By April 14, 2008 Read More →

Economic Limitations

Medieval W. Christendom
While the notion of Jewish harm inflicted on Christians was initially an issue
of the religious sphere of life, with the passage of time this notion could easily be
expanded and was. With the Jewish move into heavy concentration in money-
lending during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, churchmen-who regarded
themselves and were regarded by others as protectors of the Christian masses and
who were aware that the Church attack on Christian money-lending had opened
the way for Jewish involvement in this important sphere of the economy-began to
call for limitations that would safeguard vulnerable Christians. Such safeguards
included limitations on those who might borrow from Jews and on the objects that
might be left as pledges with Jewish lenders.

The most prominent of these safeguards was demanded at the Fourth
Lateran Council of 1215, already noted for its enactment of distinguishing Jewish
garb. With respect to Jewish money-lending, the assembled leaders of the Roman
Catholic Church legislated that Jews not lend money at exorbitant rates of interest,
which were proving harmful to Christian borrowers. Jews were to lend only at
moderate rates of interest. Eventually, some churchmen concluded that earlier
ecclesiastical thinking about the permissibility of Jewish lending had been
misguided and that Jews in fact had no right to take interest from Christians at all.

Once again, the Church could only demand. It was up to the secular
authorities to enforce these ecclesiastical demands. For many lay authorities,
Jewish money-lending was the source of considerable revenue, making them
loathe to surrender such funds. Through the later centuries of the Middle Ages,
ecclesiastical and lay leaders were involved in an ongoing battle over the issue of
Jewish lending.

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