Papal Magisterium - ENDNOTES


1. Ps 68,27.
2. Actor vol. 4, p. 407.
3. He 13,17; Ep 4,11; 1P 5,2.
4. Saint Ambrose, epistle 20, no. 19.
5. Actor, vol. 2, p. 459.
6. Motivonum Expos., p. 25.
7. St. Thomas of Canterbury, epistle 75 to the bishops of England.
8. St. Anselm, epistle 9 to King Baldwin.
9. He 10,32 f.
10. Jn 16,33.
11. St. Thomas of Canterbury, epistle 33.

Vix Pervenit

On Usury and Other Dishonest Profit

Encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV

November 1, 1745.

To the Venerable Brothers, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops and Ordinary Clergy of Italy.

Venerable Brothers, Greetings and Apostolic Benediction.

Hardly had the new controversy (namely, whether certain contracts should be held valid) come to our attention, when several opinions began spreading in Italy that hardly seemed to agree with sound doctrine; We decided that We must remedy this. If We did not do so immediately, such an evil might acquire new force by delay and silence. If we neglected our duty, it might even spread further, shaking those cities of Italy so far not affected.

Therefore We decided to consult with a number of the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, who are renowned for their knowledge and competence in theology and canon law. We also called upon many from the regular clergy who were outstanding in both the faculty of theology and that of canon law. We chose some monks, some mendicants, and finally some from the regular clergy. As presiding officer, We appointed one with degrees in both canon and civil law, who had lengthy court experience. We chose the past July 4 for the meeting at which We explained the nature of the whole business. We learned that all had known and considered it already.

2. We then ordered them to consider carefully all aspects of the matter, meanwhile searching for a solution; after this consideration, they were to write out their conclusions. We did not ask them to pass judgment on the contract which gave rise to the controversy since the many documents they would need were not available. Rather We asked that they establish a fixed teaching on usury, since the opinions recently spread abroad seemed to contradict the Church's doctrine. All complied with these orders. They gave their opinions publicly in two convocations, the first of which was held in our presence last July 18, the other last August 1; then they submitted their opinions in writing to the secretary of the convocation.

3. Indeed they proved to be of one mind in their opinions.

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.

III. By these remarks, however, We do not deny that at times together with the loan contract certain other titles-which are not at all intrinsic to the contract-may run parallel with it. From these other titles, entirely just and legitimate reasons arise to demand something over and above the amount due on the contract. Nor is it denied that it is very often possible for someone, by means of contracts differing entirely from loans, to spend and invest money legitimately either to provide oneself with an annual income or to engage in legitimate trade and business. From these types of contracts honest gain may be made.

IV. There are many different contracts of this kind. In these contracts, if equality is not maintained, whatever is received over and above what is fair is a real injustice. Even though it may not fall under the precise rubric of usury (since all reciprocity, both open and hidden, is absent), restitution is obligated. Thus if everything is done correctly and weighed in the scales of justice, these same legitimate contracts suffice to provide a standard and a principle for engaging in commerce and fruitful business for the common good. Christian minds should not think that gainful commerce can flourish by usuries or other similar injustices. On the contrary We learn from divine Revelation that justice raises up nations; sin, however, makes nations miserable.

V. But you must diligently consider this, that some will falsely and rashly persuade themselves-and such people can be found anywhere-that together with loan contracts there are other legitimate titles or, excepting loan contracts, they might convince themselves that other just contracts exist, for which it is permissible to receive a moderate amount of interest. Should any one think like this, he will oppose not only the judgment of the Catholic Church on usury, but also common human sense and natural reason. Everyone knows that man is obliged in many instances to help his fellows with a simple, plain loan. Christ Himself teaches this: "Do not refuse to lend to him who asks you." In many circumstances, no other true and just contract may be possible except for a loan. Whoever therefore wishes to follow his conscience must first diligently inquire if, along with the loan, another category exists by means of which the gain he seeks may be lawfully attained.

