« Prev Section XXXVIII. Romish Ethics. Next »


The ethics of the Roman Catholic church, after the Reformation, was treated for the most part as a constantly increasing and more minute-growing body of casuistry. The highest development of the same, and at the same time the greatest perversion of Christian ethics, also in regard to its moral contents, appeared in the semi-Pelagianizing ethics of the Jesuits. The place of the unconditional validity of the moral idea is here largely usurped by outward adaptability to the weal of the visible church, as the highest end; the place of the unshaken authority of the Scriptures and of early Christian tradition, by the authority of certain special Doctors; the place of moral conviction, by probabilism; the place of moral honesty, by a sophistical construing of the moral law to the present fortuitous advantage of the church and of the individual, and by the falsehood of reservationes mentales; and the place of the moral conscience, by 256rational and cunning calculation; thus the essence of the moral law becomes entirely unsettled; and the practical application of moral principles, an unserious exercise of sophistry.

At first thought we are surprised at the exceeding fruitfulness of the Romish theology of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in ethical writings, in comparison with which the evangelical church, and especially the Lutheran, is very barren. Opposition to the faith-principle of the Evangelical church, led the Romish church to an especial development of the practical phase of religion, as in fact, in the order of the Jesuits, a vigor of activity hitherto unknown in the Romish church makes at this time its appearance; and precisely this order was the chief representative of Romish ethics.—The more purely scientific form of ethics lingered in general strictly within the limits of the scholastico-Aristotelian rut. Francis Piccolomini, a much-lauded Aristotelian, in Italy (ob. 1604) produced a comprehensive and discursive moral philosophy165165   Universa philosophia moribus, Venet. 1583; Frkf., 1595, 1629. based on Aristotle and Plato; but his writings do not give proof of any independence, and fail to satisfy the Christian consciousness.

The Order of the Jesuits, as calculated in its very nature for action, for the championship of the endangered Romish church, was called by its fundamental principle to the development of a special system of morality,—a system the highest end of which is the glory of God through the exaltation of the visible church. The majority of the Jesuitical presentations of ethics treat, for the most part, only of the more or less classified circle of single cases, while the more rare systematic works follow very closely the traditions of scholasticism.166166   Perrault: Morale des Jes., 1667, 3t.; Ellendorf: Die Moral und Politik des Jesuiten, 1840—not sufficiently scientific; Pragm. Gesch. d. Mönschsorden, 1770, vols. 9 and 10.—Very soon after the Reformation the Jesuits appeared in the field of ethics; we will mention only the more important. Among the Spaniards were: Francis Tolet (a cardinal, ob. 1596, Summa casuum conscientiae, often printed); Azorio (Institutiosnes morales, 1600, 3t.; 1625, 2t.); Vasquez (Opusc. mor.; 1617); Henriquez (Summa, 1613 fol.); 257Thomas Sanchez, whose learned work, De matrimonio,167167   Genuae, 1592? 1602; Antv. 1607, 1612, 1614, 1617, 3 fol.; Norimb. 1706; the first edition has become rare; in the later editions, after 1612, the smuttiest passages are omitted or modified. was highly esteemed, (but which, in the invention and discussion of indelicate questions, transgresses the bounds of all propriety), and who by his sweeping doctrine of probabilism deeply unsettles the foundations of all morality; (of him are further: Opus morale s. Summa casuum, Col. 1614, 2t.; Consilia s. opuscula mor., Lugd. 1635, 2 fol.); Francis Suarez, in numerous very ingenious works; Alphonso Rodriguez (Exercitium perfectionis, etc., 1641); Antonio de Escobar, one of the most important of the casuists (Liber theol. moral., etc., Ludg., 1646; Universae theol. moral. problemata, Ludg., 1663, 7 fol.); and Gonzales (Fundamentum theol. moralis., 1694, 4to.) Among the Italians were: Tamburini, and Filliucci (Moral. quaest., 1622, 2 fol.) Among the French: Bauny, and Raynauld. Among the Germans: Layman (Theol. mor., 1625, 3 4to.); Busenbaum, of Munster, whose Medulla casuum consc. has had, since 1645, more than fifty editions,168168   Rewritten and enlarged by Lacroix, 1710, 9t., Col. 1729, 2 fol., and frequently.—an able, clear, compact manual in tolerably systematic order, and authoritative almost throughout the whole Order, although in many respects assailed, even by popes, and in some countries proscribed. Among the Netherlanders: Leonard Less (in several works), and Besser (De conscientia, 1638, 4to.) The contents and manner of treatment of most of these works are very similar.

