Usury

money changersWe all know that to assist in another sin is itself a sin, so would owning a credit card constitute assisting in the sin of usury? We can see that the modes of participation in another sin are the following: council, command, consent, provocation, praise, concealment, partaking, silence, and defense of the evil done. How can we go about figuring out wether it is sinful, to what degree it might be sinful, and if it is inherently sinful, to take out loans which charge interest.

First, I believe we should look at what usury is, and what it is not. Usury is defined as the lending of money, while charging interest. Not only excessive interest, but any interest. Usury is not committed when interest is not charged; therefore, one may argue that Charge cards (which are paid off in full each month, and do not charge interest) would be a separate category from credit cards. It may be possible that there could be a distinction, but that is another subject entirely. What I mean to stress is that giving a temporary loan is in no way sinful for anyone, unless interest is charged. We can look to the past and see non-profit Catholic organizations which would provide loans to those who needed them, without charging interest, but rather charging an upfront fee for the cost of keeping the organization afloat.

My point here is not to try to prove to you that usury is bad, because as Catholics we know that it is through divine revelation and because it violates not only divine law, but the natural law. In regard to it being a violation of the natural law, it may be worth mentioning that usury is not dissimilar to the medieval understanding of magic, which was a disproportionate result from a given action (ex. extending one’s hand resulting in a cup flying into it from across the room), in that one is receiving more than is owed. What I really want to get at is the question “am I culpable for sin if I take out a loan?” I think we can all agree that necessary loans, such as those taken out to buy shelter for ones family or to buy something that will help in their safety or well being, are in a different category of loans than credit card purchases. Owning a home is a necessary thing, unless you plan on renting for the duration of your life, which the average person would not have access to if it were not for loans. This places a person in a position where their freedom is severely limited, and would thus absolve them from, what I think to be, all culpability. So taking out usurious loans in order to make truly necessary purchases does not seem to be sinful, therefore we can say that borrowing money and being charged interest is not inherently sinful, while charging interest for a loan remains sinful. What about more frivolous purchases, like expensive clothing and vacations made with a credit card?

The truth is, I really don’t know about this one, but I have a bit of speculation. It would seem that these purchases would be sinful if one was fully aware that usury is sinful, and that they are participating in another’s sin by their actions, but what if the person making these purchases has the intent of paying off their balance before they are charged interest? Would this limit their culpability, or would they still be participating sinfully in a corrupt system? What about the common experience of using credit cards in order to build ones credit score so that they can eventually take a necessary loan to buy a home for their family? Or even student loans?

Just because you read this, don’t instantly run out and cancel every credit card you have. That could potentially ruin your family’s financial future by severely diminishing your credit score, and it would be a violation against prudence. However, you should probably read more about this issue from more authoritative sources, as well as examine your situation in regard to credit and loans more thoroughly, as I plan to do as myself. I would love to hear your take on some of these questions.

In the peace of Jesus and Mary,

Trevor

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What Makes a Theologian

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I can say without the slightest doubt in my mind, that if St. Thomas Aquinas were involved in some sort of scandalous behavior, the Summa Theologica would be counted among the smallest footnotes in history. Holiness was once the principal prerequisite to being a theologian, but nowadays it is nearly a hindrance. Several of the most influential theologians of the past century very openly had mistresses, endorsed homosexual actions, and adhered to every possible heresy in a juvenile act of rebellion that has lead the Church directly to the door step of Hell. There is a saying in many speculative theological circles that goes something along the lines of “theology was never meant to simply preserve orthodoxy”, which I might agree with if “but it can never be considered theology if it is not orthodox” were added to it. Anything which operates outside of the orthodox Catholic faith is decidedly not Catholic, and there is no reasonable argument that I have ever heard for remaining Catholic, if what the Church teaches is false, and what is contrary to it is true.

