Radio Show

Is It Sinful to Live Outside Your Means?


After Brett made some brief comments about people who live above their means, a radio listener is inspired to call in to the Busted Halo Show and ask this question: “As a practicing Catholic, should we be having debt? The American credit system is built on [having some] debt [making you] more creditworthy. … What is the perspective on having debt and being a practicing Catholic? [Is it sinful] to be in debt because we’re taking on more than we [should]?”

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Father Dave starts out by saying this: “I think what you’ve [already] pointed out is that everybody has debt. So, if debt were against Catholic teaching, we’d all be in big, big trouble! So, just like anything else with an ethical decision and moral theology, very few things are 100% ‘no’ [in any circumstances]. Abortion is one of those things, for example — 100% no, ever ever ever. But most things are [not as rigid as that]. But if I’ve amounted hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and I haven’t told my family, and we’re probably about to be evicted, and I might have to pull my kids out of school, and I’m not being a very good steward as a father, that’s different on a scale of sin than having an extra $100 on my credit card and I’m going to have to carry it over to next month and pay a percentage. And that’s very different from going to college and having $120,000 worth of debt, and that’s very different from having a mortgage on a $500,000 house. So, it’s all debt — it’s all the same thing financially — but the Church does not come down one way or another very specifically about any of the particular monetary or economic systems that are in the world.”

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Father Dave continues to delve into the Church’s position: “We say that there are elements of this [system] that are good and elements of that one that is harmful to people. So, we look at things like capitalism, neo-capitalism, even socialism — the Church has certainly had a lot of experience over the ages with a lot of different systems, [and] none of them are perfect. They all have their flaws. So, I would say that debt of some form — like [the kind that enables you to] afford a house, or go to college, or have a credit card — is not bad. The Church wouldn’t say that’s all bad. Just like one drink of alcohol isn’t necessarily bad, but when it’s taken to an extreme that causes sin and harm, then we’re in the realm of sin. Therefore, living above your means — which sparked you to call and ask the question — if that means I’m deceiving people in my life and only putting off a crash into a brick wall, [then] that’s going to be bad.” (Original Air 08-29-17)