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Catholic Dictionary




The theological science of applying general moral principles to particular cases of conscience. It began in the post-Apostolic age and found early expression in the penitential books, which dealt with a variety of moral failings and their appropriate forms of satisfaction. Later on came the Summas on Penance, which formed complete legal digests. St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) systematized casuistry in modern times. Although the term has taken on some unsavory meanings, due mainly to critics of Roman Catholic moral practice, casuistry is an integral part of the Church's moral tradition. Its purpose is to adapt the unchangeable norms of Christian morality to the changing and variable circumstances of human life. (Etym. Latin casus, case, problem to be solved.)