Aquinas on Buying and Selling

The Josias

In his Summa Theologiae II-II, St. Thomas devotes two questions to unjust acts which are committed in buying and selling or lending.

The first of these questions (q. 77), divided into four articles, deals with fraud in the broad sense (fraudulentia), while the second (q. 78) concerns usury. A study of these questions reveals important differences not only between St. Thomas’ teaching on injustices committed in economic life and the ethical attitudes common today, but differences in basic evaluations of the place of commerce in society. In order to make this clear, I will look at the first question, no. 77, setting forth first what Aquinas taught and then contrasting it with commerce and business ethics as these exist in a capitalist society. (For a discussion of question 78, on usury, see “The Sin of Usury.”)

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The Sin of Usury

The Josias

I. Introduction[1]

To the extent that usury is thought of or discussed today it is usually understood as the charging of excessive interest on loans, especially perhaps on a consumer loan as opposed to a business loan. Although the charging of high rates of interest is indeed a real social and political evil, this is not the classical understanding of usury. Rather usury, as that has been discussed for centuries in Catholic theology and condemned again and again by the Church, means the taking of any interest on any type of loan, simply by virtue of the loan contract. The most complete papal treatment of usury is found in the 1745 encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV, Vix Pervenit, the relevant portions of which run,

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Pius XII: La solennità della Pentecoste

An important speech by Pope Pius XII, which goes into the relation of the principle of the universal destination of goods to the institution of private property.

The Josias

Introductory Note

It remains one of The Josias’s aims to make available to Catholics some of the great statements of the Church on the social question. It is unfortunately the case that many important documents are either unavailable in English or very scarce. This series of documents continues with Pius XII’s June 1, 1941 radio address, La solennità della Pentecoste (“The Feast of Pentecost”), commemorating the 50th anniversary of Leo XIII’s great social encyclical, Rerum novarum.

Standing on its own, La solennità della Pentecoste is a significant intervention in the social magisterium. Despite the conflict raging when Pius spoke, the Pope focused primarily upon the social questions as they had developed between 1891 and 1941, expanding upon themes that he identified in Leo’s Rerum novarum and Pius XI’s 1931 social encyclical, Quadragesimo anno. The address would continue to have significance in the Church’s social magisterium in the following…

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Online Reading Group: Before Church and State

I have been reading— almost devouring— Andrew Willard Jones’s new book new book, Before Church and State: A Study of Social Order in the Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX.  Having been thinking about the relation of temporal and spiritual power for a long time now, I have found it highly illuminating, and therefore also highly exhilarating and exciting. Jones describes is own exhilaration on discovering John Milbank’s Theology and Social Theory, and Before Church and State has had a similar effect on me.  Wanting to go through it again more slowly, I have decided to start an online reading group, with some friends from The Josias, and anyone else who would like to join us. We will go through the book slowly, one chapter a week. The discussion of the introduction will start on Thursday, June 1st. To sign up, fill out the following form:

Ascendit Deus in jubilatione

Sancrucensis

The liturgy of Ascension Thursday puts a tremendous emphasis on joy: ‘Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving,’ as a collect puts it. The first reason for joy is the triumph of Our Lord: Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, et Dominus in voce tubae. ‘God has gone up with shouts of joy, the Lord with a trumpet-blast.’ As the members of His body and the subjects of Kingdom we rejoice that the Lord has gone into His glory. The Exodus of Christ from death to life is not complete until He has left this world of corruption, and returned in triumph to the glory that He had before the beginning. The second reason for joy is that exaltation of our Head gives hope to us the members that we will attain to glory: Christi … ascénsio est nostra provéctio, et quo procéssit glória cápitis, eo spes vocátur et…

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The Five Wounds

Ask Me to hide you in My wounds. There is a place for you in each of My five wounds; each of them represents a refuge against the temptations that threaten you, and the traps set by the devil, who would ensnare you and rejoice to see you fall.

The wound in My right hand is your refuge from sins of disobedience and self-will. Take refuge there when you are tempted to take the path that is easy and broad.

The wound in My left hand is your refuge from sins of selfishness, from directing all things to yourself, and grasping the attention of others by seeking to take to yourself what your right hand has given Me.

The wound in My right foot is your refuge from sins of inconstancy. Take refuge there when you are tempted to be inconsistent, and when you waver in your resolutions to love Me above all things, and to place Me first in your affections and in your desires.

The wound in My left foot is your refuge against sins of sloth and of spiritual lethargy. Take refuge there when you are tempted to give up the struggle and to consent to despair and discouragement.

Finally, the wound in My side is your refuge from every false love and every fleshly deceit promising sweetness, but giving bitterness and death instead. Take refuge in My pierced side when you are tempted to look for love in any creature. I have created you for My love, and My love alone can satisfy the desires of your heart. Enter, then, the wound in My side and, penetrating even into My Heart, drink deeply of the springs of love that will refresh and delight your soul, and wash you in preparation for the wedding of your soul with Me, for I am the Bridegroom of your soul, your Saviour from all that would defile you, and your God who is love and mercy now and unto the ages of ages. (In Sinu Jesup. 162)