The Cleavage of the Reformation



To the scholastic mind, economic activity was justifiable only insofar as it had a moral purpose. The Church taught the faithful to distrust purely economic motives. It warned of the evil of commerce which, though necessary, was dangerous for the soul. Most particularly it warned of the dangers of finance which, at best, defiled the soul and often rendered it vile and loathsome. Of course there were distinct differences between the attitude of the primitive Church, the Church of the martyrs and of sublimation, and that of the institutionalized Church of the late Middle Ages. The institution it had become could not remain blind to the forces which were shaking society. With time, Church doctrine became less rigorous and more adaptable in its application. Nevertheless, the basic doctrine remained intact: interest-bearing loans were forbidden and were sometimes punishable by civil law.


Sixteenth Century Consumer Credit Hebrew Word Henry VIII Money Lender 
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© La Fondation Cetelem 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cetelem Professor of Economics Université Libre de LilleFrance
  2. 2.International CEO, member of the Board of CetelemFrance

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