National leaders in financial wellness gathered at Catholic Charities in Portland Dec. 4-5 to advance alternative strategies to predatory payday loans.

Catholic Charities Oregon and its partners want to improve financial wellness and provide gainful resources to Oregonians on the financial fringe.

Among U.S. states, Oregon ranks 27th in a Gallup index on well-being. Financial security is one of the five elements that contributes to well-being, so Catholic Charities will continue to offer critical services, convene thought leaders, and partner with employers and financial institutions.

“More and more, we understand how community-based organizations and employers can work together to help lower-income employees make sound financial choices for themselves and their families,” said Susan Sarver, associate director of FINRA Investor Education Foundation, which has teamed up with Catholic Charities.

“We see this employer-sponsored small dollar loan as another tool in our toolkit when working with the poor and vulnerable within our community,” said Molly O’Donnell, director of the Family Success Center at Catholic Charities Oregon. “With this product, clients who have barriers to accessing conventional loans will now have an affordable product and the support necessary to change their family’s financial future.”

Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Salina, Kansas, last year called on Kansans to confront payday loan abuse.

“Abusing the poor by lending money to those in crisis at astonishingly high interest rates is a practice that was condemned or restricted by every civilization,” Bishop Weisenburger wrote. “This abusive behavior was rightly recognized as destructive and corrosive for communities and society. However, with the modern payday loan industry, what was correctly labeled reprehensible and predatory is now presented as friendly, safe and legitimate.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns usury, and points out that exploiting people living in poverty is theft.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in "Caritas in Veritate" that the weakest members of society should be helped to defend themselves against usury. 

To combat predatory banking practices, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, as the domestic antipoverty program of the Catholic bishops of the United States, funds organizations throughout the country that develop alternative sources of credit for low-income working people and families.