About

“Zippy” is me.  “Zippy Catholic” is the blog.

I’m just some clown who happens to be Roman Catholic.   “Zippy” started as a throwaway nickname that is mostly Mark Shea‘s fault; but now I’m stuck with it, and the name and I have grown attached over the years.  “Catholic” because when I went to start a blog “Zippy” by itself wasn’t available, and because I aspire to be Catholic in my thinking and practice.  It most certainly doesn’t imply that I am a particularly good Catholic or speak for the Church.  All ideas and opinions (other than direct quotations) are my own, and if you accept the thoughts and assertions of an Internet clown named Zippy without doing your own due diligence you are probably even sillier than an Internet clown named Zippy.

In the past I’ve also blogged at What’s Wrong With the World.   I’ve commented (particularly in its early days) at the blog View from the Right under the name “Matt”; other than that its generally been all Zippy, all the time, at least since the 2000’s, though I may have taken an anonymous potshot here or there over the years.  I’ve used the Internet since the eighties and sometimes it is hard to remember my own age let alone all the other details of life.

See here for a comment about commenting.

See here for more about my approach to blogging.

zippycatholic at hotmail dot com

§ 57 Responses to About

  • Karl says:

    Dear Zippy,

    My email is mostly dysfunctional hence this combox request, which you can feel free to delete if you feel so moved.

    After filing her first annulment petition in 1991, to no avail, my wife has filed another, claiming Total Simulation, now about 21 years later. I have informed the Church that I am finished with this process. People have died, gotten senile, forgotten, moved away, documents have been lost…

    I am done with the Catholic Church’s games. No, I am not leaving the Church, just not participating in this. I am asking for your prayers that God’s will be done. That is my simple request. Pray, too for everyone involved. It is a real mess.

    People do not have any understanding of how thoroughly corrupting this process is, through the dangling carrot of nullity….remarriage. More intelligent and informed people than I must take up this cause to make the Church see what is being done. I cannot do this, too much, any more. Twenty plus years of being ignored and worse, is enough.

    God bless you, Z.

  • You and your intentions have been personally written in my family’s prayer journal for quite a long time now, Karl my friend. I think you should worry about taking care of yourself as best you can, first and foremost. You’ve been through a lot. I don’t think you can be coerced into participating in the process, and if doing so isn’t a peaceful thing for you I would encourage you not to do so. The broader war is not something you or I can fight to win; the Holy Spirit has permitted some pretty awful things in the Church before and I don’t propose to second guess His will.

    I did snag a copy of the book you recommended. I haven’t started reading it yet. But I do plan to read it, and I may write about the subject here in due time.

  • Sophia says:

    To Karl,

    I just want to let you know that I’m with you on this…this annulment thing. You are so right: it is a game the Church plays…plays with marriage/divorce/individual persons/society or the culture at large…not to mention (and of course they rarely do except in a superficial manner) children. It IS a real mess!

    And you are also so right in saying that “people do not have any understanding of how thoroughly corrupting this process is…” Impersonal, superficial, and legalistic, is how I would describe it (and perhaps “convenient” for those who don’t want to look at and address the very real problems people face in marriage in today’s culture). It seems to me that annulments are encouraged and defended most strongly by the very people in the Church who actually believe in the Church’s teaching on marriage (or claim to)…that’s the cunundrum/irony I have found most disheartening and personally isolating.

    Anyway, I just wanted to comment here to let you know I agree with you whole-heartedly on this mess and it is sooo wrong the way the Church treats those who don’t want to go down that road and into the quagmire!!!

    Take Care & God Bless!

  • joycalyn says:

    Zippy Catholic – I’m not sure where to put this request.

    I’ve been reading your blog for years and have benefited greatly from your explanations of Natural Law – a concept I had never encountered before.

    I read your comment at Dalrock’s regarding the history of modernism. I’ve been wandering in the evangelical wilderness for years, very interested in Catholic theology, with an intense need to understand the underlying reality of the Reformation. However, I have been hampered by the ubiquitous Protestant paradigm wherever I go. To my thinking the fruits of the Protest are so bad there must be something in the seed to account for it, but where do I find the seed? Do you have a suggestion for further reading to put me on the right track?

    Thanks so much.