4. This is how the Cardinals and theologians and the men most conversant with the canons, whose advice We had asked for in this most serious business, explained their opinions. Also We devoted our private study to this matter before the congregations were convened, while they were in session, and again after they had been held; for We read the opinions of these outstanding men most diligently. Because of this, We approve and confirm whatever is contained in the opinions above, since the professors of Canon Law and Theology, scriptural evidence, the decrees of previous popes, and the authority of Church councils and the Fathers all seem to enjoin it. Besides, We certainly know the authors who hold the opposite opinions and also those who either support and defend those authors or at least who seem to give them consideration. We are also aware that the theologians of regions neighboring those in which the controversy had its origin undertook the defense of the truth with wisdom and seriousness.

5. Therefore We address these encyclical letters to all Italian Archbishops, Bishops, and priests to make all of you aware of these matters. Whenever Synods are held or sermons preached or instructions on sacred doctrine given, the above opinions must be adhered to strictly. Take great care that no one in your dioceses dares to write or preach the contrary; however if any one should refuse to obey, he should be subjected to the penalties imposed by the sacred canons on those who violate Apostolic mandates.

6. Concerning the specific contract which caused these new controversies, We decide nothing for the present; We also shall not decide now about the other contracts in which the theologians and canonists lack agreement. Rekindle your zeal for piety and your conscientiousness so that you may execute what We have given.

7. First of all, show your people with persuasive words that the sin and vice of usury is most emphatically condemned in the Sacred Scriptures; that it assumes various forms and appearances in order that the faithful, restored to liberty and grace by the blood of Christ, may again be driven headlong into ruin. Therefore, if they desire to invest their money, let them exercise diligent care lest they be snatched by cupidity, the source of all evil; to this end, let them be guided by those who excel in doctrine and the glory of virtue.

8. In the second place, some trust in their own strength and knowledge to such an extent that they do not hesitate to give answers to those questions which demand considerable knowledge of sacred theology and of the canons. But it is essential for these people, also, to avoid extremes, which are always evil. For instance, there are some who judge these matters with such severity that they hold any profit derived from money to be illegal and usurious; in contrast to them, there are some so indulgent and so remiss that they hold any gain whatsoever to be free of usury. Let them not adhere too much to their private opinions. Before they give their answer, let them consult a number of eminent writers; then let them accept those views which they understand to be confirmed by knowledge and authority. And if a dispute should arise, when some contract is discussed, let no insults be hurled at those who hold the contrary opinion; nor let it be asserted that it must be severely censured, particularly if it does not lack the support of reason and of men of reputation. Indeed clamorous outcries and accusations break the chain of Christian love and give offense and scandal to the people.

9. In the third place, those who desire to keep themselves free and untouched by the contamination of usury and to give their money to another in such a manner that they may receive only legitimate gain should be admonished to make a contract beforehand. In the contract they should explain the conditions and what gain they expect from their money. This will not only greatly help to avoid concern and anxiety, but will also confirm the contract in the realm of public business. This approach also closes the door on controversies-which have arisen more than once-since it clarifies whether the money, which has been loaned without apparent interest, may actually contain concealed usury.

10. In the fourth place We exhort you not to listen to those who say that today the issue of usury is present in name only, since gain is almost always obtained from money given to another. How false is this opinion and how far removed from the truth! We can easily understand this if we consider that the nature of one contract differs from the nature of another. By the same token, the things which result from these contracts will differ in accordance with the varying nature of the contracts. Truly an obvious difference exists between gain which arises from money legally, and therefore can be upheld in the courts of both civil and canon law, and gain which is illicitly obtained, and must therefore be returned according to the judgments of both courts. Thus, it is clearly invalid to suggest, on the grounds that some gain is usually received from money lent out, that the issue of usury is irrelevant in our times.

11. These are the chief things We wanted to say to you. We hope that you may command your faithful to observe what these letters prescribe; and that you may undertake effective remedies if disturbances should be stirred up among your people because of this new controversy over usury or if the simplicity and purity of doctrine should become corrupted in Italy. Finally, to you and to the flock committed to your care, We impart the Apostolic Benediction.

Given in Rome at St. Mary Major, November 1, 1745, the sixth year of Our Pontificate.

Voi Forse Sapete

Address of our holy father of blessed memory, Paul VI, to a general audience.

June 1, 1966.

You may already know that We want very much to take the Church, again the Church, as the subject for this little General Audience taLc The strong but gentle voice of the Council on this theme still resounds in Our mind. We feel that we honor you, Our dear visitors, by echoing some syllables of that voice which speaks precisely of the Church, which speaks of you, for you are the Church.

