Gonna party like it’s 1312
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.
If I’m reading that last bit rightly, it’s still as relevant today as ever. So anyone who has ever written financial policy in the modern policy, or all legislators who have approved of any such bills by signature, are excommunicant.
Hey, homosexual “marriage” and sodomy itself are authorized by the law of the Prince. And contraception, and divorce, and remarriage, and abortion.
So party on dudes, dudettes, doodhickeys, doodwtfs, and whatever else you and your surgeon decide you want to be today.
Thanks for this. Still, I’m at a loss as to how to refute the argument itself (that the state’s power of taxation logically justifies the ability to create a just title to interest). Any ideas?
Just that some actions with respect to property are intrinsically immoral, and that statutory law cannot make those actions moral.
It does seem implicit that there are limits on the tax power, so an absolutist understanding of the tax power can’t be sustained in the context of this condemnation.
Technically the excommunication was abrogated by the 1983 code, but the divine, moral, and natural do not change.
If I’m reading that last bit rightly, it’s still as relevant today as ever.
I doubt this. That last bit reads to me like a canon of Church law, comparable to the canons we find today in the Code of Canon Law. As far as I know, the complete collection of canons which are currently binding upon the faithful are found in the Johanno-Pauline Code of 1983, and there is no mention of usury to be found in there.
The old canon 1543 (from the Pio-Benedictine Code of 1917) did say something about usury, explicitly prohibiting gain on a mutuum “by reason of the contract itself.” Sadly, however, this canon is no longer in force.
As TomD rightly notes above, however, the fact that excommunication is no longer the Church’s juridical punishment for usury does not in any way mean it is no longer a grave sin.
I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party.
[…] Source: Zippy Catholic […]
“They shall also incur the same sentence unless within three months they delete from the books of their communities, if they have the power, statutes of this kind hitherto published, or if they presume to observe in any way these statutes or customs. Furthermore, since money-lenders for the most part enter into usurious contracts so frequently with secrecy and guile that they can be convicted only with difficulty, we decree that they be compelled by ecclesiastical censure to open their account books, when there is question of usury. If indeed someone has fallen into the error of presuming to affirm pertinaciously that the practice of usury is not sinful, we decree that he is to be punished as a heretic.”
What’s the modern punishment for heresy?
Canon 1364 reads:
With due regard for can. 194, part 1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication and if a cleric, he can also be punished by the penalties mentioned in can. 1336, part 1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.
But it’s actually not as simple as it sounds for a couple of reasons.
First, the above punishment is for the crime of formal heresy. Just as is mentioned in the quote you posted above, heresy does not become formal until the person in question pertinaciously denies some truth of the Faith. Typically this requires the person in question to continue their dissent in the face of correction from competent Church authority. Christ’s instructions to his Apostles in Matthew 18:15-18 is applicable here.
Second, the current ecclesiastical punishment for formal heresy is latae sententiae excommunication. As Dr. Ed Peters explains, in practice this punishment amounts to very little.
Still, I’m at a loss as to how to refute the argument itself (that the state’s power of taxation logically justifies the ability to create a just title to interest). Any ideas?
I think your wording has the refutation right there: just title. It is possible for a king to grant someone a marriage license that makes him your wife’s “second husband” under law. Licenses and titles are just formal state claims that they are backstopping a private claim or oath. If there were a licensed to “barbecue homeless people on your property,” it would stand to reason that the state had no moral authority to issue and enforce it.
To the objection that the state allowing, say, abortion is proof that the state can contravene the moral law, that’s not really true. What the state is doing is allowing people to choose to commit grave evil and legally sanctioning private actors from stopping them. Usury is in a similar position where the state is choosing to allow people to enter into a state of usury and then adjudicating their claims (a formal cooperation with evil).
the state can contravene the moral law
And not be guilty of a moral transgression the same as any private individual.
Part of gaining perspective is the realization that “the state” is actual human beings choosing concrete behaviors for which those human beings are responsible, not a disembodied abstraction.
