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Just War, Royal Conscience and the Crisis of Theological Counsel in the Early Seventeenth Century

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This article explores how scholastic just war theories and concepts of theological counsel became increasingly problematic in the run-up to the Thirty Years War. It identifies increasing conceptual difficulties due to probabilism, religiously inspired contemporary warfare, and skeptical readings of the Old Testament. Such theoretical problems were exacerbated in the context of the struggle for European hegemony with French pamphleteers starting to ridicule theological discourse in order to denounce Spanish dominance, in particular during the Valtelline crisis. Scholastic just war traditions were so fundamentally discredited that the former royal confessor Caussin was eventually forced to abandon them. Instead he tried to recover theological authority and to safeguard the essence of scholastic just war teachings through a pacified reading of the Old Testament. Though ultimately unsuccessful, his adaptations bear witness to profound changes in the appreciation of the scholastic heritage as well as in the decline of moral theology for political decision-making.

Affiliations: 1: University of Durham


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