Think it over carefully. You are the Church, which means that you belong to the Church, to the holy Church of God, to the great assembly called together by Christ, to the living community of His word and His grace, to His Mystical Body. This consciousness of belonging to the Church must grow ever clearer in us. It is a consciousness of our dignity, for in the Church we are truly adopted sons of God and brothers of Christ, living through Him in the Holy Spirit. It is a consciousness of our good fortune. What greater fortune could we have than that of being admitted to this society of salvation? It is a consciousness of duty, of commitment (as people call it nowadays). This is obvious from the fact that someone who belongs to the Church is called one of the faithful -- that is, one who adheres, who is steadfast and permanent.

And so, if it is something very wonderful and very important to belong to the Church, an urgent question comes automatically to mind. Do I really belong to the Church? Who belongs to it? How is this belonging conferred?

At first glance, the reply is an easy one. Everyone knows it. It is through Baptism that a person enters the Church. The Council, (1 ) and before that the whole of Christian tradition, says that the faithful are incorporated into the Church through Baptism.

At this point We ought, by rights, to offer a full explanation of this Sacrament. But We will limit Ourself to expressing the hope that Christian people may welcome, favor, and come to understand and appreciate the work which the liturgical reform is doing to place the Sacrament of Baptism in proper perspective in the minds and customs of the faithful. This is something of the greatest importance for a true concept of Christian life.

For the present, let Us rather ask another question. Are all those who have been baptized, even those who are separated from Catholic unity, in the Church? In the true Church? In the one Church? Yes. This is one of the great truths of Catholic tradition, and the Council has repeatedly confirmed it. (2 ) It is connected with the article of the Creed which we sing at Mass: - Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. - (3 ) It is connected with the great theological polemics of the early centuries, concluded in particular with the authority of St. Augustine. In the disputes with the Donatists, he affirmed that "the Church has had the very happy custom of correcting whatever is false in schismatics and heretics, but not of repeating what has been give (by them, that is, Baptism); of healing what is wounded, but not of healing what is healthy." (4 )

To cite a recent document of the Church's magisterium, this is what the encyclical -Mystici Corporis- teaches: "With the washing of the purifying water, those who are born to this mortal life, are reborn from the death of (original) sin and are made members of the Church." (5 ) This doctrine is the basis of our ecumenism, which makes us regard as brothers the Christians who are separated from us, and all the more so if, with Baptism and faith in Christ and in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, they preserve many other treasures of our common Christian heritage. (6 )

But is Baptism and a certain amount of faith enough to belong fully to the Church? We have to recall that this fullness, this perfect communion is a profound and inextinguishable requirement of the religious order founded by Christ. If belonging to the Church in at least an initial or partial way is highly valuable, then it is just as desirable for this belonging to reach its full measure. The Church is one and unique. There are not several Churches, standing unto themselves and sufficient unto themselves. (7 ) The sovereign law of unity intimately governs the religious society established by the Lord. Let us never forget the powerful words of St. Paul: "Be careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: one single body, one single Spirit, as you have been called in one single hope; there is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all." (8 ) It is to this perfect organic unity and "to overcome the obstacles which stand in the way of full ecclesiastical communion that our ecumenical movement tends." (9 )

Now, two other big questions arise. How will the catechumens, or better still, all those who do not know the Gospel and the Church, be saved? This is the first question, and an enormous one. The other is this: Do sinners, who are not in God's grace, belong to the Church? We will not answer these questions here, for that would involve distinctions and details requiring long and careful consideration. We will simply say, with regard to the first, that a person can belong to the Church in reality, or - in voto - virtually, by desire (as the catechumens) or even by properly directing a life that may be deprived of any explicit knowledge of Christianity, but that is, because of the person's moral uprightness, open to a mysterious mercy of God. That mercy can link to mankind saved by Christ, and therefore to the Church, all the immense multitudes of human beings "who sit in the shadow of death," (10 ) but who are themselves created and loved by the divine goodness. (11 )

