A Revolutionary Pope Calls for Rethinking the Outdated Criteria That Rule the World

Pope Francis’ revolutionary encyclical addresses not just climate change but the banking crisis. Interestingly, the solution to that crisis may have been modeled in the Middle Ages by Franciscan monks following the Saint from whom the Pope took his name.

Pope Francis has been called “the revolutionary Pope.” Before he became Pope Francis, he was a Jesuit Cardinal in Argentina named Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the son of a rail worker. Moments after his election, he made history by taking on the name Francis, after Saint Francis of Assisi, the leader of a rival order known to have shunned wealth to live in poverty.

Pope Francis’ June 2015 encyclical is called “Praised Be,” a title based on an ancient song attributed to St. Francis. Most papal encyclicals are addressed only to Roman Catholics, but this one is addressed to the world. And while its main focus is considered to be climate change, its 184 pages cover much more than that. Among other sweeping reforms, it calls for a radical overhaul of the banking system. It states in Section IV:

Today, in view of the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life. Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, forgoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery. The financial crisis of 2007-08 provided an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and new ways of regulating speculative financial practices and virtual wealth. But the response to the crisis did not include rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world.

. . . A strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety, for it is not enough to include a few superficial ecological considerations while failing to question the logic which underlies present-day culture.

“Rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world” is a call to revolution, one that is necessary if the planet and its people are to survive and thrive. Beyond a change in our thinking, we need a strategy for eliminating the financial parasite that is keeping us trapped in a prison of scarcity and debt.

Interestingly, the model for that strategy may have been created by the Order of the Saint from whom the Pope took his name. Medieval Franciscan monks, defying their conservative rival orders, evolved an alternative public banking model to serve the poor at a time when they were being exploited with exorbitant interest rates.

The Franciscan Alternative: Banking for the People

In the Middle Ages, the financial parasite draining the people of their assets and livelihoods was understood to be “usury” – charging rent for the use of money. Lending money at interest was forbidden  to Christians, as a breach of the prohibition on usury proclaimed by Jesus in Luke 6:33. But there was a serious shortage of the precious metal coins that were the official medium of exchange, creating a need to expand the money supply with loans on credit.

An exception was therefore made to the proscription against usury for the Jews, whose Scriptures forbade usury only to “brothers” (meaning other Jews). This gave them a virtual monopoly on lending, however, allowing them to charge excessively high rates because there were no competitors.  Interest sometimes went as high as 60 percent.

These rates were particularly devastating to the poor.  To remedy the situation, Franciscan monks, defying the prohibitions of the Dominicans and Augustinians, formed charitable pawnshops called montes pietatus (pious or non-speculative collections of funds). These shops lent at low or no interest on the security of valuables left with the institution.

The first true mons pietatis made loans that were interest-free. Unfortunately, it went broke in the process.  Expenses were to come out of the original capital investment; but that left no money to run the bank, and it eventually had to close.

Franciscan monks then established montes pietatis in Italy that lent at low rates of interest. They did not seek to make a profit on their loans. But they faced bitter opposition, not only from their banking competitors but from other theologians.  It was not until 1515 that the montes were officially declared to be meritorious.

After that, they spread rapidly in Italy and other European countries.   They soon evolved into banks, which were public in nature and served public and charitable purposes. This public bank tradition became the modern European tradition of public, cooperative and savings banks. It is particularly strong today in the municipal banks of Germany called Sparkassen.

The public banking concept at the heart of the Sparkassen was explored in the 18th century by the Irish philosopher Bishop George Berkeley, in a treatise called The Plan of a National Bank. Berkeley visited America and his work was studied by Benjamin Franklin, who popularized the public banking model in colonial Pennsylvania. In the US today, the model is exemplified in the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.

From “Usury” to “Financialization”

What was condemned as usury in the Middle Ages today goes by the more benign term “financialization” – turning public commodities and services into “asset classes” from which wealth can be siphoned by rich private investors. Far from being condemned, it is lauded as the way to fund development in an age in which money is scarce and governments and people everywhere are in debt.