I’ve had a few folks in my social circle get taken aback when I’ve told them that yes, the sovereign actually can intercede on your behalf and get you out of most oaths because they’re a kind of verbal contract and thus subject to the sovereign’s will. So if the sovereign has declared your type of agreement unenforceable, and it is not something where the sovereign’s authority is intrinsically limited like marriage vows between two adults who can exchange valid vows, it falls under the discretion of the sovereign.
The flip side is that the sovereign can also have you whipped and thrown in the stocks if you choose to enter into an oath he doesn’t like. They didn’t like that part either 🙂
Alternate post titles:
“Lets go lazy”
“Money don’t matter 2 nite but pay me interest tomorrow”
“When creditors cry”
“I’ll give you a raspberry beret today for two tomorrow”
“Little red corvette with a deficiency judgment”
“Lets pretend you are my slave”
(Those were all titles of the Prince, of course).
Read Hitler, the War, and the Pope by Ronald Rychlak. Pope Pius XII condemned state absolutism in no uncertain terms. The power of eminent domain, like all other powers of the state, is limited by justice. All through history, the Church, when she has been vigorous in pursuit of her duties, has fought to protect people from excesses of the state. In the matter of usury, unfortunately, she seems to have lost her vigor in the last two centuries.
“Diamonds and Pearls. And 22% APR.”
Re: Donnie’s point about Canon Law upthread, I thought I read somewhere that any canon which isn’t formally abrogated is still effective, even if not included in the current Code. Thus, usury would still incur excommunication.
No, it’s the other way around: Canon 6
Aidan – if you have a source for that claim that would be interesting. I am not a canon lawyer myself, most of what I do comes second-hand from reading Dr. Ed Peters and others. Peters himself is a pretty well respected expert on the current code and the old 1917 code. Here he claims that the promulgation of the 1917 Code abrogated the canons of the Quinque Libri Decretalium (promulgated in 1234) which was the closest thing the Church had to an integrated code of laws before 1917. I’m not sure what that means for later canons such as the one above from 1312, but I suspect the promulgation of the 1917 code abrogated those as well.
As for the 1917 code itself, Peters claims it was abrogated on November 27, 1983 when St. John Paul II promulgated the current code. I know there are a lot of Trads who don’t want to believe this for various reasons, but I have yet to see a convincing reason to doubt Peters’ expertise on this question.
Never mind, TomD to the rescue.
Gotta love it when the answer to the question is right on the first page of the text!
I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party.
Turning water into wine means a permanent invite to every party.
Another modified Prince lyric: Usury like yours oughta be in jail ’cause it’s on the verge of bein’ obscene.
They give you a mitre and force you to live on a position with only $50k a year.
I’m in a sour mood today
Turning water into wine means a permanent invite to every party.
Party Jesus can also turn your grass into real grass when the police show up.
Holy smokes! When doves cry some righteous cool things are bound to happen.
Unfortunately if much of the American church had an anthem, it would be this without any hint of irony.
I’m surprised you haven’t posted anything on the Catalan secession movement. While their government is run by liberals, Catalonia does have a very strong basis to argue that they are not so much declaring themselves free and equal supermen who will not be burdened by authority, but rather reasserting their ancient sovereignty that the Castillians have violently suppressed for centuries.
Mike T, would you mind to expand on that “ancient sovereignty” that you just mentioned?
Sorry to Zippy for OT.
Feel free to talk about it. I have no comment, since I know less than nothing about the situation (which is to say that the nothing that I know is further polluted by the stuff I’ve seen in passing in the news and on the web).
The main fun so far for me is seeing people arguing that just government comes from the consent of the governed but Catalonia can’t change that via their consent.
Mike T, would you mind to expand on that “ancient sovereignty” that you just mentioned?
Catalonia was a sovereign state in 1492 when it freely joined in political union by marriage between its sovereign the crown of Castille to form Spain. I don’t remember which one it was, but one of the early descendants of that union “reorganized the realm” in such a way that Spain became centralized, the Castillian system dominated and eventually it lead to the destruction of the Catalan political system completely. There were also many cases where the Castillian side of the union forcefully suppressed Catalan as a language of any importance, despite it being obvious the first language of business and life in a major region. There are enough differences that as I understand it, it would be like the Germans merging with the Dutch and then eventually trying to ghettoize Dutch culture and the Dutch language (Dutch being similar, but not interchangeable with high German, as Catalan and Spanish are similar but not interchangeable).
