Meditation: "Who Takes No Interest on a Loan...'
Edward Holloway FAITH Magazine November – December 2011
From a Newsletter of Fr Edward Holloway In the Parish OF THE HOLY NAME, ESHER Sunday 1 September 1982.
This sermonette is prompted simply by one's eye catching the phrase, in the responsorial psalm for today's Mass. So a few words about it.
The Old Testament forbade usury totally, and the Christian Church right through the middle ages. The ultimate 'toleration' of usury by the Church of Rome is often, but quite falsely actually, quoted by modern critics as a change of doctrine. As usual St. Thomas Aquinas went to the heart of the matter. Money he said, though as metal a valuable means of exchange was a dead thing. It did not multiply itself, did not have offspring, of good or bad yields. It was always immoral to ask more by way of interest than the basic, overall value of the fruits of the earth, or the maximum output of honest human labour. He reckoned that the very most you could ask was 5\%. On average, agricultural production in his day could never improve by more. Without power machinery, goods could not be 'hastened' inproduction. You could claim interest only for loss of gainful use, inconvenience of lending the money, and the danger of losing the lot. An agricultural peasantry could be reduced to utter penury by famine conditions, and in the Sudan recently, they have been.
What changed the situation was the introduction of power machinery, because the standard of output, and value of labour was changing all the time, and from one area to another. Power made goods other than agricultural much cheaper by nature, and quite soon began to affect food yields as well. The function of money changed, in as much as there was no longer a natural average standard of "increase of wealth" which decent people could see and admit to be a maximum. Of course, as interest soared, usury did remain, especially among the poor, and bank interest rates of some 15\% are sheer usury. Governments however had gained more social control over the economy, and they could, and they do, offset in large measure the effects of intrinsically unjust money rates.
With the rise of Capitalism however "faith money" began to replace real money, and the Old Testament would have been horrified at it. I mean, solid money, like gold and silver had a real metal value, it was worth something in its own entity or being, whereas our money drafts and cheques and bank notes are literally not worth the paper they are drawn on. They are just promises to pay, and their real value is based simply on the stability, good order, productivity, and all round trustworthiness of the community as a whole, in whose name Governments issue them. So, in war or revolution your 'paper savings' at the bank, building society, or shares, are worth nothing, or very little. Think of Germany in 1922. In primitive societies you could ruin the poor by excessive interest and prices.Nowadays you can do it by social break down alone; and then only goods and houses and gold and gems and antiques and food, are worth a thing. It is a sobering thought.
Do Governments, either of right or left, ever stop to think how much wealth depends upon the common morality, the common co-operation and mutual honour between man and man, worker and manager?. It is time for us to begin to think, or we could perhaps relive Weimar 1922 over again in our own country. Morals do matter, and we all need to have them.