Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
I am happy to announce that the first volume in our series “Always Be Prepared to Give an Answer for the Hope that is in You”: Answers to Common Objections to the Traditional Catholic Doctrine of Creation is now available as an e-book or in print form in the Kolbe web store. One of the objections that we hear from time to time, but which was not addressed in this first volume, alleges that the Church’s teachings on faith and morals can evolve, and that the evolution of the Church’s teaching on usury is a clear case of the Magisterium changing her teaching on a moral doctrine.
A few years ago, some of my Kolbe colleagues and I were able to have a brief exchange with a prominent Catholic theistic evolutionist who was both a Catholic priest and a natural scientist. Early in our exchange, he stated that just as the Church’s teaching on usury had been rendered obsolete by the development of the science of economics, so had the Church’s traditional understanding of man’s creation been rendered obsolete by the development of the science of biology. With the help of a professor of economics on our leadership team, we respectfully pointed out that the Church’s teaching on usury has not been rendered obsolete, that it is as true today as it was in the Middle Ages, and that there is nothing that the modern science of economics has discovered that has in any way invalidated the Church’s constant teaching on usury. In the same way, we pointed out that there has not been any legitimate finding in the field of biology that calls into question the Church’s traditional teaching on the special creation of St. Adam and St. Eve. On the contrary, the more biologists have learned about life and living things, including man, the more their findings have confirmed the literal historical truth of the sacred history of Genesis.
Usury, Evolution and the Corruption of Medicine
Usury is profiting from the lending of a fungible good that is consumed in use. Money is fungible. In other words, it can be replaced by another identical item. In the Summa Theologia, St. Thomas Aquinas explains why usury is a sin:
Article I.—Is it a sin to take usury for the lending of money?
To take usury for money lent is unjust in itself, because this is to sell what does not exist, and this evidently leads to inequality which is contrary to justice. In order to make this evident, we must observe that there are certain things the use of which consists in their consumption: thus we consume wine when we use it for drink and we consume wheat when we use it for food. Wherefore in such like things the use of the thing must not be reckoned apart from the thing itself, and whoever is granted the use of the thing, is granted the thing itself and for this reason, to lend things of this kind is to transfer the ownership. Accordingly, if a man wanted to sell wine separately from the use of the wine, he would be selling the same thing twice, or he would be selling what does not exist, wherefore he would evidently commit a sin of injustice. In like manner he commits an injustice who lends wine or wheat, and asks for double payment, viz. one, the return of the thing in equal measure, the other, the price of the use, which is called usury.
Summa Theologiae, Secunda Secundae Partis , Q. 78
Nowadays, unfortunately, many Catholics, even theologians, have been taught that usury forbids taking interest on a loan and since the Church allows this within certain parameters, they conclude that the Church’s teaching on usury has changed. But that is false. The word usury is derived from the Latin word usura meaning use. The word “interest” is derived from the word intereo meaning to be lost. The Church’s teaching on usury forbids taking interest on a loan beyond what is necessary to make the lender “whole.” Confusion on this point is even reflected in the New American Bible’s translation of a key passage on usury (Leviticus 25:36): “Do not exact interest in advance or accrued interest, but out of fear of God let your kindred live with you.” The Douai-Rheims Bible gives an accurate translation of the same passage in St. Jerome’s Vulgate: "Take not usury of him nor more than thou gavest: fear thy God, that thy brother may live with thee." The Angelic Doctor explains that interest—the restoration of what the lender has lost by making the loan—is legitimate:
A lender may without sin enter an agreement with the borrower for compensation for the loss he incurs of something he ought to have, for this is not to sell the use of money but to avoid loss.
Summa Theologiae, Secunda Secundae Partis , Q. 78, Reply to Objection I, Article II.
Compensation for something other than use, outside the loan contract, is referred to as an Extrinsic Title. Two valid forms of Extrinsic Title are Damnum Emergens (Damage Emerging) when the lender incurs a cost by making a loan and Lucrum Cessans (Profit Ceasing) or “opportunity cost” when the lender loses a certain opportunity to gain income with the money he loans. Church-approved lending agencies known as Mons Pietatis offer an example of Damnun Emergens as they charged a small rate of interest on loans to businessmen to cover the expenses of the workers who served the Mons Pietatis. An example of Lucrum Cessans would be if a lender can demonstrate that his loan money would have allowed him to make a certain amount of money in another way, so that the borrower in justice has an obligation to make up for the loss of that opportunity as part of his repayment of the loan. Several Popes have recognized the legitimacy of these Extrinsic Titles.
The fundamental point of this brief discussion of the Church’s authentic teaching on usury is that a lender is allowed to be made whole, even if this entails being repaid more than the monetary amount of his loan. However, the lender is not allowed to receive anything more than what is required for him to be made whole—because in that case he would be getting “something for nothing”—which would be a sin against justice.