The peculiar character of Jesuitical ethics rests on the fundamental purpose of the order as a whole, namely, the rescuing of the Church, the bride of Christ, as endangered by the Reformation in its very foundations, and hence the rescuing of the honor of God from a most pressing danger. In a struggle of life and death one is not very careful in the choice of means, and in all warfare the sentiment holds good, though involving manifold violations of ordinary right, that the end sanctifies the means. The rescuing of the Romish church at any price is the task, even should it involve an entering into alliance with the dark powers of this sinful world, and with the passions and sinful proclivities of the unsanctified multitude. The one 258exclusively aimed-at end makes use of the systematized totality of moral ends as mere means, and the morally-contracted view taken of this one end leads naturally and of itself to morally unallowable means. The real, visible church is not measured by the idea of the true or ideal church, but all moral ideas are measured by the visible church. The Jesuits were well aware that they were an essentially new phenomenon of the churchly life,—that they stood upon purely human invention and power; we need not be surprised therefore to find that in their moral system human invention and human authority stand in the foreground. The expressed opinion of a church doctor forms a sufficient basis for a legitimate moral decision. The eternal and objective foundations of the moral are exchanged for the subjective view of individual persons of eminence. The contradictions thereby resulting render the single subject all the less trammeled,—enable him to follow the decision which he most prefers. Another of their peculiarities is their discipline; the required unconditional obedience to the commands of superiors takes the place of the personal conscience, and paralyzes its power; it becomes a duty of the members of the order to have no personal conscience whatever, and to subordinate the individual conscience unconditionally and blindly to the general conscience of the order; a collective conscience, however, is a poor one, and poorest of all when it is represented by one single person. Thus the Jesuit accustoms himself from the very start, blindly to follow the authority of a single eminent man, and Probabilism is, in his moral theory, an inevitable matter of course.

This, then, is the distinguishing characteristic of Jesuitical ethics,—that in the place of the eternal objective ground and criterion of the moral, it substitutes subjective opinion, and in the place of an unconditional eternal end, a merely conditionally valid one, namely, the defending of the actual, visible church against all forms of opposition,—that in the place of the moral conscience, it substitutes the human calculating of circumstantial and fortuitous adaptation to the promotion of this its highest end,—that it attempts to realize that which is per se and absolutely valid by a wide-reaching isolating of the means, but in so doing subordinates morality to the discretion of the single subject.—While the ethics of the Jesuits appears 259as lax and quite too indulgent toward worldly, sinful proclivities and fashions, yet this is only one phase of the matter. A merely worldly-lax moral system, in the usual sense, seems but little applicable to the members of a brotherhood the first rule of which is a perfect renunciation of personal will and personal opinion and self-determination, in a word, unconditional obedience to every command of superiors, and which has actually accomplished in the missionary field the grandest of deeds, and numbers, among its members, multitudes of heroic martyrs. This lack of strictness in one direction rests by no means on mere worldliness, on pleasure in the delights of this life, but follows, on the one hand, of necessity (as well as does also the rigor of obedience) from the subjectively-arbitrary presupposition of the entire order, from the lack of an objective, unshaken foundation, and rests, on the other hand, strictly on calculation,—is itself a cunningly-devised means to the end,—is intended to awaken, especially in the great and mighty of the earth (and the masses of the people are such under some circumstances), a love to the church, to the mild, friendly, indulgent mother; and these concessions to the world formed a contrast to the severer moral views of the evangelical church, and especially to the over-rigid discipline of the Reformed church; and the contrast was tempting.—The purpose—zealously pursued by the Jesuits in the interest of Romish domination—of becoming soul-guarding fathers and conscience-counselors, especially for men and women of eminence, required, on the one hand, that the Jesuits themselves should acquire for themselves the highest possible repute in ethics,—and hence it was requisite that they should become the literary representatives thereof,—and, on the other, that this ethics should be molded in adaptation to this end,—should make itself not disagreeable and burdensome, but should become as elastic as possible in view of different wants,—should be a “golden net for catching souls,” as the Jesuits themselves were wont to call their own pliableness. The more ramified and complex the net-work of casuistic ethics became, so much the more indispensable were the practiced conscience-counselors, or more properly, conscience-advocates; the more stairways and back doors they were able to turn attention to in conscience affairs, so much the more prized and influential they became. This explains the great compass and the peculiar 260character of Jesuitical ethics. The becoming accustomed to slippery and precipitous ways, and the pleasure in the ready-finding of sophistical authority for morally novel positions, led of itself unconsciously into still deeper error. “Accommodation” was the magic word which opened the way for a surprisingly-rich storehouse of moral rules. Confession, where made to Jesuits, lost much of its seriousness, and nowhere else was absolution so easily obtainable for those who were to be won over, nowhere penance and satisfaction so readily done with,—and this not merely in fact, but also from principle. Penance is to be chosen as light as possible; the confessor may impose as penance, on the confessing one, the good or evil which h1e can do or suffer on the same day or in the same week; the penance may, when there exists a sufficient reason, be even performed for one person by another, etc.169169   Filliucci: Moral. quaest., I, trac. 6 c. 7; Escobar: Liber th., VII, 4 c. 7 (especially n. 181, 182), comp. Ellendorf, 263 ssq., 312 ssq. Also in most cases it is not a very serious matter even if the absolved one neglects entirely the imposed penance.

