Wednesday, May 28, 2003


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Max
Date: May 21, 2003

You seem to know a good deal of the history, but this old Catholic Encyclopedia article may be instructive [See "Married Priests in Iceland," The Rittenhouse Review, May 20.]:

Finally, in 1123, at the First Lateran Council, an enactment was passed (confirmed more explicitly in the Second Lateran Council, can. vii) which, while not in itself very plainly worded, was held to pronounce the marriages contracted by subdeacons or ecclesiastics of any of the higher orders to be invalid (contracta quoque matrimonia ab hujusmodi personis disjungi…judicamus -- can. xxi).

This may be said to mark the victory of the cause of celibacy. Henceforth all conjugal relations on the part of the clergy in sacred orders were reduced in the eyes of canon law to mere concubinage. Neither can it be pretended that this legislation, backed, as it were, by the firm and clear pronouncements of the Fourth Council of Lateran in 1215, and later by those of the Council of Trent, remained any longer a dead letter. Laxity among the clergy at certain periods and in certain localities must undoubtedly be admitted, but the principles of the canon law remained.

The only thing Lyndewode makes clear, quoted above, is that the English Church in the 15th century refused to recognize the existence of any such entity as the priest's "wife." It knew of nothing but concubinage and denied to these any legal right whatever or any claim upon the property of the partner of their guilt.

Basically, priests were breeding through the 17th century. The practice became increasingly scandalous -- and rare -- with time. Nonetheless, it remained common in rural areas, particularly those isolated from Rome. Legally, of course, there was no such thing as a priest's wife, but whether called a concubine or not, her sons often inherited the land/position of the father.

I wish I could think of a good book on the subject, but this was not my specialty when I studied such things. Le Roy Ladurie's book Montaillou gives a somewhat sensational (but entertaining) picture of village life in the late middle ages. It is based on the inquisition records of Jacques Pamiers, which are a fantastic source -- and some of them are on-line here.

You might also look into Natalie Zemon Davis and Carlo Ginzburg if you are interested in semi-anthropological accounts of pre-modern village life -- which is the context that clerical marriage needs to be viewed in, not councils in Rome.



To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: Kevin Briand
Date: May 20, 2003

After reading today's post about David Frum, I was reminded (again) of how far he falls short of the standards set by his mother. [See "David Frum: Swimming With the Fishes," The Rittenhouse Review, May 21.]

His mother, Barbara Frum, was one of the most respected and influential woman journalists that Canada ever had (though she was born in Niagara Falls, N.Y.).

To really appreciate just what an idiot he is, you need to realize that he didn't just crawl out of the woodwork. In fact, he had a highly respected, admired, and competent role model to facilitate his future career.

Those of us who can remember what a quality journalist she was are truly saddened and disgusted whenever we come across the latest contribution from her son (whom I'm increasingly convinced was adopted).

Information about Barbara Frum can be found at this CBC website.

Kevin Briand