the constitutions of the Council of Vienne had ordered the excommunication of government officials who craft statutes asserting such a title:
Serious suggestions have been made to us that communities in certain places, to the divine displeasure and injury of the neighbour, in violation of both divine and human law, approve of usury. By their statutes, sometimes confirmed by oath, they not only grant that usury may be demanded and paid, but deliberately compel debtors to pay it. … We, therefore, wishing to get rid of these pernicious practices, decree with the approval of the sacred council that all the magistrates, captains, rulers, consuls, judges, counsellors or any other officials of these communities who presume in the future to make, write or dictate such statutes, or knowingly decide that usury be paid or, if paid, that it be not fully and freely restored when claimed, incur the sentence of excommunication.
October 23, 2017 § 59 Comments
Exercise of public authority is justified based on the common good of the community and the individual good of members of the community. Therefore, under the traditional doctrine of the Church, resort to the death penalty by the public authority requires a twofold justification.
First, of course, the condemned must be actually guilty of a capital crime and must justly deserve death for that crime.
Second — and this is where folks tend to miss the fact that the Catechism of Trent and Evangelium Vitae assert mutually consistent theology, albeit with different emphases — it must be necessary to carry out the death penalty to protect the innocent from harm.
It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.
Evangelium Vitae goes on to suggest that this condition is rarely, if ever, met:
Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.
This latter is manifestly a question of fact, not moral principle. It is also manifestly false, unless we assume that prisoners themselves are not a part of “society” worthy of protection from (e.g.) decades of being sodomized and violated in countless other ways by other prisoners.
In other words to accept this as fact, as a premise leading to the conclusion that the death penalty should be fully abolished, requires us to dehumanize the prisoners in our penal system. Yet the whole point of the abolitionist position, its whole basis with which I fully agree, is that to act justly ourselves we must avoid dehumanizing prisoners.
October 21, 2017 § 38 Comments
The most primal power of men is violence. Therefore the besetting sins of incontinent men tend to be sins of violence primarily, and to involve sex only circumstantially/accidentally. A violent man will use violence to get sex that he desires, but he will also use violence to get other things that he desires: money, drugs, prestige, etc. This decreases as individual power decreases: the besetting sins of incontinent men with diminished capacity for violence will tend to be more effeminate or androgynous sins.
The most primal power of women is sex. Therefore the besetting sins of incontinent women tend to be sins of sex primarily, and to involve violence only circumstantially/accidentally. A slutty woman will use sex to get violence that she desires, but she will also use sex to get other things that she desires: money, drugs, prestige, etc. This decreases as individual power decreases: the besetting sins of incontinent women with diminished sexual power will tend to be more masculine or androgynous sins.
This is reflected in prison populations, which are mostly men, because our society is willing to punish crimes of violence but is not willing to punish crimes of sex. In fact when a straightforward crime of violence perpetrated by a woman is perceived to primarily arise from sex, there is across the board resistance to punishing that crime.