The development of Jesuitical ethics is by no means a phenomenon essentially new; the bases therefor were already long extant; it is only a further building upon the same foundations. The Pelagianizing view of the moral ability of the human will and of the meritoriousness of outward works lay already at the basis of the entire system of monkish holiness, and the Jesuits went only one step further when they, in contradiction to Thomas Aquinas, taught often almost entirely as Pelagius. The earlier casuistry in its lack of fixed principles had already shaken the moral foundation; and the too great indulgence in sophistry on particular, and, in part, entirely imaginary, cases, had beclouded the unsophisticated moral consciousness; the doctrine of probabilism had been already sanctioned at Constance, and in many respects practically applied. The entanglement of the church with the then so manifoldly-complicated state of European politics, with worldly passions and rancors, and its very worldly struggles against the worldly state, had already long since undermined the purity of the ecclesiastical conscience, and the maxim, that the end sanctifies the means, had already been long practiced and approved by the church before it was, by the Jesuits (if not sanctioned in express words, 261yet in fact on the largest scale) put into practice; the per se not incorrect distinguishing of venial from mortal sins offered easy opportunity of indefinitely enlarging the sphere of the former by a limitation or a ready transforming of the sphere of the latter, while at the same time the ever-growing readiness in granting indulgences was making the sphere even of mortal sins of a less terrifying character, especially for those at whose command stood the keys to the treasure-chambers of indulgence; and in fact it was these especially, namely, the rich and noble, who enjoyed the advantages of the generosity of Jesuitic ethics. Jesuitic ethics did not indeed harmonize with the moral consciousness of the ancient church; its representatives were also well aware of this, and they hesitated not to admit that they did not recognize ancient church tradition as a criterion for morality, but wished rather to lay the foundations for a new tradition.

The chief means used for the purpose of lightening moral duty was the so-called moral probabilism, namely, the principle that in morally-doubtful cases the authority of a few eminent church-teachers, or also even of a single one (if he is a doctor gravis et probus), suffices to furnish a sententia probabilis as to a moral course of action, and hence to justify the performing of it, even if the opinion followed were per se false; nay, according to some, even if this teacher himself had declared it as only morally possible, without really approving of it. Hence, as soon as I can hunt up for an action which seems to me of doubtful propriety, or even positively wrong, a consenting opinion of an ecclesiastical authority (and of course it is best if I find it among the Jesuit doctors themselves), then am I perfectly screened by the same;170170   Laymann: Theol. mor. 1625, i, p. 9; Escobar: Liber h., prooem., exam. 3; Bresser: De consc. iii, c. 1 sq., and in almost all the others. in which connection it is to be taken into account that there is scarcely any one moral question which is not answered by different doctors in an entirely contrary sense. That thus the most opposite manners of action may be equally readily justified, the Jesuits knew very well; and Escobar even found, in the actual variety of views as to the moral, an amazing trace of Divine Providence, inasmuch as thereby the yoke of Christ is in so agreeable a manner rendered 262easy.171171   Quia ex opinionum varietate jugum Christi suavita sustinetur (Univ. theol. mor., t. i, lib. 2, 1, c. 2 in Crome, x, 182.) Although probabilism was not so immoderately extended by all the Jesuits, nevertheless it was the decidedly dominant teaching; and when the general of the order, Gonzales, in 1694, disapproved of it, many were minded to regard him as thereby deposed because of heresy, and only the protection of the Pope saved him.172172   Wolf: Gesch. d. Jesuit., 1, 173.