  • Zippy says:

    jocalyn:
    There are a couple of fairly recent ‘opinionated’ Catholic surveys of history out there. I haven’t read it in its entirety, but what I have read of How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas Woods is great. Another is Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church: A 2,000-Year History by H W Crocker III. I’m not fond of the last chapter or two in the latter, because in typical American Catholic fashion it tries rather lamely to reconcile Catholicism with American right-liberalism. But the bulk of the book is good.

    My own view of the history has its … idiosyncrasies, is certainly opinionated, and shouldn’t be taken as Gospel. For example I don’t know of any work I can recommend that specifically traces the connection I propose between Islam – and specifically its positivist logocentric view of holy texts, and how that approach enables internal political revolution – and the Reformation.

    If the need is more for Catholic apologetics written for Evangelicals I can (once again with an opinionated bias) recommend the books of my friend Mark Shea. His By What Authority and Making Senses of Scripture are good introductions, and his trilogy Mary, Mother of the Son is (as is often the case with the Blessed Virgin) as much about the Christ and the Church as it is about the Blessed Virgin. If his style doesn’t connect with you the Radio Replies take a very different approach.

    Chesterton’s and Belloc’s works are also good here. Belloc understands Islam to be a heresy of Christianity, but I don’t recall in what particular work he suggests it.

    Hope that is helpful.

  • Zippy says:

    Ah yes, that’s it. When Belloc is good he is very, very good:

    There is thus a very great deal in common between the enthusiasm with which Mohammed’s teaching attacked the priesthood, the Mass and the sacraments, and the enthusiasm with which Calvinism, the central motive force of the Reformation, did the same. As we all know, the new teaching relaxed the marriage laws – but in practice this did not affect the mass of his followers who still remained monogamous. It made divorce as easy as possible, for the sacramental idea of marriage disappeared. It insisted upon the equality of men, and it necessarily had that further factor in which it resembled Calvinism – the sense of predestination, the sense of fate; of what the followers of John Knox were always calling “the immutable decrees of God.”

    […]

    It was the combination of all these things, the attractive simplicity of the doctrine, the sweeping away of clerical and imperial discipline, the huge immediate practical advantage of freedom for the slave and riddance of anxiety for the debtor, the crowning advantage of free justice under few and simple new laws easily understood – that formed the driving force behind the astonishing Mohammedan social victory. The courts were everywhere accessible to all without payment and giving verdicts which all could understand. The Mohammedan movement was essentially a “Reformation,” and we can discover numerous affinities between Islam and the Protestant Reformers – on Images, on the Mass, on Celibacy, etc.

    And, I would add, on Sola Scriptura[*], and text as idolatrous replacement for Sacraments.

    [*] I used to have a list of Koran citations where – unlike the Bible – it explicitly asserts its own completeness, but I can’t find them at the moment. A quick search of the online Koran gave me this one though:

    “And We have sent down to you the book (the Qur’an) as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves (to Allah as Muslims).”

    (Emphasis mine)

  • joycalyn says:

    I am genuinely appreciative to both of you for the information. Thank you for taking the time. Thomas Woods is one of my favorites already. I have read a bit of Chesterton, but it’s slow going because it requires such an adjustment in my thinking. Protestants seem to see a different world than Catholics do.

  • joycalyn says:

    Well, looks like I need to clarify. I have enjoyed Thomas Woods before, but have not read that book. It’s on my list now. Thanks again!

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @ joycalyn

    They do see the world differently. I’m often told that I have a Catholic perspective, which goes some way to explain why I am often at odds with my Protestant brethren. We use that phrase (“at odds”) to usually mean against in a bad sense, but I also mean it as a reflection that they had never considered.

    None of that is to say that I am right, but that I think there’s much good to be said about both traditions. In some ways they are more good for each other than themselves.

    There’s not a little bad in both, too, but I try not to dwell on that.

    But that’s me.

  • DeNihilist says:

    Hey Zippy, just want to thank you for actually being willing to discuss and argue in a totally non-threatening and intelligent way. I devised my handle for the climate change blogs, both as a provocative statement, but also to show people that in the end, all their wasted energy in the futile arguments would come to naught. You cannot know how happy I am to have found a blog, where most of the comments are answered in a mature way. This is how real growth occurs, everyone sharing their strengths and weaknesses with no fear of being belittled, and LEARNING!