A lot of our political commentators seem to want to make it like some sort of “the South is rising” kind of deal, but the Catalans are actually unequivocally a real nation distinct from the Castillian majority with a history of getting kicked around and taxed to subsidize the rest of the country. That’s why Spain is so Hell bent on violently putting down the secession; Catalonia is one of, if not the, richest provinces in the country and home to a very productive economy. The little I know suggests it’s at least somewhat analogous to how northern Italy tends to be a lot more productive and frugal than southern Italy with the attendant resentment.
TL;DR unlike the South in 1860, the Catalans can actually point to cases where the Castillians have harmed their people and exercised their authority in ways that were very harmful to the good of Catalan society. The fact that they are also a distinct nation with their own history makes it much harder for the leaders in Madrid to claim that they owe them natural allegiance much like London cannot take for granted that the Irish, Welsh and Scottish owe allegiance to the same degree as an Englishman.
Well, no one really believes that except successful revolutionaries and libertarians. Aside from those groups, how many people have you seen defend Jefferson Davis and claim that the moment the South withdrew consent the Union should have dutifully closed up shop and bid farewell?
If you believe in that doctrine, then the civil war was nothing more than a squatter fighting back against a property owner and killing most of his family in the process of unjustly standing firm.
Sure, and if Catalonia want to make the argument sincerely, they’d have to give up on liberalism, and perhaps petition the Pope to acknowledge their King (assuming they can find him).
Which would be a much more interesting scenario.
Cataluña was a subject state of the kingdom of Aragon when Fernando, the heir to the kingdom of Aragon, married Isabel, the heir to the kingdom of Castilla. Their heir Carlos became king of Castilla and Aragon among others. Never had Cataluña been independent.
It is true that Aragon had different laws than Castilla. They were taken away by Felipe V in 1715 due to the rebellion during the Spanish succession war. Navarra did not rebel and the got to keep theirs. As a side note it was a relief for the people, because the laws of Aragon had developed by agreements between the king and the high nobility. The laws of Castilla had developed by the need of the king to attract inhabitants in the no-mans-land between Castilla and the muslim kingdoms of southern Spain.
The Castillian side of the union never tried to supress the Catalan language, it fell out of use due not being the official language of the realm. During Franco’s rule it is true that it was not taught in public schools. Nevertheless it had not been very healthy since the XIX century, when it had almost died out. During all the XX century there were attempts to revive it, with success after Franco’s death. In the last 50 years the Catalan language has been normalized, and the variants in different regions of Spain have been made to converge.
There is a decent amount of stuff on Google and DDG that would strongly disagree with your assertion that no authority tried to suppress their language. One example. I also find the defense of Franco very suspicious because Catalonia was a hub of left-wing sentiment during the Civil War and Franco was not exactly known for his conciliatory warmth toward areas that had opposed him.
X did nothing wrong arguments bother me, unless X = Jesus/Mary. And the worship I find of Franco in some areas bothers me.
Whether it’s true or not, “Franco didn’t suppress the Catalan language” is a far cry from “Franco did nothing wrong.”
If the Guardian is an authoritative source about 18th century Spanish politics, it makes sense the Southern US had no legitimate complaints in 1860.
Whether Franco did nothing wrong, whether some sovereign did attempt at some point to smother Catalan, the claim that Catalan was ever independent (the origianl, and major point of contention) is as ridiculous as repeatedly conflating Spain and Castille.
For the record, I fully support the right of Catalonia to separate by giving Madrid democracy good and hard. An independent Catalonia will grow more and more Muslim, and serve as a terrifying lesson for many others in Europe.
I am sorry Mike, but except the claim without proof that Franco did suppress catalan and the title of the piece, it supports what I mentioned before.