Land and natural resources, once considered part of the commons, have long been privatized and financialized. More recently, this trend has been extended to pensions, health, education and housing. Today financialization has entered a third stage, in which it is invading infrastructure, water, and nature herself. Capital is no longer content merely to own. The goal today is to extract private profit at every stage of production and from every necessity of life.

The dire effects can be seen particularly in the financialization of food. The international food regime has developed over the centuries from colonial trading systems to state-directed development to transnational corporate control. Today the trading of food commodities by hedgers, arbitrageurs and index speculators has disconnected markets from the real-world demand for food. The result has been sudden shortages, price spikes and food riots. Financialization has turned farming from a small scale, autonomous and ecologically-sustainable craft to a corporate assembly process that relies on patented technologies and equipment increasingly financed through debt.

We have bought into this financialization scheme based on a faulty economic model, in which we have allowed money to be created privately by banks and lent to governments and people at interest. The vast majority of the circulating money supply is now created by private banks in this way, as the Bank of England recently acknowledged.

Meanwhile, we live on a planet that holds the promise of abundance for all. Mechanization and computerization have streamlined production to the point that, if the work week and corporate profits were divided equitably, we could be living lives of ease, with our basic needs fulfilled and plenty of leisure to pursue the interests we find rewarding. We could, like St. Francis, be living like the lilies of the field. The workers and materials are available to build the infrastructure we need, provide the education our children need, provide the care the sick and elderly need. Inventions are waiting in the wings that could clean up our toxic environment, save the oceans, recycle waste, and convert sun, wind and perhaps even zero-point energy into usable energy sources.

The holdup is in finding the funding for these inventions. Our politicians tell us “we don’t have the money.” Yet China and some other Asian countries are powering ahead with this sort of sustainable development. Where have they found the money?

The answer is that they simply issue it. What private banks do in Western countries, publicly-owned and -controlled banks do in many Asian countries. Their governments have taken control of the engines of credit – the banks – and operated them for the benefit of the public and their own economies.

What blocks Western economies from pursuing that course is a dubious economic theory called “monetarism.” It is based on the premise that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon,” and that the chief cause of inflation is money “created out of thin air” by governments. In the 1970s, the Basel Committee discouraged governments from issuing money themselves or borrowing from their own central banks which issued it. Instead they were to borrow from “the market,” which generally meant borrowing from private banks. Overlooked was the fact, recently acknowledged by the Bank of England, that the money borrowed from banks is also created out of thin air. The difference is that bank-created money originates as a debt and comes with a hefty private interest charge attached.

We can break free from this exploitative system by returning the power to create money to governments and the people they represent. The strategy for real change called for by Pope Francis can be furthered with government-issued money of the sort originated by the American colonists, augmented by a network of publicly-owned banks of the sort established by the Order of St. Francis in the Middle Ages.


Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

37 Responses

  1. For those that want a more detailed and accurate account of the history of usury and Catholic Church should read Michael Hoffman’s work, “Usury in Christedom: the Sin that was and Now is not” http://revisionisthistorystore.blogspot.com/2010/03/michael-hoffmans-online-revisionist.html

    Michael Hoffman Talks About Usury.mov https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT0grvk16NI

  2. Wow. Best piece ever! Thank you Ellen!

    Though the New Testament reference is likely John 6:34, not 6:33

    33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

    The Old Testament is full of admonitions against usury. Here is a couple.