    Awesome!

  • Zippy says:

    DeNihilist:
    Not everyone thinks so, obviously, but thanks.

  • Frederick says:

    Speaking of Zippy, me-thinks you ought to lighten up and become a tad more humorous about the intrinsically paradoxical nature of Reality, just like my favorite cartoon character Zippy the Pin Head whose best and favorite maxim is “are we having fun yet!”

  • Scott says:

    Zippy– have a question about Chrismation. Can you email me at the one this is associated with?

  • Scott says:

    Got your email and responded. Not sure if you got it.

  • Scott says:

    As a side note:

    “I used to have a list of Koran citations where – unlike the Bible – it explicitly asserts its own completeness”

    I TIM 3:16 is the one most often used for this.

  • Scott says:

    Pardon me, II TIM 3:16!

  • Zippy says:

    Scott:

    Just replied. Been rather tied up since yesterday afternoon.

    Yeah, but 2 Timothy just says what all Scripture is good for. It doesn’t say that nothing outside of Scripture has authority … or even that nothing outside of Scripture has authority equivalent to Scripture. Heck, it doesn’t even say what texts are and are not Scripture.

    Positivism is something that protestants project onto Scripture, not something that Scripture itself asserts. This is (IIRC) in contrast to the Koran, which actually does assert its own textual completeness and supremacy.

  • Scott says:

    I know. I am not sure I believe it anymore. At the seminary, it was the prime verse used to establish sola scriptura. I think they probably make an isogetical error with the word translated into English as “sufficient” although haven’t parsed ancient Greek words like that since those days. Clergy training almost made me lose my faith completely.

  • Scott says:

    Of course, by “sufficient” I mean Psalms, 19:7-14 which would be Hebrew. See how long its been!

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    When you use “positivism”, are you speaking of something as opposed to “metaphysics”?

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    Positivism is something much more specific than metaphysics. It is a particular kind of misunderstanding of the relationship between formal symbols (like natural language text or mathematical symbols), and meaning.

    Positivism is so pervasive in modern thought that it is like the air we breath; so it is difficult to get people to even recognize its existence.

    Formal representations (of sufficient explanatory power to be interesting) can be either consistent or complete, but not both at the same time. That’s the way reality actually works: like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics, which says you can either know position or momentum to arbitrary accuracy but not both at the same time, reality doesn’t permit symbolic systems interpreted with consistent logic to be complete.

    Positivism assumes that some formal representation (e.g. the Bible, the Constitution, peano arithmetic, etc) is both consistent and complete at the same time. If it isn’t consistent then it is meaningless, so it must be consistent; if it is complete, it follows that nothing outside of it is necessary to extract all of the essential meaning it conveys. But these two requirements contradict each other.

    Sola Scriptura is a form of positivism (swiped from Islam), but it is hardly the only form. Some kinds of scientific positivists believe (for example) that it is possible to build a “theory of everything” in physics, where all physical phenomena follow formally from some initial conditions applied to a formal specification of physical laws. Mathematical positivists thought they could create a complete system of mathematics starting from some finite set of first principles and rules of symbolic manipulation; Kurt Godel, as a fly on the wall in the sessions of the Vienna Circle, made it his life’s work to – ultimately successfully – prove them wrong, at least for any formal system complex enough to do arithmetic.

    Positivism – this idea of symbolic completeness, that we can rely on the text or formulas alone to give us a complete specification of what we need to know for some particular purpose – is rampant in modern thought. As I said, it is difficult to get most modern people to even recognize its presence in their own thought.

  • Zippy says:

    The Christian punch line, FWIW, is that there must – by absolute apriori necessity must, because the alternative is literally self-contradictory, though not obviously so to a mind steeped in modern prejudices – be true Christian doctrines which cannot be deduced from the text of scripture alone interpreted through some (any) logically consistent hermeneutic. Sacred Tradition – a source of non-symbolic meaning from outside of the text of Scripture, with authority equal to that of Scripture – is logically necessary.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    Thanks. That helped me understand your position much better. I think (and anyone besides myself is probably a better judge than I) that I’m not a sold-out positivist; at least in the way you’re using it here.

