Eleonora Rai, University of Turin | KU Leuven, Eleonora.Rai@kuleuven.be

The Salvation of the Soul: Leonard Lessius’ Theology of Freedom and Moral Economy (1554-1623)


This presentation focuses on the Flemish, Jesuit theologian and jurist Leonard Lessius’ (1554–1623) views of free will and human freedom as the keystone of both his doctrines of salvation and moral economy, even at the expense of divine sovereign authority. Employing a rich set of sources, such as correspondence, censures, and Lessius’ treatise De Iustitia et Iure, and using especially the examples of usury in Lessius’ theories, this study shows  how Lessius’ probabilistic approach to economy has a deeper foundation in the theology of salvation. It also considers how the Jesuit took into account his penitents’ soteriological emotions (i.e. hope of being saved and fear of being damned) and the idea of social utility for addressing moral cases of conscience and eventually overturning in practice the Church’s prohibitions in economic matters, especially usury.

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