Le Rigorisme Chretien

Article excerpt

Quantin,Jean-Louis. Le Rigorisme chretien. [Histoire du Christianisme.] (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf. 2001. Pp. 161. 95F paperback.)

This short book or rather extended essay by a younger-generation scholar fills a need that has been long felt. Terminology seems never used with precision, and there has always been much confusion about the polemics in the decades after the Council of Trent in regard to laxism and rigorism in Catholic moral discourse. Quantin traces the history quickly, giving fine references that cannot be verified exactly since they generally do not include the page numbers in the sources. Even so, rigorism is not easily pinned down. like the ever-slippery "Jansenism," it may in pastoral practice refer more to broader tendencies from various quarters. Still the word in itself was "born" in 1670 in the Spanish Netherlands. The University of Louvain and the clergy formed by its influence (bishops were selected from the Faculty of Theology) often recommended a delayed absolution for penitents. This delay was intended to produce the fruits of contrition and conversion before absolution could be given. Those who opposed this practice labeled their adversaries "rigorists." Later, the French equivalent would sometimes be called by the name of petits collets." Besides this penitential current, there was the question in theology of probabilism and probabiliorism, opposed by those perceived as "rigorist. …