Don’t waste time with those antibiotics; maybe leeches will work!

April 25, 2018 § 24 Comments


A reader posted a link to the Usury FAQ in a Twitter discussion with HJA Sire, the author of The Dictator Pope.  (I have a Kindle copy of the first edition of that book, written under a pseudonym.  It is pretty interesting and worth your time to read).  The screencap shows the response he got.

I’d just suggest that in the context of the present crisis in the Church, people who studiously look away from the elephant in the room will inevitably fail to adequately grasp the situation.

§ 24 Responses to Don’t waste time with those antibiotics; maybe leeches will work!

  • Patrick says:

    Are you certain that usury was the camel’s nose and that this approach wasn’t pioneered on some other issue even earlier? It seems like an “easy way out” that could have tempted pastors from the very beginning.

  • Hoyos says:

    Unrelated, but pertinent to the title: leech saliva is a natural antibiotic. Doctors of the past got the mechanism wrong, but the method right. Just a fun fact,

  • Zippy says:


    The point though is that folks who talk as if the “present dramatic crisis in the Church” involves Pope Francis doing something fundamentally new (e.g. formally approving absolution for unrepentant grave sinners, etc, which the Church has been doing for CENTURIES), or as if Vatican II were a cause, completely misunderstand the situation; like someone who hopes to fight an epidemic with no inkling about the germ theory of disease.

    Usury – and the metaphysical/theological anti-realism of which its embrace is a product – must be addressed as of central importance, both in how we got here and in any inkling of how we might get somewhere better. Resistance of modernity’s lies about morality without a strong usury ‘pillar’ is dead in its crib, pointless.

    That is my view, at any rate.

  • There was an article on Benedict XIV in Crisis this morning. While the essay is quite good in many ways, it makes no mention of Vix Pervenit, and mentions usury only in passing.

    If today you tried to write an article about all the good things Pope Paul VI did and mentioned contraception only in passing and failed to mention humanae Vitae at all, it would raise quite a few eyebrows.

  • Zippy says:


    My impression is that folks tend to think of usury as either a historical embarrassment or as a relic from a previous economically backward time which no longer applies today. The idea that just maybe the Church knew what she was talking about all along, and that it really should still have a major impact on how people live today, never makes its way into conscious thought.

    Such a tragic lack of faith!

    To turn back the current crisis in the Church what is needed is to address this fundamental lack of faith. Quickly and furtively sweeping usury back under the rug when it comes up is a sure sign of a ‘resistance’ predestined to lose.

  • We’re stuck on usury island and traditional conservatives are our gilligan?

  • Zippy says:

    Hah! I’d have to think about the specific analogy some more, it isn’t clear how it lines up.

    But a generally similar “shooting themselves in the foot with a half truth” phenomenon is definitely taking place.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    To strengthen Zippy’s reply above, in my view:

    Are you certain that usury was the camel’s nose and that this approach wasn’t pioneered on some other issue even earlier?

    This question leads to an historical curiosity, nothing more. If the treatment of usury is not the first instance where the Church has formally approved of absolution for unrepentant sinners, the point still stands that usury is one of these cases, that this treatment of usury is effectively sedimented into the Church, that all such injustices and impieties must be purged from the Church, and that usury provides an exemplar of both the form and effect of such injustices and impieties.


  • Arthur McGowan says:

    If I offer you $10 today, or $10 a year from now, which will you choose?

    Is there a sum I could offer to give you next year that you would prefer over $10 today?

    These questions prove that the charging of interest is rational and just, and that attempts to eradicate it are irrational and unjust.

  • Zippy says:

    Arthur McGowan:

    The justice of the contract depends upon precisely what secures the agreement to deliver money in the future (“the whole matter of security for contracts” — St. Francis Xavier).

    See the Usury FAQ:

  • Mike T says:

    One other point since someone may come along and go pedantic poindexter on Zippy, neither St. Xavier or Zippy are implying that the only moral matter here is the securitization. However, it is the lion’s share of what matters on the morality. It is by far the most common point where contracts become corrupt. The other (assuming valid, legally binding contracts which naturally exclude contracts in violation of the sovereign’s laws and are thus ipso facto unenforceable/void from square one) is that interest can exceed justice pricing. However, that matter often accompanies the primary issue anyway.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    The other … is that [non-usurious] interest can exceed just pricing

    Right: the fact that the interest-bearing contract isn’t technically usury (because the loan is not secured by a personal guarantee) doesn’t automatically make it morally just. It merely means that it doesn’t “fall under the precise rubric of usury” (Vix Pervenit).

  • donnie says:

    Arthur McGowan:

    If I offer you $10 today, or $10 a year from now, which will you choose?

    Is there a sum I could offer to give you next year that you would prefer over $10 today?

    These questions prove that the charging of interest is rational and just, and that attempts to eradicate it are irrational and unjust.

    More pertinent to the precise point you make above, is that this line of thinking has already been expressly condemned as erroneous. Even if you don’t right now understand why your logic above fails (though if you study the Usury FAQ, you’ll have a much better idea) you can rest assured that it does.

    [The following proposition is condemned as erroneous:] Since ready cash is more valuable than that to be paid, and since there is no one who does not consider ready cash of greater worth than future cash, a creditor can demand something beyond the principal from the borrower, and for this reason be excused from usury.

