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Caramuel, Juan Lobkowitz


Cistercian bishop, moral theologian, and mathematician; b. Madrid, Spain, May 23, 1606; d. Vigevano, Italy, Sept. 8, 1682. He studied philosophy at Alcalá, entered the Cistercians at Palencia in 1623, continued his sacred studies at Salamanca, and taught for three years in monasteries of his order. He was missioned to the monastery of Dunes, Spanish Flanders, and in 1638 he received his doctorate in theology from the University of Louvain.

He then became titular abbot of Melrose, Scotland, and vicar for the Cistercian abbeys of Ireland, England, and Scotland. Later named abbot of Dissembourg in the Diocese of Mayence, he drew much attention by his preaching and became suffragan to the bishop of Mayence. The King of Spain then sent him to the court of the Emperor, Ferdinand III, who gave him the Benedictine Abbeys of Montserrat and Vienna. At the same time he became vicar general to the archbishop of Prague. During a siege he organized the ecclesiastics and was praised for helping to defend the city.

In 1655 he was cited to Rome to answer for some of his writings but is said to have satisfied and amazed Pope Alexander VII with his learning. He became bishop of Compagna-Satriano in the Kingdom of Naples in 1657. This see he resigned in 1673; he was then named bishop of Vigevano (Pavia) in central Italy.

Caramuel was a man of extraordinarily broad learning. He spoke 24 languages and wrote more than 250 works in grammar, poetry, mathematics, astronomy, physics, politics, Canon Law, logic, metaphysics, theology, and asceticism. However, he had a penchant for the singular and even the bizarre. In dogma he engaged in speculation that was regarded as temerarious, and a number of his works were put on the Index. In moral theology he tried to reduce everything to mathematical formulas, and he maintained that even the most difficult problems relating to grace could be resolved with ruler and compass. He appeared to use probabilism as a means of attenuating the obligation of law and was dubbed by St. Alphonsus Liguori with the unenviable title, "Prince of Laxists." The restless energy of his mind and laxity of his moral thought are illustrated in the following passage from his Theologia fundamentalis:

I am a man of sharp and fervid intelligence. One moment I am in the heavens, the next in the depths. A fly cannot move in chapel without distracting me. I do not avoid distractions; they come by the thousands and sometimes they are voluntary. Yet I suffer no scruple on that account, for I reasonably suppose that I am obliged to no internal activity [in prayer]To have it is good, yet to lack it involves not even a slight fault.[n.442; cited by D. Prummer, Manuale Theologiae Moralis (Freiburg im Br. 1928) 2.302.

Bibliography: v. oblet, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 2.2:170912. r. brouillard, Catholicisme 2:527528. l. f. o'neil, The Catholic Encyclopedia 3:329330. Nomenclatur literarius theologiae catholicae 4:604610.

[p. f. mulhern]

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