Probabilism is not a merely fortuitously discovered expedient, but it is in fact an almost inevitable consequence of the historical essence of Jesuitism. As the order itself arose neither on the basis of Scripture nor of ancient church-tradition, but sprang absolutely from the daring inventive power of a single man breaking through the limits of ecclesiastical actuality, hence it is not at all unnatural that it should make the authority of a single spiritually preeminent man its highest determining power, and subordinate to this the historical, objective form of the moral consciousness. When the learned moralists came to be regarded as the determining authority in morals, then the Jesuits were the masters of the world, for they were themselves the most excellent doctors. Though they absolved the inquirer from so many burdensome chains of commanding duty, though they led him in the selection between opposed authorities to a subjective discretion of decision, yet at least this point was reached, that he recognized the Jesuit priests as his liberating masters. The doctrine of probabilism can by no means be explained as a simple sequence of the Romish tradition-principle; for here the deciding element is not the authority of the church, but simply individual teachers and in fact not, the majority of authorities, but it is expressly permitted to follow173173   Escobar: Th. mor., prooeem., iii, n. 9, and many others. the lesser authority in face of the greater, and to select among several authorities the one which best pleases, even if it be the less probable one.174174   Sanchez: Op. mor., i, 9, n. 12 sqq., n. 24. Hence also the father-confessor is not at liberty, as against the probable opinions of those who confess to him, to appeal to other and higher authorities, but he must admit the former 263even should he hold them for entirely false,175175   Escobar: Th. mor. prooem., iii, n. 27; Laymann, i, p. 12; so also Diana: Resol. mor., ii, tract., 13,11 sqq., Antv., 1637; Summa, 1652, p. 216. and a doctor, when asked for moral advice needs not to impart the same exclusively according to his own judgment, but may also suggest the judgment of another though contradictory to his own, in case it is more favorable to, or more desired by, the inquirer (si forte haec illi favorabilior seu exoptatior sit); hence he may give to different persons a directly contrary answer to the same question, “only he must in this matter use discretion and prudence.”176176   Laymann, i, p. 11. Many go so far as to maintain that I not only need not follow the opinion most probable to me, but that I may even follow that one of which I hold only that it is probable that it may be probable (Tamburini).—But how is the doctrine of probability to be reconciled with the Catholic doctrine that the assent of the church is necessary in order that any course of action may be ecclesiastically valid? Bauny gives the answer: All that doctors teach in printed books has, in fact, the assent and approval of the church, provided that the church has not expressly declared it as invalid.

Though probabilism per se, as a mere formal principle, endangers morality in a high degree, substituting in the place of the moral conscience individual and arbitrary authority, and rocking the soul into false security, still it were possible that the danger of this principle should not actually realize itself, in that it might be presupposed that the theological authorities would, in all essential moral thoughts, harmonize with each other and with the Scriptures, and would show some difference only in regard to more external, unimportant questions. In this case the erroneousness of the formal principle would in some measure be remedied by the correctness of the material contents. The question rises therefore: What do the doctors who are presented as moral oracles, positively teach as to the moral?

One would be largely deceived were one to expect to find in the moral writings in question merely the loose world-morality of moral indifference, selfishness, and pleasure-seeking; on the contrary, they often present anxiously, minute 264and strict prescriptions, especially in churchly relations, so that the evangelical liberty of a Christian man would feel itself thereby in many respects largely cramped. One must here distinguish, however, between the ordinary popular morality—as it were, for home use, and indeed also for show—and the higher morality which relates to the fundamental purposes of the Jesuit order, that is, to the furtherance of the Romish church, and which is chiefly practiced by the great, in church and state, and hence also by the Jesuits themselves.—To the semi-Pelagianizing explaining-away of the sinful corruption of human nature, corresponds, on the other hand, a lowering of the moral requirements made of man; for the natural man, downy cushions are spread. We are not obligated to love God throughout our whole life, in the full sense of the word, nor even every five years, but more especially only toward the close of life.177177   Escobar: i, 2, n. 7 sqq.; v, 4, n. 1 sqq. In fact, the French Jesuit Sirmond denies the obligation of love to God on the whole; it is sufficient if we fulfill the other commandments and do not hate God;178178   Defensio virtutis, i, 1. and he found in his Order warm concurrence. So also is the love of neighbor, and especially of enemies, lowered to a degree corresponding to anti-Christian, heathen ways of thinking. And even the duties of children are placed lower than is the case among the Chinese. The fourth commandment is fulfilled by the fact that one shows due honor to his parents, though without loving them; for love is not required in the commandment. To be ashamed of one’s parents, to banish them from one’s presence, to treat them as strangers and the like, is not a severe sin; but, on the contrary, it is allowable for the son to accuse his father of heresy before the Inquisition (Busenbaum), and according to a majority of the Jesuits, as also in the opinion of Diana, he is obligated thereto; and the same holds true of brothers and sisters, and of consorts.179179   Diana: Resol. mor. i, tract., 4, 4, 5. Some of them declare it even as allowable that a son should wish his father’s death, or should rejoice at the occurrence of his death, because he has now the happiness of coming into his inheritance (Tamburini, Vasquez), or that a mother should wish the death of her daughter, in case the latter is ugly (Azorius). Malignant 265revenge is indeed forbidden, but not the taking revenge in vindication of one’s honor.

