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78. Usury

1. Consumptible goods are goods which are consumed by beingused-such, for instance, as food, or fuel for the fire. When suchgoods are borrowed, they are to be returned in kind and inthe amount borrowed. Nonconsumptible goods, such as houses, farmanimals, machines, fields, articles of clothing, are not used up bybeing used. When such goods are borrowed, they are to be returnedthemselves. And for the service rendered by their use,their owner may charge rent or hire. Now, money is consumed inbeing used. Hence, to charge for its use, in addition to itssubstance, is to charge for something which does not exist. Moneycharged for the use of money is usury, and usury is unjust andunlawful. {-Moralists now say that, since the day ofSt. Thomas, money has taken on the character of a fruitful orquasi-fruitful commodity; they say money actually does producemoney, and hence gives to the borrower more than the substance ofthe loan. Therefore, a reasonable charge for the use of money islawful. Such lawful money-rent is called interest. Usuryis excessive and unjust interest. This is the modern meaning of theterms. To St. Thomas-and rightly, in view of the place and functionof money in his times-any interest at all is usury, and is unjustand forbidden.-}

2. Nor can a man exact some other kind of goods than moneyin consideration for a money-loan. At any rate, he cannot exactgoods that can be estimated in terms of money, for to demand suchgoods would be only to demand usury in another form.

3. If a person gets money, or otherconsumptibles, by usury, he must restore what he got. Yet if a manwho holds a usurious commodity gets profit from it by his owneffort and industry, he is not bound to restore this earnedincrement. Thus, if a man exacts six bushels of wheat for a loan offive bushels, he is bound to give back that one extra bushel ofwheat. But if he planted all six bushels when the loan was paidback to him (that is, he planted his own five bushels, and theusuriously exacted bushel), he is not bound to restore one-sixth ofhis whole crop to the man upon whom he practiced the usury. He isbound to restore the one bushel he had no right to take. But if aman extorts productive goods (nonconsumptibles) by usury, such ashouses or lands for instance, he is bound to restore the goodsthemselves and whatever profits have accrued to him by holdingthem.

4. A man who freely chooses to submit to usury, andborrows money at a set rate, does not sin by the action providedhis purpose and intention are good.

"If, devout soul, it is your will to please God and live a life of serenity in this world, unite yourself always and in all things to the divine will. Reflect that all the sins of your past wicked life happened because you wandered from the path of God's will. For the future, embrace God's good pleasure and say to him in every happening: "Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight." "
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able."
St Augustine

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"For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?"
Thomas á Kempis

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