    Do you agree that–even in the shadow of erroneous positivism–things (symbols/representations) exist for a reason, and that against which we can test our ideas, revelations, etc.? Not only in the sense that we can test, but that things should be tested?

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @ZIppy

    because the alternative is literally self-contradictory, though not obviously so to a mind steeped in modern prejudices

    I’m not sure I understand. What is an example of the alternative, and how is it self-contradictory?

    Sacred Tradition – a source of non-symbolic meaning from outside of the text of Scripture, with authority equal to that of Scripture – is logically necessary.

    See, when I read this, I hear you say: “Christianity is white magic.” I don’t mean that to be offensive.

  • Zippy says:

    Language is necessary, sure. The Catholic position is that no true and infallible doctrine conflicts with Scripture, properly interpreted in the light of Sacred Tradition and the living Magisterium.

    Keep in mind that even coming this far into Protestant territory to have the discussion is alien to me though. I am convinced that the Roman Catholic Church is, historically, the organic and living Church established by Christ – quite independent of any doctrine. Starting at doctrine and “working back” to find the True Church is completely alien to my way of thinking. Finding the true Church is easy – the only claimant with any reasonable pedigree besides Rome is the Eastern Orthodox, and I could never be any sort of Protestant.

    To be Christian is, for me, to necessarily be Roman Catholic — even if one does not acknowledge it. Just as the city of Rome is today the same city as it was in 4 BC, and no construction in Las Vegas – however faithful a replica it might attempt to be – could ever actually be Rome; the Christian Church simply is Roman Catholicism. This is clearly true as an organic matter before questions of doctrine even come up at all.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    See, when I read this, I hear you say: “Christianity is white magic.” I don’t mean that to be offensive.

    That is because you are a positivist. 🙂 You haven’t yet realized that all meaning is “white magic” — that it cannot be caged up in formal symbols (text).

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    To be Christian is, for me, to necessarily be Roman Catholic — even if one does not acknowledge it.

    So you would consider me an un-acknowledging Roman Catholic, or something else?

    Just as the city of Rome is today the same city as it was in 4 BC, and no construction in Las Vegas – however faithful a replica it might attempt to be – could ever actually be Rome

    But why Rome? Why not Jerusalem, or Antioch; which is the (re-)birthplace of the New Testament Church? Ironically, this smacks of Islam to me; moving the “real” holy places to Mecca and Medina. Also, the sort of people who are convinced America is the New Zion.

    That is because you are a positivist.

    Ha! Right after I hit “post” I thought, “He’s going to say: That’s because you’re a positivist.”

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    So you would consider me an un-acknowledging Roman Catholic, or something else?

    Everyone who is a baptised Christian is part of, and is under the authority of, the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope — whether they acknowledge it or not. Rebellious and/or confused sons are still sons, and ex ecclesium nulla salus.

    Rome was probably a poor example of the point I was making, even though I used it precisely for the double entendre.

    No living Church (outside of communion with Rome) has – even slightly – the actual historical pedigree and legitimate claim to Apostolic succession of Catholicism, that is, all those Churches in communion with Rome. (This includes some non-Roman rites associated with the cities you mention, which are nevertheless in communion).

    But I don’t expect to convince you of anything here. I was just noting that even having the discussion we were having re: doctrine and positivism is stepping well outside of my way of thinking.

  • Aren’t the Orthodox considered to have valid Apostolic Succession, as well as some more fringe groups like the so-called “Old Catholics”?

  • Zippy says:

    malcolmthecynic:
    Yes, AFAIK.

  • Scott says:

    In order to understand positivism as the “air we breathe” analogy, I chose this: In conservative protestant seminaries, several, interlocking theological constructs are presented, and none of them can really be tampered with much, or the whole thing falls apart.

    The most important of which is verbal/plenary inerrancy and inspiration, from Genesis to Revelation: This means that the original texts are perfect in that form. They never contradict each other. Every word on those pages was intended by God himself to be there, are nothing is missing.

    This particular understanding allows some variance on the mechanics of inspiration itself (was God holding the quill while Moses was writing, or did He, through His sovereignty bring Moses to exactly that point in his life where he would write the precise words he wrote?) but mostly it is a logic loop. There can be no error in the original text, because it allows for slippage down the slippery slope to subjectivism. According to this hermenuitic principle, if you are reading a piece of the text and find an APPARENT error, it is the readers problem, not the scripture.

