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Slavery and usury – does the Church change its moral teaching?

28th Monday in Ordinary Time

Deacon Robert Banet

Why on earth would slavery and usury have any interest for me?

Good question , Charlie. Here’s the way I see it.

Go on. I’m listening.

Some folks today are questioning whether the moral law can be changed.

That’s impossible, right?

They say the Church has changed its mind in the past and now it’s time for more updating.

That can’t be. Right is right and wrong is wrong and that’s the way it always will be.

These folks would not agree – they say the church has changed its teaching in two areas over the centuries: slavery and usury.

Go on.

We now condemn slavery whereas once it was considered morally permissible. Morals change.

Well, in St. Paul’s time maybe the church was too small to challenge the empire so they allowed it. Maybe so but they still could have stopped practicing it among themselves so they must have thought it all right. Now, we don’t think so. Morals change, so they say.

Well, maybe so, but what about usury? That is, taking interest in a loan?

The Bible does not consider it intrinsically wrong.

How do you figure that?

Deuteronomy says it is wrong to charge interest to a countryman but not to an outsider. So you see, it is not intrinsically wrong. So now when the Church says usury is permissible, it is not really changing the morality. Same with slavery: it is not intrinsically wrong; otherwise the Church would not have allowed it.

I see. So the argument that the Church can change the morality is an issue doesn’t hold up so well.

Yes. When it comes to things that are intrinsically wrong, there can be no change.

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