With regard to the second question We will simply offer this both strange and wonderful truth: even sinners can belong to the Church. This is a doctrine opposed by those who claim that the Church on earth is composed only of saints. (12 ) Sin interrupts union with God, but if it doesn't interrupt adherence to the communion of salvation which is the Church (as does a sin that is expressly directed against belonging to the Church -- heresy, schism, apostasy -- or that implies separation from the community, which means excommunication), then it can find its redemption in this institution which was established specifically in order to save men. Recall the parable of the net: "The kingdom of heaven is like a net cast into the sea that caught every kind of fish." (13 )

But if you wish to sum up and remember all of this very important doctrine on belonging to the Church, think rather of another twofold image with which Jesus pictures the Church -- that of the sheepfold and of the flock. (14 ) Take the greatest care to be inside the sheepfold of Christ and to be among the fortunate number of His flock. This is the wish that We desire to strengthen and reinforce with Our apostolic blessing.


1. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 11.
2. Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 11 LG 15; Decree on Ecumenism, UR 3; etc.
3. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins.
4. De baptismo 2,7: PL 43, 133.
5. Pius XII, Encyc. Mystici Corporis 29 June, 1943,18.
6. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 15.
7. Cf. DS 1685.
8. Ep 4,5
9. Decree on Ecumenism, UR 3.
10. Ps 106,10.
11. Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, LG 13.]
12. Cf. St. Ambrose, De Paenitentia, II, 8, 74: "We sin even as elders."
13. Mt 13,47.
14. Cf. Jn 10,16.

Ex Omnibus

On the Apostolic Constitution Unigenitus

Encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV

October 16, 1756.

To Our Venerable Brothers, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and Archbishops and Bishops of France.

Greetings and Apostolic Blessing.

From all the regions of the Christian world to which our pastoral care extends, many things have made us concerned for the state of each and every church. But We have been especially troubled by the controversies and dissensions afflicting the flourishing Catholic nation of France some years ago. We did not cease, during the whole time of your disturbance, to ask the God of peace to restore a true and solid tranquillity to your disturbed church. Often too by Apostolic letters We sought the help of Louis, the Christian King of France, for the protection and defense of ecclesiastical peace. We have declared Ourselves ready to sacrifice the remainder of Our life for the peace of the French church, which We embrace with a sincere and constant love. We have also supported proposals for redress that were apt and suitable to cure the malady, if they were likely to succeed and if they seemed to approach the intended end.

Support from France
2. The letters which the French Assembly sent Us on October 31 of last year relieved some of Our concern. Indeed, reading them, We learned of your unanimous constancy in preserving true and salutary doctrine, and in retaining your age-old veneration of the Apostolic See of Blessed Peter, the center of Catholic unity. Nor did we find any dissension among you regarding canonical rules and principles; the only differences concern the choice of means for applying the common principles in practice. Although this is a most undesirable state of affairs, it should not be a cause of wonder for those who know that dissension in serious matters has arisen among other bishops renowned for their learning and holiness. We have been further consoled by the exceptional piety of the king, a piety joined with his hereditary submission to this Apostolic See. This is clear not only from his recent letter dated December 19 of last year (which included the aforementioned letter of the clergy), but also in all his other writings. We have always understood the French king, whose thinking greatly becomes an orthodox Prince endowed with true reverence for God and the Roman See. We firmly approve his desire to restore and preserve peace in his kingdom.

Denial of Viaticum
3. The authority of the apostolic constitution which begins with the word Unigenitus is certainly so great and lays claim everywhere to such sincere veneration and obedience that no one can withdraw the submission due it or oppose it without risking the loss of eternal salvation. Now, a controversy has risen concerning whether viaticum must be denied to those who oppose the constitution. The answer must be given without any hesitation that as long as they are opposed publicly and notoriously, viaticum must be denied them; this follows for the universal law which prohibits a known public sinner to be admitted to Eucharistic communion, whether he asks for it in public or in private.
4. Now public and notorious objectors in the matter under discussion are those who have been so declared by the sentence of a competent judge (because they have contumaciously refused the reverence and obedience due the constitution Unigenitus) and who have admitted their guilt in court. There are others, also objectors, who, although they have not been condemned by a judge and have not admitted the crime in court, nevertheless, at the time when they are about to receive the sacred viaticum, voluntarily confess their stubborn resistance to the constitution. Still others are known to have done something manifestly opposed to the veneration and obedience due to this constitution, and to have continued in that state; this is so commonly known that the public scandal arising from it has not yet subsided. In these latter cases, We are as confident of Our judgment as when a sentence has been passed in court.

