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The ecclesiastical consciousness, as having arrived now at greater repose, but as also in a state of spiritual paralysis, limits itself primarily to the preserving and digesting of the views already-attained to, and to the constructing of systems of life-rules on the basis of the decisions of the Fathers and of church councils,—at best elucidated anew by examples from the Scriptures or from the legends of the saints. The practical decisions on the subject of church penance gave rise gradually, in connection with these collections of rules, to a very minutely-specifying system of casuistry, which, however, related primarily chiefly to transgressions. The moral views themselves were already largely estranged from evangelical purity, and an ascetic monk-morality, not binding upon all, passed as the ideal of Christian virtue, while the general morality, binding upon all, was to a large degree neglected.

The libri poenitentiales, for the use of confessors, are based for the most part on the decisions of synods and on ancient practice, but are also in some degree complemented by their respective authors; they give for the most part little more than imperfectly classified and illogically connected registers of single sins and of the church-penances and penalties imposed therefor, the latter of course without established and certain norms (Theodore of Canterbury, Bede, Halitgarius and others). These books form the beginning of a casuistical treatment of ethics, which was subsequently extended to other questions than sins, especially to cases of conscience.—Attempts at a more independent and more connected, but yet, on the whole, purely 200practical treatment of ethics—mostly simply on single points,—were made by Alcuin (De virtutibus et vitiis; De ratione animae), largely borrowing from Augustine; also by Rhabanus Maurus, by Jonas, Bishop of Orleans (about 828), by the earnestly sin-rebuking Ratherius of Verona (ob. 974), by Damani (ob. 1072), the excessive eulogist of self-castigation, and by the learned Fulbert of Chartres (ob. 1029).

In proportion as the zeal of love abated, and worldly-mindedness increased in the church at large, in the same proportion arose, as in antithesis to this secularism of the church, a zeal for a special holiness transcending the general morality required of all. Directions for the monkish life form a favorite topic for ecclesiastical moralists; the merits of the ascetic life are more warmly lauded than the practical Christian life in the civil or domestic spheres, and wedlock is progressively more deeply disparaged as in contrast to entire renunciation; consorts are loaded with praise, who divorce themselves in order to practice such renunciation; and according to Damiani’s assertion, even St. Peter had to undergo the martyr-death in order to wash away the stains of his wedlock-life (De perfectione monach, c. 6).

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