Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
487
CASUS BELLI—CAT

was some good reason for giving it even when there were other and better reasons for refusing it. This principle does not deserve all the abuse that has been lavished upon it. It secured uniformity in the confessional, and thereby protected the penitent from the caprices of individual priests; and by depriving these of responsibility, it forced the penitent back on himself. But the gain was more than counterbalanced by the evil. The less the Church could expect from its penitents, the more it was driven to trust to the miraculous efficiency of sacramental grace. Once get a sinner to confession, and the whole work was done. However bad his natural disposition, the magical words of absolution would make him a new man. As for most penitents, all they cared for was to scrape through by the skin of their teeth. Casuistry might insist that it only proposed to fix the minimum of a minimum, and beg them for their soul’s sake to aim a little higher. Human nature seldom resists the charms of a fixed standard—least of all when it is applied by a live judge in a visible court. If the priest must be satisfied with little, why be at the trouble of offering more? For this reason, probabilism found vigorous opponents in Bossuet and other eminent divines; and various of its excesses were condemned by the popes during the latter half of the 17th century. After a long eclipse it was finally re-established, though in a very modified form, by Alfonso Liguori about the middle of the 18th century.

In Protestant countries casuistry shrank and dwindled, though works on the subject continued to be written both in Germany and England during the 17th century. The best known of the Anglican books is Jeremy Taylor’s Ductor Dubitantium (1660). But the Protestant casuist never pretended to speak authoritatively; all he did was to give his reasons, and leave the decision to the conscience of his readers. “In all this discourse,” says Bishop Sanderson, one of the best of the English writers, “I take it upon me not to write edicts, but to give my advice.” Very soon, however, these relics of casuistry were swept away by the rising tide of common-sense. The 18th century loved to discuss hard cases of conscience, as a very cursory glance at Fielding’s novels (1742–1751) or Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1791) will show. But the age was incurably suspicious of attempts to deal with such difficulties on any kind of technical system. Pope was never tired of girding at
“Morality by her false guardians drawn,
 Chicane in furs, and casuistry in lawn”
while Fielding has embodied the popular conception of a casuist in Parson Thwackum and Philosopher Square, both of whom only take to argument when they want to reason themselves out of some obvious duty. Still more outspoken is the Savoyard vicar in the Émile (1762) of Jean Jacques Rousseau: “Whence do I get my rules of action? I find them in my heart. All I feel to be good is good; all I feel to be evil is evil. Conscience is the best of casuists; it is only when men wish to cheat it that they fly to logical quibbles.” Extravagant as this sentiment sounds, it paved the way to better things. The great object of 17th-century moralists had been to find some general principle from which the whole of ethics could be deduced; common-sense, by turning its back on abstract principles of every kind, forced the philosophers to come down to the solid earth, and start by inquiring how the world does make up its mind in fact. During the last two centuries deduction has gone steadily out, and psychology come in. Ethics have become more distinctively a science, instead of an awkward hybrid between a science and an art; their business has been to investigate what moral conduct is, not to lay down the law as to what it ought to be. Hence they deliberately refuse to engage in casuistry of the old-fashioned sort. Further, it is increasingly felt that ethical judgments do not depend on reason alone, but involve every element in our character; and that the real problem of practical morality is to establish a harmonious balance between the intelligence and the feelings—to make a man’s “I think this is right” correspond with his “I feel that it is so.” Whether systematic training can do anything to make the attainment of this balance easier is a question that has lately engaged the attention of many educational reformers; and whatever future casuistry may still have before it would seem to lie along the lines indicated by them.

