The Grand Inquisitor shows pastoral mercy to usurers

January 21, 2015 § 12 Comments

For your reading pleasure I transcribed the entries in Denzinger on pastoral changes with respect to usury made by Pope Pius VIII in an audience and by the Holy Office under Pope Gregory XVI, so that everyone can see them for themselves in black and white. There is of course a pastoral context to all of this, as there ever is, and you can’t really get a grasp of that without reading some old books. But the actual voice of the Magisterium on the subject is right here. I have included all of the entries in Denzinger from the supposed “reversal” on usury during the 1800’s, which hermeneutical discontinuitists assure us did indeed occur (presumably in the hope that we won’t actually check up on their assertions).

Feel free to play “where’s Waldo” for yourself and find the part that doctrinally legitimizes (e.g.) consumer credit card interest or a full recourse consumer auto loan.  Some may note that the word “loan” in everyday speech, especially by the time these were promulgated, doesn’t always mean a simple mutuum; and that the term “a loan only” appears in a couple of places in these citations.

Response of Pius VIII to the Bishop of Rheims, given in audience, August 18, 1830

The Bishop of Rheims in France explains that …, the confessors of his diocese do not hold the same opinion concerning profit received from money given as a loan to business men, in order that they may be enriched thereby. There is bitter dispute over the meaning of the Encyclical Letter, “Vix Pervenit.” On both sides arguments are produced to defend the opinion each one has embraced, either favorable to such profit or against it. Thence come quarrels, dissensions, denial of the sacraments to many business men engaging in that method of making money, and countless damage to souls.

To meet this harm to souls, some confessors think they can hold a middle course between both opinions. If anyone consults them about gain of this sort, they try to dissuade him from it. If the penitent perseveres in his plan of giving money as a loan to business men, and objects that an opinion favorable to such a loan has many patrons, and, moreover, has not been condemned by the Holy See, although more than once consulted about it, then these confessors demand that the penitent promise to conform in filial obedience to the judgment of the Holy Pontiff whatever it may be, if he should intervene; and having obtained this promise, they do not deny them absolution, although they believe an opinion contrary to such a loan is more probable. If a penitent does not confess the gain from money given in a loan, and appears to be in good faith, these confessors, even if they know from other sources that gain of this sort has been taken by him and is even now being taken, they absolve him, making no interrogation about the matter, because they fear the penitent, being advised to make restitution or to refrain from such profit, will refuse.

Therefore the said Bishop of Rheims inquires:
I. Whether he can approve the method of acting on the part of these latter confessors.
II. Whether he could encourage other more rigid confessors who came to consult him to follow the plan of action of those others until the Holy See brings out an express opinion on this question.

Pius VIII responded:
To I: They are not to be disturbed. To II: Provided for in the first.

Gregory XVI, Declarations about a response of Pius VIII

A. To the doubts of the Bishop of Viviers:

1. “Whether the aforesaid judgment of the Most Holy Pontiff must be understood as its words sound, and aside from the title of the law of the prince, about which the Most Eminent Cardinals speak in these responses, so that it is just a matter of a loan made to business men.”
2. “Or whether the title from the law of the prince, about which the Eminent Cardinals speak, must be so understood that it is enough that the law of the prince declares that it is licit for anyone to agree about a gain made from a loan only, as happens in the civil code of the Franks, without saying that it (law of the prince) grants the right to receive such gain.”

The Congregation of the Holy Office responded August 31, 1831:

This has been taken care of in the decree of Wednesday, August 18, 1830, and let the decrees be given.

B. To the doubt of the Bishop of Nicea:

“Whether penitents, who have taken a moderate gain from a loan only, under title of the law, in doubtful or bad faith, can be sacramentally absolved without the imposition of the burden of restitution, provided they are sincerely sorry for the sin committed because of doubtful or bad faith, and are ready in filial obedience to observe the commands of the Holy See.”

The Congregation of the Holy Office responded Jan 17, 1838:

Yes, provided they are ready to observe the commands of the Holy See.

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