Casuistry

The science of applying the standards of ethics, or moral principles, to bear on particular kinds of cases. The word is generally restricted to an established code, though it can refer to individual judgment. Its true, though difficult, function is to make the larger moral principles clear in the complexities of human situations. In theology and ethics it concerns questions of conduct and conscience. Its history includes the development of “universal private penance,” evolving into a system of complete legal digests. The Jesuits of post- Reformation days used casuistry to defend conduct that appeared wrong to the intuition of common sense, developing “Probabilism,”* which held that an action may be justified if supported by the opinion of one Christian doctor.