The next step was to force the confessors to accept their lax interpretation of the law; and this was accomplished by their famous theory of probabilism - first taught in Spain about 1580.
For this reason, probabilism found vigorous opponents in Bossuet and other eminent divines; and various of its excesses were condemned by the popes during the latter half of the 17th century.
The general's supremacy received a shock when the eleventh general congregation appointed Oliva as vicar, with the right of succession and powers that practically superseded those of the general Goswin Nickel, whose infirmities, it is said, did not permit him to govern with the necessary application and vigour; and an attempt was made to depose Tirso Gonzalez, the thirteenth general, whose views on probabilism diverged from those favoured by the rest of the Jesuits.
Newman (1801-1890), maintaining the authority of conscience and the probabilism of the understanding, concluded to the necessity of a higher authority in the primitive church.
After long controversy, St Alfonso Liguori's doctrine of Probabilism (originated by Molina) definitely triumphed everywhere.
To the Jesuits, the foremost champions in this struggle, it seemed indis pensable that the confessional should be made attrac tive; for this purpose ecclesiastico-moral law must be somehow " accommodated " to worldly needs; and the theory of " Probabilism " supplied a plausible method for effecting this accommodation.
The results to which this Probabilism, applied with an earnest desire to avoid dangerous rigour, led in the 17th century were revealed to the world in the immortal Lettres provinciales of Pascal.