Before I continue, I feel it is necessary to say that no matter how eloquent, intelligent, or even true, the words of theologians who cause scandal or publicly sin may seem, their works should not be used to form a theological foundation. Where they are used, we can observe that there is a constant upheaval against dogma, against aspects of the Liturgy and the Church, and even against the words of our Blessed Lord, the God who they claim to understand so well. I would also like to give the disclaimer, that I am not a theologian, but I do hope to piously reflect upon the revealed truth and profound mystery of our Faith, and apply it to our lives. May God be merciful to me if I err in this.

“The only good thing that we owe to Plato and Aristotle is that they brought forward many arguments which we can use against the heretics. Yet they and other philosophers are now in hell.” These harsh words once uttered by Girolamo Savonarola may seem over the top, but I believe they deserve a second look, as well as a re-application to our times. I would be the last man on earth to dismiss the immense importance of the works of the two philosophers of whom Savonarola speaks, but we must understand that holiness and piety are in fact more necessary to the Christian life than any sort of earthly wisdom. Aristotle, who reached the hight of natural knowledge in his own age, and whose works inspired the most important theologian our Church has ever seen, lived a life in vain, because he lived a life without grace. I certainly hope that the Lord, our God, released him, in His infinite mercy,  from that prison with the harrowing of Hell; but we must acknowledge he lived a pagan life apart from the God of Israel. Much more could be said about this side topic, but I digress.

If we examine the theologians of the early Church, we see that many of them certainly did have a formal education, but it wasn’t necessarily required. We see that theology was simply a reflection upon the revealed truth of the Gospel. If it were not a prayerful and pious exercise, the early Church would not have given it the time of day. We live in a culture so different, yet so similar to that of the early Christians. A culture filled to the brim with pagan materialism, heresy, and debauchery; and in the wisdom of the early Church, we see they refused to condone some pointless ramblings about the supposed “truths” of life, unless they lead them to a holier life in the Gospel. The theology of the early Church was quite obviously Theocentric, while it appears that in the endeavors of some modern theologians to adopt the style of Saints like Augustine, they have taken the style, but lost the essence, and created a perverted sort of anthropocentric “theology”. I say we recover the position of the early Church, that we may also preserve the orthodox Faith through this confusing and revolutionary time. If our theologians speak more about man and his actions, than about God, we should think critically about how they are effecting the life of the Church, and how their thoughts influence our relationship to our Lord.

I do not believe that even the most prestigious of formal training in theology would amount to anything compared to the theology of those who learned their Catechism, read their Bible, and live an ascetic life. The theology of a humble peasant is no doubt superior to that of those who receive theological training at a university, but I must say that I don’t mean to dismiss these immensely important institutions of higher learning, or those who have received this type of education. What I do mean to say, however, is there is no such thing as a theologian who is not an ascetic, and if a man claims to be an actual theologian, but does not live an ascetic life, every single theological work he produces is in vain. How does one expect to know the heart of God without striving every moment to be reformed into that ancient beauty of His likeness? How could we listen to someone expound upon the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity if he hardly ever speaks to Him? I hope that we are the generation to raise the bar of what constitutes a theologian, back to what it was when the Church was still young.

There is much more to be said about what makes a theologian, but I hope my humble reflection might bear some fruit.

In the peace of Jesus and Mary,

Trevor

An Introduction

My name is Trevor (baptized Paul-Sebastian), and I converted to the Catholic Church a few years ago. I was Baptized, Confirmed, and received first Communion in November of 2015. Before that, I had already resolved to join the Church around 2012, after being introduced to Catholic theology and apologetics.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss different schools of theology (mostly Patristic, Scholastic, and some modern schools of thought) within the Catholic Church, problems that the Church faces today, Catholic Tradition, and a host of other topics having to do with the Faith. This blog is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Girolamo Savonarola. May God bless you, and thanks for joining me!

In the peace of Jesus and Mary,

Trevor

“The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy.”

— Girolamo Savonarola