USURY AND BENEDICT

An emailer makes the following point:

Usury usually means the charging of interest at an “exorbitant” rate. The pope is going after loan sharks, not banks or credit unions, or 401Ks for that matter.

The church is headed in the wrong direction in so many ways, but combating predatory lenders is not one of them. Predatory lenders break up families, are a drain on the economy and exacerbate poverty. This is a fight worth having, and I, for one, am glad the Pope is speaking out about it.

The trouble, of course, is that usury has an ancient meaning in Catholic doctrine and it has historically meant any interest on loans, which was indeed integral to the rise of Catholic anti-Semitism. But I do see that the more modern meaning of excessive interest rates is a reasonable inference; and I have no problem with criticizing it.

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