1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Escobar y Mendoza, Antonio
ESCOBAR Y MENDOZA, ANTONIO (1589–1669), Spanish churchman of illustrious descent, was born at Valladolid in 1589. He was educated by the Jesuits, and at the age of fifteen took the habit of that order. He soon became a famous preacher, and his facility was so great that for fifty years he preached daily, and sometimes twice a day. In addition he was a voluminous writer, and his works fill eighty-three volumes. His first literary efforts were Latin verses in praise of Ignatius Loyola (1613) and the Virgin Mary (1618); but he is best known as a writer on casuistry. His principal works belong to the fields of exegesis and moral theology. Of the latter the best known are Summula casuum conscientiae (1627); Liber theologiae moralis (1644), and Universae theologiae moralis problemata (1652–1666). The first mentioned of these was severely criticised by Pascal in the fifth and sixth of his Provincial Letters, as tending to inculcate a loose system of morality. It contains the famous maxim that purity of intention may be a justification of actions which are contrary to the moral code and to human laws; and its general tendency is to find excuses for the majority of human frailties. His doctrines were disapproved of by many Catholics, and were mildly condemned by Rome. They were also ridiculed in witty verses by Molière, Boileau and La Fontaine, and gradually the name Escobar came to be used in France as a synonym for a person who is adroit in making the rules of morality harmonize with his own interests. Escobar himself is said to have been simple in his habits, a strict observer of the rules of his order, and unweariedly zealous in his efforts to reform the lives of those with whom he had to deal. It has been said of him that “he purchased heaven dearly for himself, but gave it away cheap to others.” He died on the 4th of July 1669.