    “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. (Deuteronomy 23:19)

    If he has exacted usury Or taken increase — Shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, He shall surely die; His blood shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:13)

  3. “One Simple Solution”
    Have the Federal Reserve…”Do unto us what they do..” for the Private For Profit Banks: PRINT OUR MONEY AND CHARGE A TAX (They call it ‘interest’).
    We need only to have a Federal Bank of the USA that would be the ONLY legal source of new currency issuance.
    All new issuance would be issued as loans (surely, we all know that the money really belongs to the people who have merely entrusted
    their assets to the government?).
    All these loans would carry a limited term and an interest rate (tax).
    How would that work for you ?
    A government ….. “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,…”
    Has anyone asked, “How much is outstanding in bank loans..?
    Maybe $100-$300 trillion ? ”
    by Justaluckyfool

  4. Ms Brown, we speak the same language.
    Only two entities can legally “create” currency: governments and, their private proxies, banks. Sadly, in the west, banks have all but hijacked this process and We, the People, are held hostage to this mad financial structure which benefits bankers and their friends (who use it as a medium of exchange and misuse it, when hoarded, as a club to oppress non-hoarders into submission) to the detriment of 99% of the people who use that currency as mere medium of exchange.
    Unless and until the man on Main Street realizes that his work-time value is determined by those who determine the value of currency, he is perpetually doomed to a form of currency-indentured slavery. His pension, his savings, his labor diminish in value every time these entities issue currency.
    Unless the credit-interest exponential (“compound interest”) logarithm gets eliminated, debtors will remain in debt till the day they die. Unless government bankruptcy laws become more like the jubilee laws of old, total amnesty on debts, as they were originally intended, we will evolve a perpetual indentured class, to wit, caste systems antithetical to democratic values such as “all men as equals.”
    Unless and until WW2-type taxation laws get re-enacted, the Reaganesque, government-sponsored upward transfer of wealth to the hoarding haves from the have-nots will continue to accelerate. Where it will end, I have no desire to witness. But feudalism comes to mind.
    I will not get into a Keynesian seminar on the ridiculous imbalance in the supply and demand equation which has led to our current world-wide, “globalist” dilemma. When and where currency gets hoarded by the haves, demand for consumer goods drops from the currency-challenged, have-not classes. A depression cycle commences. The one we’re witnessing, and living in, this epoch just may be “for keeps.”
    FDR was right, “We have always known that heedless self interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics.”
    Be well.

    • Government creates the currency, banks create IOUs denominated in that currency.

      • Yes, only the Federal Reserve can authorized ‘issuance of currency’-
        But they have by law created a “fatal Flaw”.
        By allowing the Private For Profit Banks the right to leverage their cash deposits, they have created an unsustainable method of currency creation; a method that forces them to create ‘real money’ to replace their ‘ out of thin air creations’.
        Either cough up the money or there will be a “systemic failure”.
        If the Fed did not bail out the banks-there could have been a complete collapse of the current monetary system.
        It is not the size of the banks that makes them too big to fail
        (a term deliberately used to make them seem so), rather IF they print so much ‘leveraged temporary loan money’ that not to HONOR ,(“credare”), that money after it is circulated (deposited) will cause
        Failure of the Currency.
        The banks have proven, they control the currency by issuing loans
        and the alleged Fed control is a paper tiger-

  5. interestingly, hoffman identifies the mons as the source of heresy in the catholic church regarding usury. the road to hell is paved with good intentions

  6. in addition to interest on money, land rents are also usury and thus part of the problem. so, the solution must include a land value tax (Henry George) to accompany monetary reform. usury is the root cause of inequality.

    • I recently read an article about Henry George that said he recommended a 100% tax on rental income with no other taxes. A little different from property taxes. Sounds like a great idea huh? I don’t know if it was ever tried though.

    • If issuance, all new issuance of currency is strictly put into circulation via “loans” as deposits with a rate of interest (tax) there would be NO need for any other taxation. Simple math. All new issuance plus ‘old money’ would be turned back to the government to fund… a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,…”
      The rate of interest will determine ‘deflation or inflation’
      The value of the currency will remain constant as long as the physical assets remain in the sovereignty..
      $17 trillion issuance (loans) at 3% for 24 years would be $34 trillion
      being paid back to “We the People” and it would be prudent to spend at least $17 trillion for the betterment of “We the People” in order to prevent financial catastrophe.
      Why would you not want to take away from the Private for Profit Banks
      that $17 trillion of taxes they are currently collecting as interest profit from debt free money they have received from “We the People”?.

