A Revolutionary Pope Calls For Rethinking The Outdated Criteria That Rule The World

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 But the response to the crisis did not include rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world.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“Rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world” is a call to revolution, one that is necessary if the planet and its people are to survive and thrive.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 ...

How did you like this article? Let us know so we can better customize your reading experience.


Leave a comment to automatically be entered into our contest to win a free Echo Show.
Kevin Cox 8 years ago Member's comment

It is interesting that the monks discovered they needed interest to keep the system operating. We can accommodate interest provided it does not compound. In other words it is a fee for operating the monetary system. Technically it is easy to get rid of compound interest by repaying capital first and interest last or by issuing credit that buys more in the future through discounts. In other words we can fix the system by a simple accounting change. This is the way public banks should operate to be most effective. If they do this they will be able to offer better lending rates to savers by not compounding interest. e.g. a fixed 6% inflation adjusted non compounding loan over 30 years gives about the same return as a 4% compounding loan. We can also put a fixed fee on money transactions (a tobin tax) as the way to pay for the utility that money brings - and get rid of compounding. Savers should get a return on their savings and the simplest way is fixed interest. Banks should get a fee to operate the system and the simplest way is to get part of the interest. What we need to do is to get rid of interest on interest as the main method of creating money. When extra money is needed then the central bank prints it and distributes it equally to everyone in a society. We know we need to print money when the fixed interest rate goes higher than the increase in productivity improvements from invested savings or when the lack of money causes unemployment which in turn causes a reduction in overall productivity.

John R Nolan 8 years ago Member's comment

Thanks for the response Ellen,

The suggestion of the populace demanding that their servants, the politicians, start working for the good of the people, rather than their greedy overlords, the high financiers, the bankers, is rather fanciful.

The masses forfeited their rights to democracy when they allowed the bankers to force the government to change the constitution, to give bankers the right to claim ownership of our nation's wealth, with the right to take control of the creation of CREDIT, thus allowing bankers to establish privately controlled money machines, for their own personal gain.

America, the citizens, have lost their democracy, as have all nations, and are now paying insufferable, irredeemable DEBTS, through interest payments, which can never be finalized.

As money is 'created' by the bankers, out of nothing, and loaned to the community at whatever interest rate the bankers deem if to inflict,(Open ended contracts! Are they legal?), it is impossible for the community to ever be free of debt.

As has been clearly exposed, through the A+B=A formula, when money is 'created' by the bankers, there is never created the money needed)to cover the interest, so those who have borrowed the money, (governments, etc.) are inextricable bound to a suicidal death march into total subservience to those who are 'loaning' them the money.

Obviously the bankers must end up owning the entire nation, the natural assets, the people, the world, and yet the people are oblivious to the way they are being manipulated into abject economic slavery.

When one considers the horrific collapse of all Western nations into every form of decadence, immorality, violence, we surely, one would imagine, (hopefully) can recognize that our economic system is defunct, our politicians are totally immoral, servants of those who control the money system, and the FEMA camps (read Nazi Death Camps) are now set up to receive those who speak out, try to elucidate the public.

It will be interesting to hear what the pope announces to the world, when he speaks at the U.S. Congress, and the U.N., and one suggests it may be the declaration of the New World Money system, (no cash, one must get the card,) and the New World Order, where, supposedly, there will be global peace, under his leadership.

It seems that George Orwell, (Eric Blair) was a servant of the illuminated ones, and his books, ANIMAL FARM and 1984, which surely hold world records for their number of reprints, were major tools in the subliminal brainwashing of the masses in preparation of the horrific, dictatorial world in which we now find ourselves.

(It is interesting to note how regularly the books were used in the educational systems to teach English.)

Yes, it is part of the ongoing plan to convince the masses there is still hope, which is why they are looking desperately for their 'saviour', but Scripture declares they will worship the beast, believing they are working GOD, and will go into horrific chaos.

People say I'm paranoid, but, that doesn't mean they aren't out to get any free thinker.

Just remember, PIGS CAN FLY!

John R Nolan 8 years ago Member's comment

Yes, the suggested plans for the new money system sounds great, and is what was suggested, many years ago by C.H.Douglas, the author of Social Credit, though we see a far more sinister plot behind the pope's encyclical. Cash will shortly disappear, as we get our NEW AGE CARD, and those who refuse to join the System will be denied access to any food, services, etc. This is clearly prophesied, in the Bible and by many clearly thinking citizens, over the years, from 1796 on, but, who cares? The problem is that the community, in western nations, have been so brainwashed by bank controlled media, decadent, subversive educational systems, let alone drugged by multinational corporations, through their illegal, immoral immunization programs, that the masses are incapable of comprehending what is being done to them, by the bankers, greedy multinational corporations, (privately owned), and their politically subservient mates. The reality that money is created, out of thin air, as a DEBT to the community, (not the bankers), is a truth not comprehended by our society, who are far too busy scrambling to survive, in this dog eat dog world, instead being duped into mentally submissive fantasies through media indoctrination. The masses are more concerned with horse racing, football games, who is jumping who in the elite circles of the wealthy, who is wearing the least clothes in the nasty 'Days of Our Lives' t.v. shows, to be concerned with the way they are being exploited by those who have illegally claimed ownership of OUR money. We hear the media morons advising their listeners to "Just have another drink, smoke some more brain addling nicotine, take a few more pills," as they happily submit their, and their children's lives to abject slavery. The masses are woefully under-educated, having been turned into the drones, the proles of 1984 and THE BRAVE NEW WORLD, by those who control the education and media. We are watching the final steps into global slavery, through this evil economic systems which we, the citizens, have allowed powerful, political and religious leaders to inflict upon us. This economic SYSTEM is immoral, evil, self destructive, yet the public don't even want to know how they are being exploited. The Glass Bead Game is in full swing, and the populace now bend over backwards, rejoicing as their controllers inflict more pain. Politicians will not stand against the bankers, or "the church", (the illuminated ones?) for fear of having their credit cut off, or being deprived their greed driven lusts, their hopes thwarted of Social Status improvement, and, as has been asked before, how does one go to war against 'the church'? We are watching the controlled destruction of the world economic systems, as we are forced into the new world order, which Francis is promoting, at every chance, and it will be interesting what he has to say when he addresses the U.N. and the U.S. congress. What is a religious leader doing even speaking to the house of the U.S. government? Isn't that supposed to be non religious? One could go on, but, remember, this is the Age of APATHY, and, thus, who really cares. John R. Nolan

Ellen Brown 8 years ago Author's comment

Agreed, it could all go bad, but the very tools the banksters are using, we the people could expropriate for the public benefit. The result can be either 1984 (the totalitarian state) or The Hunger Games, where Big Brother (the ubiquitous TV) is used by the oppressed as a tool for inciting revolution. "The reality that money is created, out of thin air, as a DEBT to the community (not the bankers)" -- that's the difference between a public banking system and a private one.