Q&A March AD 2013
Our Lady of the Rosary
The Date of Easter?
Free is Beautiful: Why
Catholics should be libertarian
A man on the radio claimed that Moslem
financial institutions loan money interest free. Apparently they take the
prohibition of usury very seriously. Why don’t Catholic banks do the same?
Loans made under the Moslem Sharia Law claim to be interest free, but
there is an important gimmick. Let us say that you intend to buy a home for
$100,000, and the market interest rate is 5%. With a thirty year fixed rate
mortgage you will pay the (non-Moslem) bank a total of $193,255.78 by this
time in 2043. Most people look at the additional $93,255.78—almost as much
as borrowed, and exclaim that the bank is indeed practicing usury. It might
put things in perspective to look at this as an average monthly rate of
about $260, and to ask what it would cost to rent the house every
month—probably a lot more than the $260, and at the end of thirty years you
would not own the property.
The Sharia loan
company makes the same calculations, buys the house for $100,000, and then
sells the house to its client for $193,255.78, which is paid back in equal
monthly installments with no interest. The aforementioned “gimmick,” of
course, is that the client paid the interest “up front” by agreeing to pay
an additional $93,255.78 above the market price of the home.
If there truly were no
interest, the Sharia loan company would have made no calculation
based on the market interest rate, and the client would have agreed to pay
back only $100,000. Of course the Sharia loan company could not stay
in business by making free thirty year loans any more than a Christian or
Jewish or secular firm could. The Sharia loan company just makes its
money a little differently.
This difference could
really hurt the Moslem client if he had to sell the home in the early life
of the loan. Say that two years pass and the market value of the home is
now $120,000. The client could sell it for that, but he would still owe the
Sharia loan company $180,372.06 to pay off his loan—a lot more than
the $120,000 he can realize on the sale. Were the Sharia loan
company still in business, they might give the client a break,
accepting the monthly payments already made and the $20,000, to pay off the
loan—but they might not. Had they gone out of business, the company
that bought up their loans probably would not feel any ethical or legal
obligation to make such a deal.
“Non est prandium
gratis—there is no free lunch!” Money has a time-value, all loans have
an element of risk, and payouts and collections must be administered. All
of these things make it legitimate for the loan company to receive more than
it paid out at the origination of the loan. Most likely, the boast about
Sharia loans is propaganda, intended to make Moslems seem to be morally
superior to non-Moslems.
More detail on the
morality of interest payments and usury can be found on the parish website
Who decides when it will be Easter? Why
isn’t it on the same day or same Sunday every year? Why is Roman Easter
sometimes different from the Greek’s celebration of Easter?
A good question, since the entire Church
calendar revolves around Easter.
There is an obvious
connection between Easter and the Jewish Passover, for the Last Supper was
Jesus’ celebration of the Passover Seder. Passover was fixed by divine
ordinance on the fourteenth day of the lunar month of Nisan (a.k.a. Aviv):
The first month, the
fourteenth day of the month at evening, is the phase of the Lord: And the
fifteenth day of the same month is the solemnity of the unleavened bread of
the Lord. Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread.
The fifteenth of the month can fall on any
day of the week, and in some parts of the early Church, (The Roman province
of “Asia,” corresponding to modern day western Turkey) Easter was celebrated
on the fourteenth day of the moon, the day on which the Jewish people “put
the leaven away.” Those in the west felt that Easter, being the celebration
of our Lord’s Resurrection, ought to be kept on Sunday, as that was the
actual day on which He rose from the dead.
For some time the factions “agreed to
disagree” but in AD 193, the Roman Pontiff Victor threatened the easterners
with excommunication for failure to observe the more common Sunday
practice. Saint Irenæus of Lyons, originally from Asia, was successful in
convincing Pope Victor that excommunication was excessive, especially
considering that the practice seemed to have gone back to Saint John the
The division continued at least until the
Council of Nicaea ruled that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday
after the full moon following the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox is
given as March 21, without the need of astronomical observation. The full
moon is determined by “epact” tables which specify the age of the moon on
January 1st. The tables are based on the difference in length of the solar
and lunar years, making the age of the moon on January 1 about eleven days
greater each year. A moderately complex mathematical system is needed to
extend this calculation over the years, but one need only consult the tables
at the beginning of the Roman Missal.
