views updated


Compensationism is the moral system according to which in a doubt of conscience concerning the morality of a certain course of conduct, one may follow the opinion for liberty when there are sufficient reasons to compensate for the danger of a material transgression of the law. The proponents of this system teach that a doubtful law, being imperfectly known, binds imperfectly. Hence, per se it must be obeyed. But, per accidens, there can be sufficient reasons for running the risk of a material sin by following the opinion for liberty. The sufficiency of the reasons must be judged for each particular case in accordance with the circumstances, especially the gravity of the law and the grade of probability of the opinion for liberty. Thus, this system is based on the principle of the double effect. Accordingly, in some instances the opinion for liberty could not be followed even if it were equally probable; in other instances it could be followed even if it were the less probable. Because of the difficulty of computing the compensating benefits for each case, this system has few adherents. Its most prominent exponent in the twentieth century was D. prÜmmer, O.P.

See Also: conscience; morality, systems of; doubt, moral; reflex principles.

Bibliography: d. m. prÜmmer, Manuale theologiae moralis, ed. e. m. mÜnch, 3 v. (10th ed. Barcelona 194546) 1:344. j. aertnys and c. a. damen, Theologia moralis, 2 v. (16th ed. Turin 1950) 1:101, 124. m. zalba, Theologiae moralis compendium, 2 v. (Madrid 1958) 1:677. a. tanquerey, Synopsis theologiae moralis et pastoralis, 3 v. (Paris 1925) 2:441442.

[f. j. connell]