      Perhaps:“It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” – Henry Ford

      Why would you not want prosperity for yourself and your children?

  7. Reblogged this on Fazl's Blah and commented:
    This new Pope is a breath of fresh air..

  8. Sadly the pope has declared it is time for the NEW WORLD ORDER, the New World Money system, and he, as head of the anti Christ system, according to Scripture, is rapidly implementing Lucifer’s plan..
    “Religion” is not Christianity, but a means of control, through fear, just as the bankers have bluffed their way into hijacking the creation of credit, money.
    The vatican is racing to re-install the Roman empire, as prophesied, with the pope as head of the New World Church. Be warned people, this pope is, according to r.c. teachings, the last pope.
    The anti-Christ takes control through flattery, lofty promises, whilst subtly subverting all freedom, as they introduce global poverty, religious dictatorship and economic slavery, under the control of the church.
    The Bible tells us that the anti-Christ sits on seven hills, and the kings of the world pay homage to the beast, whilst believing they are worshiping GOD.
    Search the Bible, not the financial reviews, as all are controlled by the vatican.

  9. […] Source: WEB OF DEBT BLOG Pope Francis’ revolutionary encyclical addresses not just climate change but the banking crisis. Interestingly, the solution to that crisis may have been modeled in the Middle Ages by Franciscan monks following the Saint from whom the Pope took his name. Pope Francis has been called “the revolutionary Pope.” Before heRead more… […]

  10. name it what it is “”the rothchild agenda””this is the agenda we use that is the fed.res.and wall street criminal fraud.

  11. I would just like to inform people that Jorge Bergolio (aka pope francis) has been convicted by the International Common Law Court of Justice http://itccs.org/what-is-the-international-common-law-court-of-justice/
    of perpetrating and concealing genocide, specifically with regard to trafficking and ritual abuse/murder of children.

    Stop the Convicted Criminal Jorge Bergoglio! http://itccs.org/2015/03/29/stop-the-convicted-criminal-jorge-bergoglio-2/

    GUILTY: Pope, Jesuits convicted in historic case http://itccs.org/2014/07/19/guilty-pope-jesuits-convicted-in-historic-case/

    Click to access img-722105823.pdf

    An ITCCS / NewsInsideOut Breaking News Interview with Kevin Annett http://itccs.org/2014/12/08/common-law-sheriffs-will-arrest-convicted-criminal-pope-francis-during-september-2015-usa-visit/

    • Ah yes , the same ITCCS that proclaimed back in 2013 that ” Canada is Dissolved” :


      The one-man ( Kevin Annett ) ITCCS is a load of crap :


      • Per international common law a regime guilty of crimes against humanity is invalid. You are not bound by the Crown corporation called the Dominion of Canada’s legal maritime statutes as a result. Those that continue to let this criminal nation govern over then, do so only by their consent, implicit or explicit.

        The Republic of Kanata http://www.kanatarepublic.ca/ does exist, and has a lawful constitution. However, you must renounce your citizenship and take oath to the Sovereign Republic of Kanata to take possession of your unalienable common law rights.

        It’s a matter of choice. The people can make this a reality if only they become educated and get involved.

        The common law can be used to prosecute corrupt govt officials. The Admiralty law can never be used against them. Learn the difference.

        • PM, You said that, “Those that continue to let this criminal nation govern over then, do so only by their consent, implicit or explicit.” In an alienated society, how the heck do you expect anyone to get together in real dialogue? It doesn’t happen. The people are alienated from each other, fed on “dreams of opulence, future opulence, and positions for power and domination impossible for most to realize in their misplaced, shallow dreams. Who have you buddied up with lately to scheme up how to emancipate the people from tyranny?