There is an excellent study of the ancient casuists by M. Raymond Thamin, Un Problème moral dans l’antiquité (Paris, 1884). For the Roman Catholic casuists see Döllinger und Reusch, Moralstreitigkeiten im siebzehnten Jahrhundert (2 vols., Nördlingen, 1889), and various articles (“Casuistik,” “Ethik,” “Moralsysteme,” &c.) in Wetzer and Welte’s Kirchenlexicon (Freiburg, 1880–1896). See also the editions of Pascal’s Provincial Letters, by John de Soyres (with English notes, Cambridge, 1880), and A. Molinier (2 vols., Paris, 1891). The Anglican casuists are discussed in Whewell, Lectures on Moral Philosophy (London, 1862). For general reflections on the subject see the appendix to Jowett’s edition of the Epistle to the Romans (London, 1855). Most modern text-books on ethics devote some attention to the matter—notably F. H. Bradley in his Ethical Studies (London, 1876). See also Hastings Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil (2 vols., Oxford, 1907).  (St. C.) 


CASUS BELLI, the technical term for cases in which a state holds itself justified in making war, if a certain course to which it objects is persisted in. Interference with the full exercise of a nation’s rights or independence, an affront to its dignity, an unredressed injury, are instances of casus belli. Most of the new compulsory treaties of arbitration entered into by Great Britain and other states exclude from their application cases affecting the “vital interests” or “national honour” of the contracting states. These may therefore be considered as a sort of definition of casus belli in so far as the high contracting parties to them are concerned.


CAT,[1] properly the name of the well-known domesticated feline animal usually termed by naturalists Felis domestica, but in a wider sense employed to denote all the more typical members of the family Felidae. According to the New English Dictionary, although the origin of the word “cat” is unknown, yet the name is found in Various languages as far back as they can be traced. In old Western Germanic it occurs, for instance, so early as from A.D. 400 to 450; in old High German it is chazza or catero, and in Middle German kattaro. Both in Gaelic and in old French it is cat, although sometimes taking the form of chater in the latter; the Gaelic designation of the European wild cat being cat fiadhaich. In Welsh and Cornish the name is cath. If Martial’s cattae refer to this animal, the earliest Latin use of the name dates from the 1st century of our era. In the work of Palladius on agriculture, dating from about the year A.D. 350, reference is made to an animal called catus or cattus, as being useful in

  1. The word “cat” is applied to various objects, in all cases an application of the name of the animal. In medieval siegecraft the “cat” (Med. Lat. chattus or gattus, chatta or gatta, in Fr. chat or chatchasteil) was a movable pent-house used to protect besiegers when approaching a wall or gateway, for the purpose of sapping, mining or direct attack, or to cover a ram or other battering-engine. The word is also sometimes applied to a heavy timber fitted with iron spikes or projections to be thrown down upon besiegers, and to the large work known as a, “cavalier.” “Cat” or “cat-head,” in nautical usage, is the projecting beam on the bows of a ship used to clear the anchor from the sides of the vessel when weighed. The stock of the anchor rests on the cat-head when hung outside the ship. The name is also used of a type of a vessel, now obsolete, and formerly used in the coal and timber trade on the north-east coast of England; it had a deep waist and narrow stem; it is still applied to a small rig of sailing boats, with a single mast stepped far forward, with a fore and aft sail. Among other objects also known by the name of “cat” is the small piece of wood pointed at either end used in the game of tip-cat, and the instrument of punishment, generally known as the “cat o’ nine tails.” This consists of a handle of wood or rope, about 18 in. long, with nine knotted cords of thongs. The multiplication of thongs for purposes of flogging is found in the old Roman flagellum, a scourge, which had sometimes three thongs with bone or, bronze knots fastened to them. The “cat” was the regular instrument with which floggings were performed in the British army and navy. Since the abolition of flogging in the services, the use of the cat is now restricted to certain classes of offenders in military prisons (Army Act 1881, § 133). In the English criminal law, where corporal punishment is ordered by the court for certain criminal offences, the “cat” is used only where the prisoner is over sixteen years of age. It may not be used except when actually ordered in the sentence, and must be of a pattern approved by a secretary of state. Further floggings are inflicted with the “cat” upon convicted prisoners for breaches of discipline in prison. They must be ordered by the visitors of the prison and confirmed by the home secretary.