Regarding Franco, I did not say he did nothing wrong.
The civil war is a lengthy topic, but if you think that you are not going to express leftist opinions while anarchist and communist bands roam the region looking for someone to kill you are, in my opinion, not actually thinking. Please check how Franco was received in Barcelona during the war. The return of order is a relief.
Continuing with what I was saying, the government of Spain has been for five centuries trying to satisfy the Catalans, with no success. They can be said that they are a rebellious people, like Israel.
Always trying to keep them happy with advantages over the rest of Spain, with no success. If desired I can give examples. Even now the intervention of the Goverment of Spain in Cataluña is as soft as needed, and in my opinion too soft.
They have been for years breaking the law in Cataluña. In your linked piece they even mention one example, the immertion. Every kid is forced to study in Catalan, even though the law says that every parent can decide the language of education for their children. Can give more examples if requested.
But supporting the rebelion of a part of the country because feelings is a little irresponsible. It is time for the stupidity to end. Stealing away a part of my country is not acceptable. If some catalans want to be independent they could just by some piece of land somewhere and get lost.
They can be said that they are a rebellious people, like Israel.
Then Madrid needs to make a serious decision about the wisdom of keeping them in their union. Or follow the Roman example in dealing with Israel. It’s time to stop straddling the fence and wasting time and money.
Every kid is forced to study in Catalan, even though the law says that every parent can decide the language of education for their children.
I am not sympathetic to the authorities here because if a similar law were passed in my state allowing Spanish to become coequal with English, I would actively encourage the counties to defend our native culture by rebelling against such an “accommodation.” A policy of teaching bilingualism is one thing; but a “language of instruction” is actually a nod to shifting the foundation of the culture in the community. I can’t think of many cases where that is a legitimate course of action for an authority. The only good one would be something like where Israel adopted Hebrew and the central government could credibly show that a) this is the real native language of the Jews and b) Israel actually needed a common language which it didn’t have in 1948.
BTW the difference in perspective you brought is interesting. It’s hard enough to get an objective feel for our own civil war and its issues, it’s even harder to do so for such a minor conflict in a borderline backwater like Spain.
And FWIW, the whole thing is an exercise in futility because the dumb bastards leading the country want to jump straight into the EU which is like jumping from the frying pan into a cremation oven WRT national sovereignty.
I don’t have a dog in this fight, and/because I don’t know much about it, but I wonder: could claims of Catalonia’s ‘ancient sovereignty’ find a home in the pre-Islamic Gothic (city-)states on the Iberian peninsula?
Not that they’re doing that; this question is mostly academic. A very short Wiki search doesn’t pull anything up, but there’s at least one person here who’s likely to know quite a bit more about it than I.
Looks like they surrendered to Madrid and the president fled to Brussels.
Education being so tied up with the state has problems, some of which we’re seeing here.
Why is Catalonia’s alleged ‘ancient sovereignty’ relevant? What matters is who the established authority is now.
That would appear to be Spain, but what do I know.
Materially, because any verifiable claims of ‘ancient sovereignty’ could be used by an aspirant government to gain legitimacy. It’s potentially a critical point for lubricating a preference cascade.
But as far as my question goes, I’m just curious about the history.
Well, not the Gothic kingdom, since it was completely destroyed by the Muslim invasion, but you can take a look at the Hispanic March. It explains the origins of the Catalan counties and the kingdom of Aragon. But they cannot claim independence since they were depending on the West Frankish kingdom.
As I mentioned before, the Catalans are never happy. The current Spanish Constitution was approved in Cataluña by 96% of the voters, if I recall correctly. More than anywhere else in Spain, precisely since it was giving Cataluña everything they asked for. 40 years later it is just oppressive. As a note a Catalan nationalist was one of the seven writers of the Constitution. He was in the party of Puigdemont until last year.
My last number was incorrect. 90 to 91 percent.
Yesterday’s liberation is today’s oppression; the history of Liberalism in a nutshell.
Yes. It is quite liberal. The primate of Spain, the Archbishop of Toledo, recommended a negative vote for the reason. He was sadly the only one and was ignored.