    Where I think positivism comes in is related to your comments about all truth being confined to characters on a page. Even conservative theologians from this school of thought (where I was nurtured) believe in general revelation. Yet still, they hold on to a mystical understanding of the written word. It started to dawn on me, “if you asked Paul today, if he intended for the letter he wrote to the church at Corinth to be collected and read from the pulpit as perfect, inerrant scripture what would he say?” I bet he woud say “I kind of remember that. I wrote a lot of stuff back then. Why did you guys collect THAT one of all things?”

    The representations would lose all their meaning in that case. Although there is no evidence that any of these writings were intended to be used that way, we do anyway. We fill in what we can’t know with what we think makes the most sense.

  • Zippy says:

    Scott:
    There can be no error in the original text, because it allows for slippage down the slippery slope to subjectivism.

    What is interesting is that postmodernism and positivism act as though they are in opposition, even though they are really two sides of the same epistemological coin. A postmodern is a positivist who has realized that from his perspective meaning is “white magic”, as Cane put it. Because formal completeness is elusive there cannot be any definite meaning at all: everything becomes a matter of assertion of arbitrary authority, and arbitrary authority is tyranny.

    So postmodernism is positivism that has crashed headlong into its own internal contradiction, but still refuses to repent.

  • Scott says:

    Yes, but it comes from a logical place in the mind. “Why would God give us incomplete ‘instructions?'”

  • Zippy says:

    It is understandable, but ultimately irrational — and it rests on a conflation of “complete instructions” with “everything we need.”

  • […] (There was also a deep conversation that took place been Zippy, Scott and Cane Caldo in Zippy’s About page which I recommend to those interested in Christian theology and philosophy. It starts roughly here.) […]

  • Kevin Nowell says:

    Zippy, I just wanted to say that I love this application of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem to Sola Scriptura and I would love to see any further writings you wish to make on this idea.

  • mdavid says:

    Kurt Godel, as a fly on the wall in the sessions of the Vienna Circle, made it his life’s work to – ultimately successfully – prove them wrong

    Fyi Gödel’s two incompleteness theorems were published in 1931 when he was 25 years old.

  • WouldbeYeoman says:

    Zippy Catholic,

    I discovered your blog recently (following a link on usury), and wanted to ask you something.

    The reason I’m contacting you is I haven’t before encountered anyone who is both a) a Catholic who knows his religion well enough to understand that modernity is built on a vast web of lies, and b) has worked in business, apparently with some success.

    (Everyone who meets condition ‘a’ seems either to work in a non-business field like the academy or the military, or is rich enough not to work. Every Catholic who meets condition ‘b’ has either drunk one or another brand of modern Kool-aid (normally classical liberalism), or doesn’t care.)

    Since both ‘a’ and ‘b’ seem to be true for you, my question may make some sense. Here it is:

    A great deal of modern business is not only built on modernity’s lies, but is also devoted to spewing out more of them. Even outside the ‘professions’ where this is most obviously true (advertising, PR, etc), an enormous amount of modern ‘knowledge work’ involves obfuscation, cover-up, ‘message control’, bootlicking, Powerpoint, detraction, ‘comms strategies’, and other things that damage the soul of those who do them. Most people working in business see all these things are praiseworthy, or at least necessary in the most crudely utilitarian sense.

    There are many other morally wrong practices in modern business too, but these are the most obvious.

    It seems impossible not only to advance but even to keep one’s job, without doing these things to some degree.

    Given this, what is an essentialist/realist Catholic working in these fields supposed to do? I work in IT in a large organisation, where all these things are present. It is not technically impossible for me to quit and become a teacher or something, but I can’t believe it’s prudent. I have a family to feed and usurers to pay.

    Much office work and culture stems from the idea that there is no objective reality, that ‘image is everything’. Even if I can avoid outright sinning, I don’t know if I can advance in holiness while co-operating with this.

    Any thoughts?

    Regards

  • Zippy says:

    WouldbeYeoman:

    You may be giving me too much credit. You seem to have a handle on the options, as well as a grip on the fact that you’ve got different priorities you’ve got to navigate prudentially. Beyond that I don’t know what I would say, even if I thought I was qualified to give concrete advice over the Internet based on just a sketch of the situation.