In respect to moral imputation and condemnation, most of the teachers make—in view of rendering moral desert easy—the remarkable distinction, that the action answering to the divine law is good and meritorious as such, without it being requisite thereto that the intention should be good; and that, on the contrary, sin exists only where there is really an intention of sinning. Hence if the intention is a good one, that is, promotive of the weal of the church, then the act which serves to its carrying-out cannot be sinful; and there can be a mortal sin only where the person in the moment of the act had the definite intention of doing evil, and a perfect knowledge of the same. But passion and evil habit becloud one’s knowledge and hence render the sin venial, as does also weighty evil example;180180   E. g., Laymann: i, 2, c. 3; i, 9, 3; Escob.: i, 3, n. 28; Conseuetudo absque advertentia letale peccatum non facit. and a probable opinion entirely excuses even a mortal sin. In an unimportant matter even the transgression of a divine law is not a mortal sin. Ignorance of the law excuses the mortal sin; and inveterate ignorance, the father-confessor may overlook in silence. Repentance over a committed sin is indeed necessary to the forgiveness of the same, but a very slight degree of repentance suffices, or even a desire to have repentance, or the fear of eternal punishment; and, in case of repeated sins, it is enough to feel repentance for only one of them, provided that all are confessed; nay, it even suffices that I should feel pained, not because of the sin, but because of its bad consequences, e. g., disease, dishonor;181181   Escobar: Tr. 7, 4, c. 7. it is therefore not to be wondered at when some of the doctors assert, in contradiction to others, that it is sufficient in order to the obtaining of absolution that we feel a regret at our lack of repentance (Sa, Navarra). An actual bettering of one’s life needs not to follow immediately upon repentance, as in fact the habit of sinning renders the sin itself venial. Venial sins (and in the eyes of the Jesuits this field is uncommonly large) need not to be confessed, and it is not even necessary, in connection with the sacrament of penance, to repent of them, and to form a resolution to avoid them.


