Home Page for
Translated from Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada,
MASTROFINI (Marco). Italian ecclesiastical writer, born in
the Roman district of Montecompatri on April 25, 1763, and died in Rome on
March 4, 1845. He distinguished himself as a professor of philosophy and
mathematics at the College of Frascati. His works suffer from the
superficiality with which religious arguments were treated in the era in which
he lived. Noteworthy among them: Ritratti poetici, storici, critic dei
personagi piu famosi nell'antico e nuovo Testamento, 3 v. (Rome 1807). He
also turned to liturature, bringing out a Dizionario dei verbi italiani
(Rome, 1814), Le Usure, 3 v. (Rome, 1831); Metaphisica sublimior de
Deo triun et uno (Rome, 1816), a work toward which there seemed to be
endless opposition; Antico e Nuovo Testamento (Rome, 1807), L' anima
umana e i suoi stati (Rome 1842), Teorica dei nomi (1855), and
Teorica e prospetto de' verbi italiani conjgeti (Rome, 1844). He
translated into Italian the works of Appiano, Quinto Curcio, Floro, Dionisio de
Halicarnaso and Arriano.
In 1834 the Abbé Mastrofini's recommendation for reforming the Gregorian
calendar was published under the title, Amplissimi Frutti da Raccogliersi
sul Calandario Gregoriano Perpetuoroughly, "Reseach Conclusions Toward a
Perpetual Gregorian Calendar." He proposed a reformed calendar year of 364
days, always beginning on Sunday, January 1. The 365th day of the solar
cycle would then be a year-end, "extra calendrical" day, and a holy day.
In leap years, a second extra day would follow, regarded as the "intercalary
Mastrofini is perhaps
most well known for his work on usury or interest, Le Usure (1831).
It was translated into French (1834), and there are at least two scholarly
commentaries on it; one as late as 1943. The following paragraph in
History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom
(1895), by Andrew Dickson White,
discusses Mastrofini's contribution to the evolution of the Catholic
stand on usury.
in the decade between 1830 and 1840 the Abbate Mastrofini issued a work on usury, which, he
declared on its title-page, demonstrated that "moderate usury is not contrary to Holy
Scripture, or natural law, or the decisions of the Church." Nothing can be more comical
than the suppressions of truth, evasions of facts, jugglery with phrases, and perversions of
history, to which the abbate is forced to resort throughout his book in order to prove that
the Church has made no mistake. In the face of scores of explicit deliverances and decrees
of fathers, doctors, popes, and councils against the taking of any interest whatever for
money, he coolly pretended that what they had declared against was exorbitant interest.
He made a merit of the action of the Church, and showed that its course had been a
blessing to humanity. But his masterpiece is in dealing with the edicts of Clement V and
Benedict XIV. As to the first, it will be remembered that Clement, in accord with the
Council of Vienne, had declared that "any one who shall pertinaciously presume to
affirm that the taking of interest for money is not a sin, we decree him to be a heiretic fit
for punishment," and we have seen that Benedict XIV did not at all deviate from the
doctrines of his predecessors. Yet Mastrofini is equal to his task, and brings out, as the
conclusion of his book, the statement put upon his title-page, that what the Church
condemns is only exorbitant interest.
This work was sanctioned by various high ecclesiastical dignitaries, and served its
purpose; for it covered the retreat of the Church (p. 458).