    The constant material cooperation with evil required by modern life isn’t something I know how to make disappear, or even mitigate really. The best we can do is resist it while tending to our own responsibilities. Sometimes a change of environment or career is possible and warranted; it might even be obligatory, if a particular job requires formal cooperation with evil or the commission of intrinsically immoral actions. Other times the notion of a more morally pristine environment is just a fantasy, and we’ve got to just stand tall and/or keep our heads down and soldier through it.

    Our discussions of voting and elections may be pertinent here on the broader subject. I’ve made the point over the years that one of the main sociological functions of democratic elections – what they actually do in reality as opposed to what folks think they are intended to do – is to convince mass numbers of people to formally cooperate with grave evils which are for the most part not even something over which they have any materially significant say, and which are not temptations right there on their own personal plates, but which are on the agendas of the teams we politically support.

    But as far as what individuals ought to do in their own concrete situations? It is really impossible for me to say once we’ve gotten beyond avoiding doing anything intrinsically immoral. And although I’ve worked paycheck-to-paycheck in industry with a family to support, and started companies, and managed investments, and all that, I am at this stage of life about as independent as it is possible to be.

    So I’m doubly unqualified to lecture men with mouths to feed about their prudential choices, which is why I try to stick to talking about principles and ideas. Sometimes those principles and ideas are pertinent, of course — given that usury is intrinsically immoral one ought not have it as a profession, for example, any more than one ought to have pornography as a profession. It is almost certainly impossible, from a practical standpoint, to be a morally upright divorce lawyer.

    But the principles I talk about don’t say much about IT work vs. teaching. They are probably both equally fraught in general, though it doubtless varies significantly from place to place.

  • WouldbeYeoman says:

    Thanks. That’s more or less what I thought. There’s no formula for making correct decisions, and prudence is an acquired virtue. And the curse of Adam strikes whether one is a peasant farmer or a modern ‘knowledge’ worker.

  • buckyinky says:

    The latest turn of events on pro-life sting operations. Looks like the grand jury has taken David Daleiden of Center for Medical Progress at face value.

  • Zippy says:

    buckyinky:

    Yeah, I saw that. It is ludicrous of course, and the people doing it are despicable liars and murderers and worse themselves.

    However, this does appear to be a case of someone telling lies and then being treated as if those lies should be taken seriously, as opposed to “I was just kidding!”

  • Zippy says:

    I wonder if part of the experience of Hell is having every lie we’ve ever told treated as if we were serious.

  • buckyinky says:

    Scares the hell out of me.

  • Zippy says:

    I can picture lots of men with wives in dresses that make them look fat.

  • James Forrestal says:

    Just wanted to second Kevin on your explication of positivism and its relationship to sola scriptura and modernity in general. I’ve never seen it laid out that way before. Nicely done.

    To the extent that I’ve thought about it, I would maintain that one of the essential errors of modernism is a sort of pseudo-objective stance that denies natural law, and sees the observer as a kind of God, able to see the system from outside. This viewpoint has enabled the development of modern science and technology, but has also served as the basis for any number of modernist movements (communism, feminism, etc.) based on the year-zero, blank slate, radical egalitarian view of the human condition.

    Perhaps both this and positivism share an error of hubris; an implicit claim of omniscience.

    Any thoughts on why Islam is so relatively resistant to modernity, despite its basis in positivism? Is it because their view is that, not only is the Koran a complete guide to Islam, but that nothing outside the Koran is really valid?

  • Zippy says:

    James Forrestal:
    That makes sense: that is, Islam is resistant to modernism because – like modernism – it simply rejects anything which does not immediately comport with its metaphysics, no matter how crazy the rejection may appear. As an a priori ‘complete’ metaphysic, explanation of reality has to adjust to it rather than vice versa.

  • justin1745 says:

    Zippy,

    Wanted to send you a quick note, asking your opinion of something. I’ll try to keep it brief, it’s similar to the question by WouldBeYeoman. I’ve asked the same question to two priests, a moral theologian for my diocese (who didn’t reply for whatever reason to my emails), and a canon lawyer, none of which said I had anything to be concerned over. But then there is your blog, and I suspect your view is both right and also not known or acknowledged by most priests/canon lawyers. I’m sure I could ask 1,000 priests and they’d all tell me just to avoid being a payday lender or loan shark.