Not undeserved is the notoriety of the chapters in Jesuitical ethics on falsehood, on the sexual sin, and on murder. One may intentionally use ambiguous words in one sense though knowing that the hearer understands him otherwise; and one may for a legitimate end, e. g., for self-defense, or to protect one’s family, or to practice a virtue, utter words, which, as uttered, are entirely false, and which express the true sense (which may be the opposite to the sense really expressed) only through mental additions restrictio s. reservatio mentalis); of such cases the moralists abound in remarkable illustrations;182182    Sanchez: Opus mor., iii, 6, 12 sqq.; Summa: i, 3, 6; Diana: ii, tr. 15, 25 sqq.; iii, tr. 6, 30, where many cases are cited and approved; Ellendorf: pp. 42 sqq., 52 sqq., 124 sqq., 157 sqq.; Crome: x, 142 sqq. e. g., when some one wishes to borrow something of me which I do not like to let him have, I am at liberty to say, “I have it not,” namely, by adding mentally, “in order to give it to thee;” if some one asks of me something which I do not wish to tell, I am at liberty to answer, “I know it not,” namely, as obligated to communicate it; if I am asked as to a crime of which I am the sole witness, I am at liberty to say, “I know it not,” mentally adding, “as a thing publicly known;” if I have hidden away a quantity of provision of which I have need, then I may swear before the court, “I have nothing,” mentally adding, “which I am bound to disclose.” A priest threatened with death may, without real intentio, that is, merely in appearance, pronounce absolution, administer sacraments, etc. An adulterous wife, when questioned by her husband, may swear that she did not commit adultery, adding mentally: “on this or that day,” or “in order to reveal it to thee.” He who comes from a scene of pestilence, but is convinced that he is not infected, may swear that he does not come from such a place. When a poor debtor is pressed by a hard creditor, he may swear before the court that he owes nothing to the other, in that he adds mentally, “in order to pay it right away.” I may deny, before the court, every trespass or crime which has any manner of excuse, namely, by adding mentally, “as a crime.” Is, qui ex necessitate vel aliqua utilitate offert se ad jurandum nemine petente, potest uti amphibologiis, nam habet justam causam iis utendi (Sanchez, 267Diana). In general, all such untruths are allowed EX JUSTA CAUSA, namely, quando id necessario est, vel utile ad salutem corporis, honoris aut rerum familiarum, or when an improper question is addressed to us; on the contrary, to swear falsely without a good reason is a mortal sin (Diana); this is—though not in express words yet certainly in sense—the maxim which is disavowed by the more recent Jesuits, namely, that the end sanctifies the means. A promise obligates to its fulfillment only when one actually had, at the time of promising, the intention of fulfilling it.183183   Escobar: iii, 3, n. 48. Hence an oath is binding only when one meant it earnestly; otherwise it is to be regarded as a mere blame-worthy indeed, though not obligating, piece of trifling (Sanchez, Busenbaum, Escobar, Less, Diana), and it obligates only in the sense in which, by mental reservations, it was intended, and not in that in which, by its form of expression, it would have to be understood by the other; and knowingly to mislead any one into a false oath, who, however, acts in good faith, is no sin, since in fact he who unknowingly swears falsely does no evil thereby;184184   Ibid., i, 3, n. 31. to swear falsely from bad habit, is only a venial sin. If any one swears that he will never drink wine, then he seriously sins only when he drinks much, but not when he drinks but little (Escobar). He who swears before a court that he will tell all that he knows, is not bound to tell that which he alone knows (Less).185185   Compare Diana: iii, t. 5,100 sqq.

The sexual relations are discussed by the Jesuits in a so immorally-detailed circumstantiality that the laxity of moral judgment (elsewhere without parallel) is rendered thereby all the more pernicious and condemnable.186186   Escobar: i, 8; v, 2; Busenbaum: iii, 4; especially Sanchez; De matrim.; so also Diana; comp. Ellendorf: 30 sqq., 95 sqq., 288 sqq., 331 sqq. A maiden who has committed unchastity for the first time is not required, even when she is, as yet, under the oversight of her parents, to give, in making her confession, this circumstance, namely, that it is the first and hence more serious case, for the freely consenting virgin does a wrong neither to herself nor to her parents, inasmuch as she has discretionary power over her virginal purity. 268(Quum sit domina sua integritatis virginalis).187187   Escobar: Liber, etc., princ. ii, n. 41; so also Bauny. For all possible kinds of unchastity, apologies and excuses are invented;188188   E. g., Diana: ii, t. 16, 54; 17, 62 ssq.; iii, 5, 87 sqq.; iv, 4, 36, 37,—in the spirit of many of the Jesuits. and Tamburini even fixes with great exactness the taxes for public women. Tile discussions of the moralists on these subjects are, in many respects, of so indelicate a character, that the judgment of the Episcopal censor, printed in the work of Sanchez, (t. 2.), namely, summa voluptate perlegi, sounds almost too naïve.—Under the head of murder, the Jesuits had the task of accommodating themselves to the then prevalent moral notions of the South-European nations, and the result of their labors was an ingeniously constructed code of murder.189189   Especially Escobar: i, 7; comp. Ellendorf: 72 sqq.The murdering of a person, even of an innocent one, may under circumstances be allowable, not indeed simply in case of self-defense, but also in other cases,—for example, in case of severe insult, inasmuch as the insulted one would otherwise pass as dishonored; and even when the insulted one is a monk or priest, he may, according to some authorities, kill his opposer (Escobar i, c. 3, Less, and others); and several Jesuits directly maintained that any one, even a priest or monk, is entitled to anticipate an intended slander or false accusation by secret murder; for this would not amount to murder, but simply to self-defense;190190   Sanchez: Summa, t. i, 2, 39, 7; Amicus: De jure et justitia, v, sec. 7, 118; comp. Diana: iii, tr. 5, 97, ed. Antv. 1637. and this was expressly applied to the case where a monk should have reason to fear the disclosures of his mistress. When a knight, in fleeing from the enemy, cannot otherwise rescue himself than by riding over an infant child or a beggar, then is the killing of these innocent persons allowable, save only in case that the child is not as yet baptized (Escobar, c. 3, 52),—which would apparently be rather difficult for the knight to know. Killing in self-defense is allowable even where the self-defender is caught in a crime, and that, too, where the killing is beforehand intended, e. g., when he who is caught in adultery kills the injured husband (Escobar i, 7, c. 2, 5, 13; 3, 35; i, 8, n. 61). A woman may stiletto her husband when she knows definitely that this same fate threatens her from him, and when she knows no other escape (Less). He who has secretly 269committed adultery may kill the single witness thereof who is on the point of accusing him, for this witness is not under obligation to make this accusation; however, adds the Jesuit, civil law has unfortunately not assented to this probable opinion (Escobar i, 7, n. 39). He who without his own fault is required to accept, or to challenge to, a duel, does wisely to put his opponent out of the way by secret murder, for thereby he protects himself from the assault, and his opponent from a serious sin.191191   Sanchez: Opus mor. ii, 39, 7. Escobar is unwilling to see him who murders his enemy secretly shut out, just like a common murderer, from the right of asylum (6, 4, n. 26). According to some teachers—the majority, however, think otherwise—a pregnant maiden may procure an abortion in order to escape the shame.192192   Crome, x, 229; Escobar, i, 7, n. 59, 64. According to Azor, a physician may administer a less certainly effectual medicine although he has with him a more certain one, and even when it is more probable that the less effectual one may do harm; for he has after all some probability on his side.193193   In Escobar: Princ. iii, n. 25,—who, however, himself disapproves thereof. Tamburini justifies the castration of singers for the service of the church. The doctrine—notorious in church-history—of the justifiableness of tyrant-murder, we need only mention in passing, as well as also the almost demagogic doctrine of the merely-relatively valid and purely human right of princes, and of the right to disobey law on the part of the people, as being themselves sovereign.194194   Perrault, ii, 304 sqq.; Stäudlin, 503; Ellendorf, 360 sqq. In this political respect is especially notorious the work of the Spanish Jesuit, Mariana, (De rege. 1598, 1605), according to which, a king who oppresses religion or violates the laws of the state may be killed by any of his subjects, openly or by poison; the murderer, even if his attempt fails, renders himself meritorious in the eyes of God and man, and wins immortal renown (comp. the view of John of Salisbury, § 34). It is chiefly these revolutionary doctrines that brought the order to its fall; with its other moral views the secular world could have put up with much better grace.