    – Various Errors on Moral Subjects (II), Pope Innocent XI by decree of the Holy Office, March 4, 1679 (Denzinger)

  • Arthur’s comment is excellent in making clear that the presupposition of rational and justice is reductively subjective and preferential. The fact that I would prefer the state of affairs X is sufficient proof that actualizing X is just and rational.
    The question: “What is the lender owed in virtue of the objective claims he has against the borrower and or some property?” does not even enter the discussion.

  • Mike T says:


    You saw a lot of that in the mortgage crisis. Plenty of folks were willing to write a blank check of power to the banks and courts to just “rule the right way” to make sure those deadbeats were not taking something that didn’t belong to them. It never occurred to them that lending is a commercial transaction no different than hiring a handyman to fix $100 worth of damage to your house; both are based on contracts, backed by the state. If the contract is valid, you abide by the terms (which for mortgages includes a right to walk away for both sides!) and the governing regulations. If not, the court declares it unenforceable.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    (which for mortgages includes a right to walk away for both sides!)

    That depends on what you mean by “walk away”. Actually it isn’t really true under any reasonable understanding of “walk away”.

    Last I knew there were only four “non recourse” states (where deficiency judgments in mortgage contracts are unenforceable).

    Deficiency judgments on mortgages in other states are enforceable, and the contracts typically include personal guarantees by the borrower above and beyond whatever is recovered from selling the property.

    If you (a generic “you” in the United States) have a mortgage you are probably subject to a deficiency judgment: walking away from the property does not release you from your (legal, under the positive law) obligation to continue to make payments.

  • Zippy says:

    The Great Oracle says there are more than four now.

    This is not surprising in the post-2008-financial-crisis world: as a kind of theft or unjust bondage usury is unnatural and harmful, so nature tends to punish it in the long run.

    Of course we know what the Prophet Keynes had to say about the long run.

  • TomD says:

    Behold, the usual suspects.

  • Wood says:


    Thanks for that link. This video should be readily available for anyone who thinks the Church’s current actions regarding usury are unimportant. I also learned I’ve been mispronouncing “usury” this whole time :/

  • MMPeregrine says:

    “Resistance of modernity’s lies about morality without a strong usury ‘pillar’ is dead in its crib, pointless”

    I’ve been reflecting on this quote and I’m pretty sure that I agree with it, at least to the extent that understanding usury is fundamental to grasping the historical crisis of faith that we find ourselves in today. I read the following excerpt by Dr. David Arias of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary that helped me develop my own thoughts on how the correct understanding and application of the subject of usury must be a pillar in any plan to return to sound moral theology and practice.

    “…it is essential to recall that all the goods which pertain to us as human beings can be exhaustively divided into those which are extrinsic to us (e.g., money, jewelry, etc.) and those which are in some way intrinsic to us. These latter goods are further divisible into goods of the body (e.g., bodily health, various sense pleasures, etc.) and goods of the soul (e.g., our intellects and wills themselves, knowledge, virtue, etc.).
    Thinking back to St. Anselm’s definition [reparative aspects of satisfactory works], then, we can make up for our past sins by giving up, in one way or another, various goods which belong to us in order to render due honor to God. When we give alms, we deprive ourselves of some extrinsic good(s) for God’s glory. When we fast, we deprive ourselves of some good(s) of the body to give honor to God. And when we pray, we raise our heart and mind to God and thereby surrender these goods of the soul to God Himself…
    These same three sorts of satisfactory works are also essentially connected to each of the two parts of the Augustinian definition [preventative aspect of satisfactory works]. For as St. John makes evident, the three causes of sin are “concupiscence of the flesh,” “concupiscence of the eyes,” and the “pride of life” (1John 2:16). The first of these causes is uprooted by fasting, the second by almsgiving, and the third by prayer. In a similar way, since every sin is directed against God, or oneself, or one’s neighbor, we deny admittance to the suggestions of these sins by praying, fasting, and giving alms, respectively.”[End quote by Dr. Arias]

    Basically, it seems that usury falls underneath the 7th commandment (thou shalt not steal) and also it is a specific manifestation of the capital vice of greed. The 10 commandments and especially the 7 deadly sins correspond to the 3 concupiscences listed above by John the Evangelist. Usury is a result of individual people and our culture at large succumbing to the ‘concupiscence of the eyes’. The way to combat it on a personal level is through almsgiving. And the three satisfactory works also correspond to the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience — almsgiving, fasting, prayer). This seems to me a good way to anchor the subject of usury to the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on sin and the path out of sin.

  • MMPeregrine says:

    If you copy/paste the below url into your browser, it should bring up a very helpful graph along with the relevant section of St. Thomas’ Summa on the seven deadly sins and the daughters of each. It’s definitely worth a very careful read.

  • […] if we fail to understand and unequivocally oppose usury then all of our opposition to sodomy, contraception, fornication, adultery, abortion, […]

  • TN Catholic says:

    I don’t mean to be scrupulous, but I heard that Dictator Pope has very, very unflattering stories about Pope Francis. I am not sure how helpful it is for Catholics to know how Pope Francis supposedly acts behind the scenes. Couldn’t the book count as detraction? (Granted I am not sure the author deliberately intended to harm Francis’s honor)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Don’t waste time with those antibiotics; maybe leeches will work! at Zippy Catholic.