Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

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Interest

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

Interest. During 1,500 years the Church condemned as usury and a grave sin the taking of interest on money lent. The Jews (Deut. xxiii, 19-20) had been forbidden to take interest from fellow-Jews, but might demand it of a Gentile: one of the ethical clauses which put them below the contemporary level even after they had made full contact with Egypt and Babylon. The Gospels (Matt. xxv. 20) show that in the first century saner opinions had been adopted in the Judaeo-Christian world, and Bishop Hippolytus of Rome tells us (Refutation of All Heresies, Bk. IX, Ch. VII) that in his day (the early part of the third century) the Roman Christians put out their money at interest like the Pagans. This testimony is overlooked by writers on the subject, but it is true that even before that time the leaders or Fathers of the Church elsewhere - Rome had had no pontiff of distinction up to that time - were violently opposed to interest or, as they called it, "usury." Addis and Arnold's Catholic Dictionary (1928), even in its expurgated form—Fr. Addis left the Church and his work was suspect—states, in the article "Usury," that the Fathers were unanimous in regarding all interest on money as usury and therefore "a species of robbery." The Catholic author quotes violent language of Chrysostom, Augustine, and other Fathers and shows that Church Councils from the fourth century onward repeatedly condemned interest. The modern plea that in this the Church was making a noble protest against Roman capitalism is insincere. It had rich members even in the first century and whenever circumstances were favourable to it, and it is a foolish anachronism to put the sentiments of a modern Socialist into any Christian leader of Roman days. The condemnation of even moderate interest on loans, which is morally, if not economically, on the same footing as rent, is not noble but stupidly fanatical - the attitude of a man who is completely indifferent to the social order. The Church, moreover, was not condemning the pagan and Jewish capitalists on whom the economic life depended. They were in any case damned. It was simply a blunder, like the attack of the Fathers (who condoned slavery) on marriage. Even when trade revived in Europe and the lending of money at interest was indispensable, and widely practised by the Italians as well as the Jews, the blunder was sustained. The Council of Vienna (1311) declared that the civil law which permitted it was void and it was heresy to deny that taking interest was a sin. Aquinas and the leading Schoolmen, who are now pressed upon us as surprisingly modern, proved, as usual, that the Church was right. Metal, they said, does not breed or bear fruit. It was not until the sixteenth century that the Church began to distinguish between interest and usury, though the Popes and bishops had used Jewish moneylenders and financiers long before this.

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