A recent article from the WSJ described how Resorts and Hotels are dropping the word ‘resort’ from their names in order to attract business. As tolerance for corporate excess becomes less fashionable, companies want to ‘appear’ to be scaling back on business trips and conferences.
This does not mean anything about the hotel or the business trip has changed at all. It just looks better to the public. It is also another example of ‘casuistry.’ Casuistry is “resolving of specific cases of conscience… through interpretation of ethical principles or religious doctrine,” (m-w.com). The second definition is “specious argument or rationalization.”
Casuistry is making highly nuanced arguments or defenses to explain away what you know (at some level) is wrong. Casuistry is what Jesus inveighs against when speaking of the Pharisees and their traditions (Mark 7:1-13). They use reasoning with their tradition to ‘outwit’ the word of God.
These theological self-justifying gymnastics may get us off the hook or even makes us feel better. We all use casuistry and rationalization to give reasons why we fail to keep a diet, exercise, or give more to Haiti. But in the end they are minds games that act as barriers to the gospel. Jesus and St. Paul want our word to be enough and our yes to be yes, not just because we should be people of integrity, but because strait talk is honest talk. And honest talk puts the focus on us which takes our sin into account (Mk7:14-23). And awareness of sin leads directly to the sweet sound of forgiveness. There is no better destination than that.
p.s. I humbly request a casuistry competition. Please comment with some of the more intriguing examples of casuistry you have found.