Two Kinds of Notoriety
5. In this matter, however, a difference must be maintained between the notoriety in which a certain fact is apprehended and guilt consists in the external action itself, such as the notoriety of the usurer or of the person living in concubinage, and another kind of notoriety in which the external fact is noted but the guilt depends very much on the disposition of the mind. It is this latter kind of notoriety which We shall discuss. The former must certainly be established with grave proofs; the latter must be proven with more certain and more serious evidence.
6. The required certainty is not present when the crime is supported by mere conjecture, presumption, and rumor, which generally originate in hostility, prejudice, or partisan interest. When we lend credence to these things, experience shows how many ways men can err and be led into hostility.
7. But some pastors and ministers, renowned for piety and zeal, are influenced by such conjectures and presumptions; they are perplexed when called to administer viaticum to certain men and fear that it may not be possible for them to ad minister the sacrament without danger to their own conscience. We append a certain rule of action which they may follow.

Rule of Action on Viaticum
8. They ought first to consider whether the person who is asking for viaticum has been to holy communion previously, especially during the Easter season, and has received holy communion from the pastor of the place where he was living; if indeed it was not denied him in life, this will be an argument that the man is free of all blame, or at least that he was not considered a truly public sinner. From this it will follow that it is not possible to deny him when he publicly asks for viaticum at the end of his life, unless perhaps in the meantime he has done something to incur the stigma of a public and notorious sinner with reference to the aforesaid issue.
9. Sometimes, however, no certain conclusions can be reached, but from other sources valid presumptions and grave indications against the sick man are present, so that these zealous pastors cannot rid themselves of the scruple that has arisen. In these circumstances they should, delaying any decisions, address the sick person with all gentleness and mildness, not like one who disputes and is anxious to convince. They should show him the reasons why the conduct of his life is suspect and implore him to come to his senses. Then they should convince him that although they are prepared to administer the Body of Christ, and actually may even administer it, this will not itself make him safe before the tribunal of Christ. If indeed he had not repented, it will make him guilty of a new and horrible crime, eating and drinking judgment on himself. In addition they will administer the sacrament of the Body of Christ to him for no other reason than to obey the Church, which strives to avoid public scandal, and to prevent infamy for the sick person himself. Although she considers him to be a sinner in the sight of God, she does not recognize him as a public and notorious sinner in her tribunal.
10. You must now propose this norm of judging and acting which We approve to all who legitimately administer the sacraments. Indeed, this decision is supported by ecclesiastical regulations, by the decrees of councils held in France, and by the opinions of serious theologians in your own country. Following the example of your predecessors, you sent Us your controversies and the doubts that they occasioned and asked Us for guidance in reestablishing and preserving peace for your churches. Now it is your duty to enforce this rule wherever it pertains. We expect that you will do so, since We feel that We have omitted no diligence or study either in weighing and discussing the articles which the bishops proposed in assembly (though not unanimously); or in taking into account their differences of opinion to better understand the whole matter and to reach a right judgment; or in reading and weighing the written opinions of the Cardinals, whose advice We had requested on this matter; or in carrying out all other things to merit the aid of the divine illumination for which We have prayed.

11. Nor do We doubt that your illustrious king, who approved your council and wrote to Us concerning the matter, will in his piety for God and the Church, offer his strong aid to your Fraternity. Accordingly both you and the lower ministers of the Church may be free to regulate the administration of the sacred mysteries according to the norm described above. Because of this confidence, We did not consider it necessary to address your other articles concerning episcopal regulation over participation in the same sacraments and the various controversies that have arisen concerning these matters. Rather We decided to communicate with the king so that he may protect the sacred rights of the episcopate by his own magnanimity and virtue. And We are confident that he will do this according to his own custom and that of his ancestors, so that the noble churches of France may rejoice to have retained their former glory and may soon regain the tranquillity which was disturbed for a time. As an auspice of this desired event, We lovingly give to your Fraternity and the people entrusted to your care the Apostolic Benediction.

Given in Rome at St. Mary Major, October 16, 1756, in the seventeenth year of Our Pontificate.

Papal Magisterium - ENDNOTES