You may be wondering what all of this has to do with creation and evolution!
We will explain that now.
Creation, Evolution and Usury
The doctrine of creation tells us that man was specially created by God, body and soul, in His perfect image and likeness. That original perfection was lost because of Original Sin, and the purpose of Redemption was to restore all things in Christ. It follows that all of those who practice the healing arts, when treating physical, mental or spiritual illness, ought to seek to restore what the patient has lost in relation to the original standard of physical, mental and spiritual health that God established in the beginning. The effects of Original Sin—especially genetic entropy—make it impossible to fully restore man to the state of Original Justice, even with the help of the life-giving Sacraments of the Church. But the fact remains that “the glory of God is a man fully alive,” and the practitioners of the healing arts ought to strive to restore as much of the original perfection of man as they possibly can.
However, it also follows that they should NEVER provide any kind of treatment that would make the patient more or less than what God created him to be. For example, it would be a terrible sin to attempt to change a biological male into a woman or a biological woman into a man. Similarly, it would be a grave sin to give a man or a woman any kind of pharmaceutical or surgical treatment that would destroy their fertility, as this would be to destroy an integral part of their human nature. It would be legitimate to amputate a gangrenous limb, if it were necessary to save a patient’s life. But it would never be legitimate to remove a functional part of a human body for any lesser reason. (The donation of a paired organ, like a kidney, to save another person’s life would be a legitimate exception to that rule.)
Since the beginning of the so-called Enlightenment, most Catholic intellectuals have gradually abandoned the traditional doctrine of creation for theistic evolution. This abandonment has been accompanied by the toleration and even the acceptance and promotion of evolution-based medical care that denies and violates the natural law, as understood in the Church from the beginning. Evolution denies the original perfection of the universe and asserts that plants, animals, and man are the result of hundreds of millions of years of mutation and natural selection. Consequently, for the evolutionist, there is no stable human nature that must be respected. Even maleness and femaleness are regarded as products of evolution which can be manipulated. Evolution-based medicine allows a physician to manipulate the genetics of human beings to “improve” on their natural condition, to manipulate and even to surgically remove the sexual characteristics of biological men and women; and to surgically alter the physical appearance of patients, even when their appearance is normal and their health will not be improved by the surgery.
The same mentality has led to a widespread acceptance of the idea that it is legitimate to manipulate man’s DNA to improve his physical and mental capabilities, just as scientists have manipulated the genes of food plants to “improve” them in various ways. Long-term safety studies of genetically modified food have demonstrated that GMO food is actually unsafe for humans and animals. The idea that there is a simple one to one correspondence between a certain gene and a certain characteristic has been shown to be false. Genes exist in networks, and in our present state of knowledge it is impossible for scientists to predict how the modification of any particular gene will affect the entire organism or—in the case of GMO food—the organisms that eat the GMO food. Thus, the principle that the original nature of things should be respected holds true for plants and animals as well as for humans.
False Premises Lead to False Conclusions
The evils of usury and evolution-based medicine follow logically from similar false premises. Usury assigns a value to a medium of exchange that it does not have. It treats money as if its use has a value over and above the value of the money itself. Thus, the usurer assigns a quality of fruitfulness to money that it does not possess. He does not appraise his economic status objectively when he makes a loan, to ensure that he does not ask the borrower to do anything more than to maintain the lender’s financial status quo. Instead, he requires the borrower to give him something for nothing, over and above what is necessary to restore the status quo.
The practitioner of evolution-based medicine makes a similar error. He does not acknowledge the special creation of man as his reference point for the healing of man’s spiritual, mental, and physical illnesses. Without a clear image of the original perfection of man, and with an illusory concept of man’s body as a product of hundreds of millions of years of mutation and natural selection, the practitioner of evolution-based medicine is easily deceived into thinking that he can improve on man’s nature, even to the extent of tinkering with his fertility, changing his DNA, and altering his sexual characteristics, based on a patient’s subjective perceptions, without reference to his original and unchangeable human nature.
In both cases, the illusion that molecules to man evolution is a scientific fact gives many Catholic intellectuals and medical practitioners a false confidence that they need not be bound by the Church’s traditional teaching in regard to creation, usury, sexual morality or anything else. Instead, they imagine that they are free to re-fashion the teachings of the Church in the light of the latest findings of fallible human science. Thus, they vindicate the prophetic teaching of St. Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi when he identified modernism as “the synthesis of all heresies,” and “evolution” as “the principal doctrine of the modernists.”
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, of St. Thomas Aquinas, and of all the Holy Angels and Saints, may God deliver us from all error and preserve us in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Faith!
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph,