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St Alphonsus

(1696—1787)


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(1696–1787),

founder of the Redemptorists and moral theologian. Alfonso Maria dei Liguori practised at the bar before he was ordained in 1726. He became a close friend of Tommaso Falcoia, who had taken part in the foundation of a house of nuns at Scala, near Amalfi. When Falcoia became Bp. of Castellammare in 1730, Alphonsus moved to Scala and in 1731 reorganized the nuns (the first ‘Redemptoristines’). In 1732 he founded the ‘Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer’ or ‘Redemptorists’ for men in a house nearby. Falcoia was technically their director until his death (1743), when Alphonsus was formally elected Superior-General. In 1762 he reluctantly accepted the see of Sant' Agata dei Goti, which he resigned in 1775.

Alphonsus sought to commend the Gospel to a sceptical age by gentle and direct methods, believing that the rigorism of the contemporary confessional repelled rather than won back sinners. He set out his ideals in his celebrated Theologia Moralis (1753–5). In the debate on how far it is allowable to follow any ‘probable’ opinion in matters of conduct, he developed a system known as ‘Equiprobabilism’ (q.v.). His devotional writings were popular, though their exuberance made them a target of criticism. Feast day, 1 (formerly 2) Aug.

Subjects: Christianity.


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