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date: 15 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In the early modern age, for the first time in history, moral theology became a ground of bitter strife within the Roman Catholic Church. After the Council of Trent, it evolved as a specialized discipline with its own methodology, which became increasingly identified with casuistry. The theoretical underpinning of this development was probabilism, the system according to which, when there are two opposite opinions as to the morality of a course of action, one is allowed to follow the less probable one. From about 1650, first of all in Belgium and France, both probabilism and casuistry came under attack as favoring laxity. Rigorism, which was linked to but by no means synonymous with doctrinal Jansenism, progressively spread to the entire Church. The papacy, whose pronouncements on moral matters became increasingly important, shared in this reaction but was careful to preserve theological pluralism.

Keywords: Casuistry, Probabilism, Jesuits, Lax morality, Jansenism, Rigorism, Papal magisterium, Holy Office

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