The montes pietatis were initially established as charitable organizations intended to help the poor avoid the exploitation of usurers.
Although the montes pietatis had their remote theoretical origin in the early fourteenth century with the thought of Durandus of Saint-Pourcain (and their remote practical origin in the 1361 establishment of a charitable bank in London by Bishop Michael Nothburg), the first official mons pietatis was established a hundred years later in Perugia by Bishop Hermolaus Barbarus, who placed it under the auspices of the Franciscan friars.
The montes pietatis, however, were not without their critics.
Although his ultimate determination--that the montes pietatis cannot avoid committing injustices--is staunchly conservative, the way in which he comes to that decision is as innovative as it is clear.
It lays out common premises that all can agree on (like articulating what the montes pietatis are) and then sets the rules for engagement.
In response to various requests for clarification of the moral questions involved in commercial transactions, Cajetan wrote three short treatises, or opuscules, on socioeconomic problems: one on usury; a second on the montes pietatis
, which he stringently opposed; and a third on cambium, or exchange dealings.