Kind of the California of Spain, to put it in terms that make sense to me as someone who lived in California for ten years or so and spent a day in Barcelona once.
Yes — to repeat myself from another post, who could have predicted that treating human authority and hierarchy as if it were what is wrong with the world would lead to its endless dissolution and reconstitution as an inhuman monstrosity?
I have never been in California, so I cannot tell. But since september 50% of the GDP that was paying taxes there has left, so it will soon be much poorer.
I imagine that a question of keen, if not deciding interest for you is whether it relocated elsewhere in Spain, or took its money ‘off-shore’.
Funny thing about revolutions: they’re a nasty business, even on a slow burn.
It mostly relocated inside Spain, but of course this revolt is going to have consequences in the future.
I moved away from Spain 15 years ago, so it does not affect me personally. My family is still there though.
40 years later it is just oppressive. As a note a Catalan nationalist was one of the seven writers of the Constitution. He was in the party of Puigdemont until last year.
So the obvious thing for Madrid to do would be:
1. Call a referendum and be as honorable and high-minded in its integrity as possible.
2. Let the Catalans leave six months after voting to leave.
3. Announce a tax holiday for all businesses that relocate.
4. *Troll face* “y u mad bruh doncha luv liberty more den wealth?”
Catalonia and California are actually really good examples of where an authority should sometimes respond by giving them precisely what they want. Want independence? Have at it. America would actually be healthier with California gone. A lot of Californians would be shocked to find how much of Silicon Valley would pack up and leave for Seattle, Portland, Austin, Atlanta and cities in the NE the moment it became clear they’d be on the outside of federal trade deals.
I worked with a very liberal woman who thought California seceding would be awesome, and I told her sure, until Californians realize that they’ll be stripped of US citizenship. She couldn’t believe we’d pull something, and I pointed out to her that most of the blue states around California and in New England would be staunch supporters of stripping them. In fact, they’d probably lead the push because they hate migratory Californians.
People talk a good game about things like secession, until the reality of how it would affect their 401(k)’s sets in. The tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with slightly lower portfolio returns.
Authorities often forget that they have freedom of association as well, and a king or head of state is often well within his rights to just a constant source of rebellion just leave and got torn to shred by outside forces as a lesson to the other provinces.
Well, I disagree. The ruler of Spain has the duty to advance the common good. Allowing three million of Catalans shoot themselves in the foot, taking with them other three and a half million does not seem too good.
They are a little like kids. Check the picture in the link. It is the guy who declared independence walking in the street the day after. While everyone is happy and taking pictures with him, he knows that it is one of his lasts days out of prison. His wife knows as well, and instead of sad she is angry.
Well, I disagree. The ruler of Spain has the duty to advance the common good.
For the whole of Spain, not just a minority that is constantly giving grief to the rest of the country. American loyalists that went to Canada after the war were received with open arms. Any Catalan who strongly wants to remain Spanish can do the same. I suspect you’d find a lot of that 3.5M are actually more apathetic than committed either way. Inertia is a frequently ignored political motivator.
To sort of return to the topic of usury: it’s interesting to note that in the most easily available English translation of the Catechism of Trent (published by TAN Books), the editors have taken special pains to insert a footnote (referencing a book published in 1910 and therefore completely irrelevant to what St Pius V and his colleagues had to say) “explaining” away the condemnation of usury using the usual modernist excuse about the non-barrenness of money.
To me, that’s sort of like the scene from a spy film where the hero places a hair or a grain of dust on an object, leaves his room, and comes back to find the room apparently untouched, but the hair displaced. It indicates the pains that even a “traditional” publisher like TAN Books has taken to make sure that traditional teachings on usury remain a dead letter to contemporary readers….
A similar scandalous thing is found in Fr Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary – something along the lines of “capitalism has made money fecund”.
Usurious finance capitalism certainly has made “money” breed like tribbles.
The magic of “capitalism” is used to launder the money made from serious crimes like usury, by claiming that somehow money makes money.