The Church Fathers On Usury, 400-444
The Church Fathers had already taken a stand on the question of usury in the fifth
century, but loans on credit were not widespread transactions during the barbarian
St. Jerome on Usury, 400: If you gave to a prosperous person you should not have
done so: but if (even so) you gave it as to a needy person, why should you demand more on
the score of his being prosperous? Some lenders are wont to take small gifts of dilferent
value, not realizing that whatever is received over and above what was given is called
usury and superabundance. They ought not to take more, however much it be, than was
originally given by them.
Pope Leo the Great, 444: Neither do we think that it should be lightly passed over
that some people, seized with the desire for filthy lucre, put out their money at usury in
order to become rich thereby. And we have to complain of this not only with regard to
those in clerical office but we likewise grieve to see that it holds true of lay people
who wish to be called Christians. We decree that this should be severely punished in those
found guilty, so that all occasion of sin may be washed away.
From: J. P. Migne, ed. Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1845), Vols. XXV,
p. 177, CLXXXVII, p. 959, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source
Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936;
reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 170-171.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, September 1998