        • What Kevin Annett writes is fiction. The Republic of Kanata is fiction. I confirmed that he has visited North American Indian people on their reservations. How much good he did for them I do not know. He wrote that he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but it’s only his say so that ‘validates’ the claim. His ‘award winning’ video did not win anything. Kevin Annett does not provide usable structure. That is beyond his capacity.

    • You must be a banker!

  12. He watched and experienced the 2001 takedown of Argentina by the IMF — he is not talking about something he is unfamiliar with.

  13. Ellen you left out one of the three critical steps of monetary reform that must be done assuming you already included incorporating the Federal Reserve into the Treasury. You left out Ending Fractional Reserve Banking. #occupytheneedact #FedUp #sovereignmoney

  14. Real community, the prerequisite of democracy, is absent.

    In the absence of community, democracy does not exist. Representational government is not democracy. Democracy is dialogical and consensus-based organization that is localized not nationalized.

    A consumer-based economy is an economic perversion. It is mental illness; mass alienation. It destroys the life it touches.

    Charging interest on loans is criminal. A fair “service charge” for facilitating interest free loans of Federal Reserve Notes is not criminal. (Google JAK interest free…)

    Political power concentrated beyond the control of the people is criminal.

    An economically stratified society is criminal.

    Violence is needed to maintain stratified society and interest charges on loans of fiat money.

    Criminals are attracted to hoarded, exclusivist power with its monopolized violence concentrated beyond the control of the people; the objectives are robbery, exploitation and slavery.

    Institutionalization, exclusivist centralized power, be it theocratic, industrial-commercial, or governmental does not prevent sociopaths from filling its offices. And, institutionalization is purposed to control its peoples’ productive lives.

    The American Constitution and its protections have been superseded by the “legislation” of transnational corporate interests.

    How can anyone propose to “reform” organized crime?(!) “The theme of western civilization is domination.” (Paulo Freire) In other words, the “whole shebang” is criminal organization.

    Some things can be done to slow down the processes of subjugation, and that is good (Ellen Brown’s work included). Everything that contributes to the decentralization of power, and that contributes to local economic sovereignty are steps in the right direction. We need time to build the contrasting civilization that will superseded mass centrist society.

    And, yes, that is in progress, and yes, community in decentralized civilization will have its day. You all be well!

  15. Hi Ellen

    Lovely article. May I suggest that you put a tweet button prominently on your blog site so that when we read an article we like we can easily and quickly tweet it to our followers with the hope that it might go viral?

    Best wishes from Greece

    Jock Millenson Kalikalos Coordinator

  16. Don’t forget that capitalism and socialism grew out of the reformation and the Catholic Church has never really accepted it. In Catholic Europe (and in North America), the champions of capitalism were Catholic-hating Freemasons. Thus, there is really nothing “revolutionary” about Pope Francis’ views. What’s remarkable is that they are not being censored out of the media or distorted.

  17. […] ⇧   A Revolutionary Pope Calls for Rethinking the Outdated Criteria That Rule the World | WEB OF DEBT BL… […]

  18. […] A Revolutionary Pope Calls for Rethinking the Outdated Criteria That Rule the World […]

  19. […] has been involved in this debate: As explained in an excellent article by Ellen Brown entitled: A Revolutionary Pope Calls for Rethinking the Outdated Criteria That Rule the World, she quotes him saying in his recent […]

  20. […] A Revolutionary Pope Calls for Rethinking the Outdated Criteria That Rule the World | WEB OF DEBT BL… Reply With Quote […]

  21. […] has been involved in this debate: As explained in an excellent article by Ellen Brown entitled: A Revolutionary Pope Calls for Rethinking the Outdated Criteria That Rule the World, she quotes him saying in his recent […]

  22. […] ⇧   A Revolutionary Pope Calls for Rethinking the Outdated Criteria That Rule the World | WEB OF DEBT BL… […]

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