Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Crisis Magazine and John Zmirak: Are We Not Pharisees?

There has been a sudden and remarkable increase in attention to the question of usury in the blogosphere of late. Dale Ahlquist posts a concise treatment here, while the truly astounding attempt to retail the heresy that magisterial teaching can be reversed by Catholic Encyclopedia articles, theologians, or Canon Law prescriptions, can be viewed in all of its glorious falsity here.

The Crisis magazine articles are also noteworthy for their comment threads, each of which were preempted by Professor John Zmirak, Interim Editor of Crisis, by means of the following, utterly ridiculous assertion:

"This should end the discussion: Deuteronomy 23 allows the Jews to charge interest of foreigners, but not of Jews. If Jews could demand interest from ANYONE, then it doesn’t violate the Natural Law. It isn’t intrinsically evil. Period. God never gave permission for intrinsic evils, even to His chosen people during emergencies."

Professor Zmirak ought to consult two sources relevant to his misapprehension in this regard.

First, he might consult the Angelic Doctor, who fully answered Zmirak's objection eight hundred years before it was advanced:

"The Jews were forbidden to take usury from their brethren, i.e. from other Jews. By this we are given to understand that to take usury from any man is evil simply, because we ought to treat every man as our neighbor and brother, especially in the state of the Gospel, whereto all are called. Hence it is said without any distinction in Psalm 14:5: "He that hath not put out his money to usury," and (Ezekiel 18:8): "Who hath not taken usury [Vulgate: 'If a man . . . hath not lent upon money, nor taken any increase . . . he is just.']." They were permitted, however, to take usury from foreigners, not as though it were lawful, but in order to avoid a greater evil, lest, to wit, through avarice to which they were prone according to Isaiah 56:11, they should takeusury from the Jews who were worshippers of God." --------Summa Theologicae (from "New Advent" website)

Second, he might profitably consult the authentic acts of the magisterium, which anathematize usury, and condemn as heretics those who pertinaciously argue that it is not evil:

First, from the ecumenical Council of Vienna, Decree #29:

"If indeed someone has fallen into the error of presuming to affirm pertinaciously that the practice of usury is not sinful, we decree that he is to be punished as a heretic; and we strictly enjoin on local ordinaries and inquisitors of heresy to proceed against those they find suspect of such error as they would against those suspected of heresy."

Second, from the encyclical "Vix Pervenit" of Pope Benedict XIV:

"I. The nature of the sin called usury has its proper place and origin in a loan contract. This financial contract between consenting parties demands, by its very nature, that one return to another only as much as he has received. The sin rests on the fact that sometimes the creditor desires more than he has given. Therefore he contends some gain is owed him beyond that which he loaned, but any gain which exceeds the amount he gave is illicit and usurious.
II. One cannot condone the sin of usury by arguing that the gain is not great or excessive, but rather moderate or small; neither can it be condoned by arguing that the borrower is rich; nor even by arguing that the money borrowed is not left idle, but is spent usefully, either to increase one's fortune, to purchase new estates, or to engage in business transactions. The law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what is given and returned; once the equality has been established, whoever demands more than that violates the terms of the loan. Therefore if one receives interest, he must make restitution according to the commutative bond of justice; its function in human contracts is to assure equality for each one. This law is to be observed in a holy manner. If not observed exactly, reparation must be made."

Third, and conclusively, Professor Zmirak's argument is completely demolished, by Our Lord Himself, when questioned by the Pharisees on another evil permitted, but never commanded, by God:

"And there came to him the Pharisees tempting him, and saying: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Who answering, said to them: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, Made them male and female? And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh.
Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. They say to him: Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce, and to put away?  He saith to them: Because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery."
This conclusively refutes Crisis Magazine's Interim Editor's remarkable attempt to employ the reasoning of the Pharisees, in order to justify the heresy of usury.
It is truly remarkable that such balderdash could be published on a purportedly Catholic website.
Crisis Magazine ought to do something about this.