    I came back to the faith relatively recently in my adulthood and had a lot of problems with sin to deal with. Indeed, this week I’m only now moving out from living with my girlfriend, and I hope to make it to confession very soon so I can receive the Eucharist. But I also work at a bank. I don’t directly issue any type of financial product whatsoever – I work in Risk Management, to understand how changing interest rates will change the value of the bank, with about 50% of the job doing things for regulators or internal auditors of some type.

    Based on your Usury FAQ, the bank invests in a mix of morally licit and morally illicit products, with loans to businesses and government (licit) and loans to individuals possibly illicit depending on the terms (i.e. if they are full recourse, some mortgages are likely in no-recourse states but many surely are not). There are also small credit card and student loan portfolios which are almost certainly illicit. Since finance isn’t per se immoral, but how it is conducted in modern society often is, do you have a sense for what I should do career wise? Am I like an accountant working for Planned Parenthood (i.e. not directly committing murder but being paid by an organization which does so to stay in business) or an accountant working for a pharmaceutical company that makes some useful drugs but also makes abortifacient birth control pills? My sense would be that the person working for Planned Parenthood ought to quit, but the person working for the pharmaceutical company probably doesn’t, unless he’s directly manufacturing birth control or something like that.

    It wouldn’t be easy to transition out of my line of work, but compared with eternity that’s neither here nor there. Then again, if my occupation isn’t inherently sinful, I don’t want to delay receiving the Eucharist unnecessarily out of scrupulousness. To use your framing of the situation, my profession isn’t usury, but it is that of some of the people I work with who contribute to the bottom line of the bank.

    Thanks for any insight you can provide.

  • Zippy says:

    Justin1745:

    I don’t really have any insight beyond what you have already said. Even the accountant who works for Planned Parenthood is not choosing an intrinsically immoral behavior. The issue is one of material cooperation with evil, and the main concerns are how proximate is the cooperation and what proportionate reasons obtain.

    As you observe this is not a blanket license: I think you are right about the Planned Parenthood accountant, but that is because the entire mission and purpose for existence of Planned Parenthood is immoral per se. Morally speaking, Planned Parenthood ought to simply cease to exist.

    This is not true of banks.

    Frankly, having metaphysical realists in the finance profession is in itself a good thing long term, so that is an additional consideration.

  • Jonathan says:

    Zippy: I’m sure you get this a lot, but I wanted to thank you for sharing your research and thought on usury. Although I have never been comfortable with the moral permissibility of interest-bearing loans, I have never been able to articulate why (and never took the time to research the answers myself!). Your research on the subject has helped me a lot. Thank you!

  • Karl says:

    Just to make you smile. From Bai Macfarlane’s Defending marriage Yahoo group and a very recent post

    Hi Bai and Franklin,

    I once had a long argument with Zippy Catholic over this issue as I was once very gung-ho about, “getting the state-out-of-the-marriage-business-its-a-covenant-not-a-contract.”

    Eventually, Zippy brought me around to his point of view, with a little help from Pope Leo XIII. (emphasis added)

    Let no one, then, be deceived by the distinction which some civil jurists have so strongly insisted upon – the distinction, namely, by virtue of which they sever the matrimonial contract from the sacrament, with intent to hand over the contract to the power and will of the rulers of the State, while reserving questions concerning the sacrament to the Church. A distinction, or rather severance, of this kind cannot be approved; for certain it is that in Christian marriage the contract is inseparable from the sacrament, and that, for this reason, the contract cannot be true and legitimate without being a sacrament as well. For Christ our Lord added to marriage the dignity of a sacrament; but marriage is the contract itself, whenever that contract is lawfully concluded. – Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum divinae sapentiae

    Here is one of his many posts on marriage-as-contract. I hope it explains the wisdom of Bai’s position that the government should enforce ALL contracts as contracts — and whatever else it may be — marriage IS a contract.

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/if-you-dont-see-what-i-am-saying-check-your-contract-lenses/

  • Pedat Ebediyah says:

    Hey Brother,

    Have you seen this?

    It’s one ? my favourite channels..

  • Zippy says:

    Pedat Ebediyah:

    That was a great rant. I’m vaguely familiar with Voris but have only seen the occasional video.

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