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Adrian of Utrecht (1459–1523) at the crossroads of law and morality: conscience, equity, and the legal nature of Early Modern practical theology

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This paper investigates the interconnection between moral theology and legal thought in the work of Adrian of Utrecht (1459–1523). It is shown that early modern Catholic theology as it was practised at the University of Louvain cannot be properly understood without reference to the scholarly disputes in the law faculties. The legal character of practical theology draws on a long tradition that reaches back at least to the late medieval manuals for confessors. The legal nature of Adrian of Utrecht’s moral theology, in particular, will be illustrated through an analysis of the sixth among his Quastiones quodlibeticae (1515). In the context of a discussion on the question of whether statutory provisions are binding in conscience, Adrian develops compelling ideas about the use of equity as a tool for the interpretation of laws. He then applies this general theory to the interpretation of the precept of fraternal correction.


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