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John Paul II Calls for End to Usury: Support for Peter Maurin, Catholic Worker Theme

On April 14, 1999, Pope John Paul II addressed the members of the National Council of Anti-Usury Foundations and their regional delegations.

The Holy Father gave a special welcome to about one thousand volunteers “who came to call the public’s attention to the worrisome and, unfor-tunately, widespread phenomena of usury, which often brings with it dramatic social consequences.”

The Pope continued, “I know well, dear friends, the difficulties that you face. But I know that you are determined and united in fighting this serious social evil. Continue to combat usury, giving hope to individuals and families who are its victims. The Pope encourages you to pursue your generous work to build a more just society, one of solidarity, and more attentive to the demands of the needy.”

In 1997 Bishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Vatican Congretation for the Doctrine of the Faith had said that “It seems opportune to publish a new encyclical on the subject of usury and, on the use of money in general,” and that this document should be proposed energetically both to people involved in pastoral activity as well as to those in economic endeavors. Bishop Bertone not only denounced the critical aspects of usury, but also “the problem of loans among nations which ends up by creating the problem of international debt.”

To Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, halting usury was a very important step in establishing a just society.

Peter Maurin wrote an easy essay on the subject:

Legalized Usury

Because John Calvin legalized money lending at interest the State has legalized money-lending at interest.
Because the State has legalized money-lending at interest home-owners have mortgaged their homes..
Because the State has legalized money-lending at interest, farmers have mortgaged their farms.
Because the State has legalized money-lending at interest, institutions have mortgaged their buildings.
Because the State has legalized money-lending at interest, Congregations have mortgaged their churches.
Because the State has legalized Money-lending at interest, cities, counties, States, and the Federal Government have mortgaged themselves in all kinds of financial difficulties because the State has legalized money-lending at interest.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XIX, No. 3, May-June 1999.