The maxims of the Jesuits disseminated themselves like 270an infectious disease far beyond the circle of their own Order, as is shown by the comprehensive works of the already mentioned Sicilian, Antony Diana (clericus regularis),195195   Resolutiones morales, Antv., 1629-37, 4 fol., Lugd. 1667, Venet., 1728. who taught, under the express approbatio of his ecclesiastical superiors, and also of the Jesuits, the doctrine of probabilism in its worst forms. One may act according to a probable opinion and disregard the more probable one; man is not under obligation to follow the more perfect and the more certain, but it suffices to follow simply the certain and perfect; it would be an unendurable burden were one required to hunt out the more probable opinions;196196   Res. mor., Antv., 1637, ii, tract. 13; iv, tr. 3; Summa, 1652, p. 214. the most of the Jesuits taught the same thing. In relation to murder, he teaches like Escobar; I am at liberty to kill even him who assails my honor, if my honor cannot otherwise be rescued.197197   Ibid., iii, 5, 90; Summa, pp. 210, 212. When some one has resolved upon a great sin, then one is at liberty to recommend to him a lesser one, because such advice does not relate absolutely to an evil, but to a good, namely, the avoiding of the worse; for example, if I cannot otherwise dissuade a person from an intended adultery than recommending to him fornication instead thereof, then it is allowable to recommend this to him, not, however, in so far as it is a sin, but in so far as it prevents the sin of adultery; Diana appeals in this connection to many like-judging Jesuit doctors.198198   Res. mor., Antv., 1637, iii, tract. 5, 37. If a priest commissions Peter to kill Caius, who is weaker than Peter, but nevertheless Peter comes out second best and gets killed himself, still the priest incurs no guilt, and may continue in the administration of his office.199199   Ibid., ii, tract. 15, 17. He who resolves upon committing all possible venial sins, does not thereby involve himself in any mortal sin200200   Ibid., iii, tr. 6, 24. He who ex aliqua justa causa rents a house to another for purposes of prostitution, commits no sin.201201   Ibid., iii, tr. 6, 45. To eat human flesh, in case of necessity, he holds with the majority of the Jesuits, as allowable.202202   Ibid., 6, 48. He who in virtue of a promise of marriage induces a maiden to yield to him, is not bound by his promise, in case he is of higher rank or richer than she, or in case he can persuade himself that she will not take his promise in serious earnest.203203   Resol. mor., Antv., iii, 6, 81; in the spirit of Sanchez and Less. 271Marriage between brother and sister can be made legitimate by Papal dispensation.204204   Ibid., iv, tr., 4, 94; sanctioned by several Jesuits.— In such moral perversity of view Diana seems only to have been surpassed by the Spanish Netherlander Cistercian, Lobkowitz,205205   Theol. mor., 1645, 1652; the work itself I have not been able to find; comp. Perrault: i, 331 sqq. who, in his skepticism, entirely breaks down the moral consciousness, and declares that nothing is evil per se, but only because it is positively forbidden; hence God can dispense even from all the commandments (comp. the views of Duns Scotus, § 34),—can, e. g., allow whoredom and other like sins, for none of these are evil per se. Monks and priests are at liberty to kill the female misused by them, when they fear, on her account, for their honor. This writer declares himself expressly and decidedly in favor of the views of the Jesuits.—Also the Franciscan order became infected with the maxims of the Jesuits, as is proved by the very voluminous work of Barthol. Mastrius de Mandula,206206   Ibid., 1626. which was published under the express sanction of the officers of the order, and who justifies restrictiones mentales even in oaths,207207   Disp., xi, 52, 171, 172, 183, (ed. Ven. 1723.) and also the murder of tyrants,208208   Ibid., viii, 27. the murders of the slanderers of an important person, castration and similar things,209209   Ibid., viii, 25, 28; xi, 110 sqq. as well as also probabilism.