The Julian calendar (the calendar in use at
the time of Nicaea) reckoning of the year was about 11-1/4 minutes longer
than the actual solar year. With the passage of centuries those extra
minutes became perceptible as the vernal equinox (and, consequently the
feast of Easter and the season of spring) came earlier and earlier in the
calendar year. In the Gregorian calendar reform of 1582, Pope Gregory XIII
removed 10 days from the month of October and also made a slight
modification to the procedure for computing the lunar cycle. This causes
Easter to be observed on a different date by those not following the
Gregorian calendar. At first this included Protestants, but now only
certain Eastern Christians.
Both Greeks and Romans reckon Easter to be
the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox on March
21—but March 21 comes later on the Greek calendar than it does on the Roman.
Randy England, Free is Beautiful: Why
Catholics should be libertarian, Lexington KY: CreateSpace Independent
Publishing Platform, 2012, 165 pages, paper bound. $11.65 at Amazon.com.
Free audio downloads at
Randy England is the author of The
Unicorn in the Sanctuary: The Impact of the New Age on the Catholic Church
(TAN Books). In Free is Beautiful, he quotes Catholic authorities
from Saint Augustine, through Saint Thomas, on up to writings of the
post-Vatican II era. God created man as a rational and free being, who
holds himself in trust for God, and from this England derives an elaborated
economic and political theory.
England is not promoting the Libertarian
political party, but makes a very good case that Catholics ought to adopt
libertarianism as a practical philosophy. Libertarianism is not
libertinism, and libertarians are not “economic conservatives but
social liberals.” Its primary tenet is the “non-aggression principle,”
which “prohibits the initiation of physical force (or the threat of
force) against people or property. The use of force is legitimate only in
defense of life or property.”
Libertarianism applies the non-aggression principle equally to the State
[Law] is the substitution of collective for
individual forces, for the purpose of acting in the sphere in which they
have a right to act, of doing what they have a right to do, to secure
persons, liberties, and properties, and to maintain each in its right, so as
to cause justice to reign over all.... Thus, as the force of an individual
cannot lawfully touch the person, the liberty, or the property of another
individual—for the same reason, the common force cannot lawfully be used to
destroy the peson, the liberty, or the property of individuals or of
If people cannot do something legitimately
by themselves, they cannot legitimately empower the State to do it for
them. At first examination, libertarianism seems odd to many people, for
most of us have gotten used to the idea of the State performing an enormous
number of functions in our lives, whether we like them or not. There are,
indeed, times when a collective effort makes sense—common defense is a good
example. But, in practice, there is a dangerous temptation to use the large
common defense force for more aggressive purposes, like conquest,
subjugation, extraction of tribute, and even aggression against the
population supporting the common “defense” effort.
Those holding power in the State may seek to
buttress that power by granting favors to the more powerful citizens—at the
expense of the less powerful. Such “favors” are granted in various ways,
usually under the guise of protecting the public. Regulation favors those
who help make the regulations, Occupational licensing restricts the numbers
allowed to practice many professions. Some States grant outright monopolies
that could not exist in a free economy. Wage controls keep the unskilled
out of the labor force, while price controls make scarce goods even more
scarce. Control of the airwaves excludes opinions unacceptable to the
State. New drugs take years to reach the market—others don’t reach it at
all—and people die waiting.
In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville praised
Americans for forming voluntary associations to address every local social
need. Problems were solved by people who understood them, not by remote
bureaucrats whose major concern was the enlargement of the bureaucracy.
England makes a case for free market police
protection, courts, and a penal system. Under the non-aggression principle,
the justice system turns away from punishing harmful as well as
harmless behavior, and concerns itself with restitution to the victim
and to society for its costs.
Even the Army is up for scrutiny. The
non-aggression principle in foreign policy can be traced back to Washington
and Jefferson. Militia defense of state and nation is contemplated by our
Constitution, while standing armies are not.
Libertarians have an undeserved reputation
for being anti-life. Murray Rothbard, a great economist but poor moralist,
suggested that abortion was justified because the baby is a sort of
trespasser or parasite in the womb of the mother. Clearly the child is not
culpable, and the non-aggression principle requires restraint greater
restraint. We don’t throw stowaways off the airplane until the plane has
landed, and certainly the stowaway exercised conscious choice in boarding,
while the baby had none to make.
Also of Interest
Rev. Robert Sirico, Defending the Free
Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, Washington DC: Regnery,
2012, 213 pages, hardbound, $16.36 at Amazon.com.
Thomas E. Woods, The Church and the
Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy, Lexington Books (March
2005) 280 pages, paper bound $20.30 at Amazon.com