An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

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The study of cases or situations in light of moral goods, principles, duties, and consequences. Casuistry arises from conflicts of conscience where in a particular situation more than one course of action appears good or bad, right or wrong. Called "cases of conscience," casuistry sees moral reasoning and judgment as evolving as new circumstances lead to new choices. The critique of the abuse of casuistry, most notably by Blaise Pascal in the seventeenth century, has given casuistry a negative connotation associated with subtle distinctions and twisted logic. But casuistry has a much broader tradition, including casuistic study of the Talmud by Jewish rabbis and Islamic application of the Koran. Christian casuistry began in the late sixth century with the development of penitentials and reached its culmination in moral theology as shaped by the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Protestants rejected penitential confession, given its abuse in a system of penances and indulgences, and they also rejected the Roman Catholic casuistic tradition. However, the English Puritans and the Anglicans of the seventeenth century developed a casuistic tradition. Most notable among Anglicans are Jeremy Taylor's Ductor Dubitantium (1660) and the work of twentieth-century Anglican moralist Kenneth Kirk. A contemporary renewal of casuistry began in the development of biomedical ethics. It has continued in other areas such as business ethics and professional ethics.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.