The moral system of the Jesuits is not, strictly speaking, that of the Romish church; many of their more extreme maxims the church has condemned, and the more recent Jesuits themselves find it advisable no longer fully to avow their former principles. Nevertheless Jesuitism, together with its system of morals, is the ultimate consequential goal of the church in its turning-aside from the Gospel, just as (though in other respects widely different therefrom) Talmudism was the necessary goal of Judaism in its rejection of the Saviour. The error consists in the placing of human discretion and authority in the stead of the unconditionally valid, revealed will of God. Even as earlier Catholicism had intensified the divine command by self-invented, ascetic work-holiness into a seemingly greater severity,—had aimed 272at a higher moral perfection than that required by God,—so Jesuitism with like presumption lowered the moral law, out of consideration to temporal relations, to a merest minimum requirement,—contented itself with a much lower moral perfection than the divine law calls for, and sought out cunning means for lightening even this minimum. Jesuitical ethics is the opposite pole of monastic ethics; what the latter requires too much, the former requires too little. Monastic morality sought to win God for the sinful world; Jesuitical morality seeks to win the sinful world, not indeed for God, but at least for the church. Monasticism said to God, though not in an evangelical sense: “if I have only thee, then I ask for nothing else in heaven or earth;” Jesuitism says about the same thing, but says it to the world, and particularly to the distinguished and powerful. The former turns away in indignant contempt from the worldly life, because the world is immersed in sin; the latter generously receives the same into itself, and turns attention away from guilt, by denying it. It is true, the Jesuits represent also a monastic Order, but this order is only a means to an end, and resembles the other nobler orders about as much as wily Renard resembles the pious Pilgrim; and the well-known hostility of the older orders to this brilliantly rising new one, was not mere jealousy, but a very natural, and, for the most part. moral protest against the spirit of the same.

Other casuists are: Jacobus à Graffiis, a Benedictine (Consiliorum s. respons. cas. consc. 1610, 2, 4to.); Pontas of Paris (Examen general de conscience, 1728; Latin, 1731, 8 fol., alphabetical); the French bishop Genettus (ob. 1702, Theologie morale; also in Latin, 1706, 2, 4to., earnest and rigid); the Dominican Perazzo, in his Thomisticus ecclesiastes (1700, 3 fol.), digested the ethics of Thomas Aquinas into an alphabetical register; Malder of Antwerp treated it more systematically (De virtutibus theologicis, 1616).

In a more systematic form, a purer Christian spirit, and, in many respects, opposed to Jesuitical views, and corresponding rather to Mediaeval ethics, is the moral treatise of the French bishop Godeau (1709); Natalis Alexander (1693) treated the same subject in a similar spirit, in connection with dogmatics.

« Prev Section XXXVIII. Romish Ethics. Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |