Against the stenchus fidelium we declare “invictus manure!”

January 22, 2015 § 16 Comments

I’ll attempt to clarify the point I made below.

Compare this:

“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.”

to this:

“The principle according to which it is preferable to let penitents remain in good faith in cases of error due to subjectively invincible ignorance, is certainly to be considered always valid, even in matters of conjugal chastity. And this applies whenever it is foreseen that the penitent, although oriented towards living within the bounds of a life of faith, would not be prepared to change his own conduct, but rather would begin formally to sin.”

If the former constitutes a reversal of doctrine on usury, then the latter constitutes a reversal of doctrine on contraception.

§ 16 Responses to Against the stenchus fidelium we declare “invictus manure!”

  • Tom says:

    Wow, interesting book on usury. Looks like I won’t be loaning money to the micro finance organization “Kiva” any longer.

  • Tom says:

    Oops. Just came across approval of microfinace loans like kiva. Which I should’ve realized since there is no penalty for defaulting on a loan. Can’t go after “Bob”.

  • Zippy says:


    I’m not really very familiar with Kiva, but offhand it has a pretty strong resemblance to the medieval “Mountains of Piety” I discuss in the FAQ (and the Franciscan ‘microcredit’ efforts which preceded them).

  • jf12 says:

    Ah, I see now. Still, though, as opposed to a mere positivist label, “penitent” really does mean someone prepared to change his own conduct for the better.

  • Kevin Nowell says:

    I think that the key phrase in the first part comes right before the quoted section.

    “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”

    It seems that the question here is whether or not a loan to a business man was considered an usurious loan of the type forbidden in Vix pervenit and this had not been ruled on dogmatically. It does not look like he was allowing absolution for those who would continue in other types of usurious loans with the confessor knowing about it; but, only for this gray area loan to business men that the Holy See had not ruled on dogmatically.

  • Zippy says:

    Kevin Nowell:
    People were pretending not to understand Vix Pervenit, just as many present day people pretend not to understand Humanae Vitae. Here is the former:

    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 borrower is rich; nor even by arguing that the money borrowed is not left idle, but is spent usefully, either to increase one’s fortune, to purchase new estates, or to engage in business transactions.

    (Emphasis mine).

  • Zippy says:

    Just like Humanae Vitae’s discussion of NFP, Vix Pervenit discusses the liciety of non-mutuum contracts for profit:

    Nor is it denied that it is very often possible for someone, by means of contracts differing entirely from [mutuum] loans, to spend and invest money legitimately either to provide oneself with an annual income or to engage in legitimate trade and business. From these types of contracts honest gain may be made.

    Vix Pervenit is clear as day that gain is only licit from non-mutuum contracts.

    As with today’s liberals, yesterday’s liberals persisted in loudly insisting on ‘clarification’ until they got what they wanted ‘pastorally’. There are tons of Magisterial declarations against usury. Vix Pervenit, Like Humanae Vitae, was the clarification.

    But no number of clarifications given to people who want license to sin will ever be sufficient.

  • jf12 says:

    “subjectively invincible” is awfully weaselly. And how is this pastoral “instruction”, along with “oriented towards living within the bounds of a life of faith”, not giving license to subjectively adjudge every goat a fundamental-option sheep, by the subjective powers subjectively vested in me?

  • Zippy says:

    I’m probably not as quick as some of my commenters to dismiss the pastoral need to help people make a move in the direction of the good a step at a time.

    How to pastor others along the path toward righteousness is not a simple matter. It is as fraught and complex as any matter of leadership, and at the papal level it is leadership of a billion Catholics and a few billion other people who are paying attention. I don’t pretend to know what I would do if I were Pope, and I am very grateful to not be Pope.

    But that is beside the point of my posts. I am just trying to give a clear picture of reality to my small cadre of readers.

    If there were no need to pastor billions of wildly disparate broken souls then it would be a lot simpler to oppose progressive corruption. If the answer looks simple to you, you probably haven’t yet fully engaged with reality.

  • James Parliament says:

    Learned about your blog just as you were taking a break. Glad you’re back.

  • Zippy: the difference is that no authority in the Church currently wishes anyone to believe that charging interest is sinful. They do want people to believe that contraception is sinful.

    Your comparison is consequently invalid. A few traditionalists currently believe that charging interest is sinful; the Church as a whole does not, including its authorities, however that happened.

  • Zippy says:


    First, the term ‘interest’ is multivocal. Usurious interest (gain on mutuum loans) is immoral; other kinds of ‘interest’ are not usury and do not fall under the condemnation. In order to understand usury you have to actually grasp what the Church has taught about it authoritatively for millennia. I go over that in quite a bit of detail in my Usury FAQ, and you won’t be able to engage with what is actually being claimed without engaging with that.

    Sorry, but newbies should not jump into discussions without first actually familiarizing themselves with the basic concepts being discussed.

    Second, are you contending that the doctrine of the Church unequivocally condemning usury for millennia has changed, because current sentiment among the public and the clergy doesn’t believe it to be wrong anymore? If that is the case, doesn’t it follow that a similar reversal on contraception is possible, if not underway?

  • Zippy: you say in your FAQ, “With a mutuum, the borrower is on the hook for return of the full amount of the principal, no matter what is done with the money or with other specific assets tied up in the contract. In the Christian tradition and under the natural law, it is never morally licit to lend money (as a mutuum) and expect a profit in return.”

    The current canon law states:

    “Can. 1284 §1. All administrators are bound to fulfill their function with the diligence of a good householder.

    §2. Consequently they must:

    1/ exercise vigilance so that the goods entrusted to their care are in no way lost or damaged, taking out insurance policies for this purpose insofar as necessary;

    2/ take care that the ownership of ecclesiastical goods is protected by civilly valid methods;

    3/ observe the prescripts of both canon and civil law or those imposed by a founder, a donor, or legitimate authority, and especially be on guard so that no damage comes to the Church from the non-observance of civil laws;

    4/ collect the return of goods and the income accurately and on time, protect what is collected, and use them according to the intention of the founder or legitimate norms;

    5/ pay at the stated time the interest due on a loan or mortgage and take care that the capital debt itself is repaid in a timely manner”

    Is it your contention that this assumes that the contract contains terms for not repaying the full sum? That seems unlikely to me.

    In any case, I would certainly assert that no authority in the Church currently believes that interest on such a loan is intrinsically immoral, whatever you may believe or others have believed in the past. I will change my mind about this point if you can point to some authority who does believe this and makes it clear.

    On the contraception issue, as I stated, the authorities in the Church do believe that contraception is wrong.

    As to the statement, “are you contending… that the doctrine of the Church … has changed,” I am saying that insofar as people come to the Church and receive their beliefs from their pastors, the belief they receive now is that interest is not intrinsically immoral. That is different from saying that there has been a formal doctrinal statement to that effect

  • Zippy says:


    Is it your contention that this assumes that the contract contains terms for not repaying the full sum?

    To the best of my knowledge no priest, bishop, or Pope makes a personal guarantee of repayment on (e.g.) mortgages of ecclesial properties or other Church finances. If the contract does not agree that some person(s) is(are) personally on the hook to cover any deficiencies, then it is not a mutuum loan and ‘interest’ is not usury.

    See questions 31 and 40 of the FAQ.

    On the contraception issue, as I stated, the authorities in the Church do believe that contraception is wrong.

    They also believe that usury is wrong. Both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI publicly condemned it, for example. Google is your friend there.

  • […] It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Pope Pius VIII and Gregory XVI, and additional rulings by the Sacred Penitentiary, it has now become possible to grant absolution in the Sacrament of Penance and thus to admit to Holy Communion a person who, while bound to observe the Church’s categorical and infallible condemnation of usury, deliberately and unrepentantly contracts for profits from a mutuum loan.  Can the expression “in certain cases” found in note 351 (n. 305) of the exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” be applied to unrepentant usurers and contraceptors? […]

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