Archbishop Wenski: Regulate Payday Loans, Address the Sin of Usury

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami writes:

Victims of usury are often the working poor and elderly on fixed incomes who when faced with a financial emergency seek a short-term loan….legal forms of usury survive, in a form of predatory banking, known as “payday loans.”

Payday loans appear (and are marketed as) simple and straightforward help to someone in immediate need of funds before the next paycheck. Using that paycheck as a form of collateral, the consumer receives a short-term loan. When the paycheck arrives, the loan is paid off, plus fees and interest. However, in many if not most cases, it is impossible for borrowers to repay in the required time frame. This is because these loans are not only used for emergencies but often for recurring necessities (like food and rent) or to splurge on some impulsive purchase. Thus, the borrower becomes ensnared in a “debt trap” with the loans continually “rolled over.”

In the state of Florida, the average payday loan borrower takes out seven loans a year and pays an average 278 percent annual percentage rate (APR). …

As Pope Francis said, “Usury is a serious sin: it kills life, tramples on the dignity of people, is a vehicle for corruption and hampers the common good.”

A human economy places the person and not profit first. Human dignity, ethics, solidarity and the common good should be always at the center of economic policies. Legislators in the crafting of laws and regulations should seek to protect the most vulnerable from the predations of the unscrupulous. Lower interest rates — capped by law –— would protect those who need the ready access to capital that payday lenders provide. At the same time, the working poor need access to alternative sources of credit.

Ash Wednesday Valentine’s Day Can Remind Us of the True Nature of Love

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Christopher Hale writes:

This “Ash Wednesday Valentine’s Day” gives us an opportunity to reconsider what love is, and what love is not.

For a Christian, the rock band Boston got it right in 1976: Love is “more than a feeling.” We doubt the authenticity of the Kay Jewelers, empty-shelled love that marks the bourgeois celebration of modern-day Valentine’s Day. Christian love is less about feeling and more about action. It’s gritty. It’s messy. It hurts. In fact, we distrust a love that doesn’t suffer and costs nothing. Paul puts this reality simply in his letter to the Corinthians. He tells us that a love only spoken, but not acted upon, is as worthless as a “clashing cymbal,” while a love that’s performed in deed “always perseveres.”

In short, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent is the ideal antidote to Valentine’s Day exuberance. The very first act of Lent reveals this reality. By receiving and wearing the ashes formed into a sign of the cross on their foreheads, Christians are making the bold claim that we believe in a love that loves so deeply that it is willing to suffer and even die for another….

Ash Wednesday and the subsequent Lenten season then is a time to learn how to love again. This can go beyond creed or faith. It is an invitation to everyone who wants to find the fullest measure of living. Now is a good time to ask ourselves what we can give up this season to enrich our sense and practice of agape. In doing so, we can find a new experience of love that can make us whole and can set us free.

Three Interviews with Millennial Catholic Women

Jordan Denari Duffner, an associate at Georgetown’s Bridge Initiative and the author of Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic appeared on Jesuitical two weeks ago to talk about her book and Catholic-Islamic dialogue. She was a panelist at last year’s How Catholics Should Respond to the Rise of the Alt-Right Millennial event.

Christine Emba, an op-ed writer for the Washington Post, appeared on last week’s Jesuitical, where she talked about her approach to writing, the #MeToo movement, and more. She recently spoke and wrote about the need to move from outrage to solidarity and policy advances.

At Crux, Charles Camosy interviewed Jessica Keating on pro-life feminism and consistently defending life:

Being a pro-life feminist is a sacrifice because it means you’re often seen as troublemaker for upsetting the established binaries-are you a conservative or a liberal? No one knows what to do with you because you support government policies that assist the vulnerable and disenfranchised, who are disproportionately women of color, and you have the audacity to demand that this basic claim to minimal care and protection under the law be extended to our most defenseless and innocent citizens.

We Can’t Forget About Young People Who Have Left the Church

Christopher White writes:

In the lead-up to October’s synod on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment,” much of the discussion has been on the needs of young people within the church. That’s a very good and necessary conversation, but it should also be had alongside a discussion of what can be done to reach the young people who have already left the church — the ones whom we won’t find at Sunday Mass or at youth ministry programs.

One of the beautiful portions of the synod’s preparatory document is the section that discusses the need for “getting out” and finding areas outside of the confines of the church where the Gospel witness is made credible.

I recently had the experience of covering the New York Encounter, an annual three-day cultural festival organized by the lay movement Communion and Liberation. While the program is chock full of cardinals, bishops, priests and other members of religious life, one of the many remarkable things about this event is just how normal it all is.

While the event — which pulls in over 10,000 people — is explicitly religious, there’s just as much emphasis on service — as represented this year by special exhibits on Martin Luther King Jr. and Dorothy Day — as there is on theology. The two, of course, are inextricably linked, but events like the New York Encounter present a different public image of the church.