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Implementation of the canons of the Fourth Lateran Council dramatically expanded the practice of auricular confession among laypeople. Although the Council's canons also insist upon the seal of confession in order to keep the content of confessions secret, thirteenth-century authorities differ over the boundaries of the seal. As a result, the “secrets” of confession are often revealed in at least general terms in order to provide preachers with entertaining exempla for moral or doctrinal instruction. What is revealed from confession not only provides a window onto medieval private lives, but it also provided confessors with information about human activities—especially sexual practices—that might otherwise be unavailable to them. With such information, learned confessors not only encouraged moral reform but also defended claims of Aristotelian biology on human nature and sexuality.
This study seeks to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of both the Reformed church consistory and women's experience of the Reformation by examining the interactions between the Reformed church consistory and women in the small French town of Courthézon. For the period from 1617 to 1631, it analyzes how the consistory treated women in its exercise of discipline and how women in turn treated the consistory. It examines in-depth a number of cases of women summoned by the consistory for various offenses, including quarreling, dancing, marital and sexual relations, and absence from services. The interactions were complex and suggest that both male patriarchy and female agency were at work. Yet the consistory also treated the two sexes similarly in certain instances. Women demonstrated a remarkable capacity to ignore, negotiate with, and on occasion defy the consistory. One extraordinary woman rejected the consistory's authority altogether when pressed to reconcile. The cases also indicate that the process of consistorial discipline aided women by providing opportunities for them to represent and act for themselves. The consistory was guided by a desire to keep its minority community intact: it showed remarkable patience, forbearance, and a willingness to compromise in its efforts, and it consequently was usually successful.
The so-called Notícias Recônditas, an anonymous account written in the context of the negotiations that led to the suspension of Inquisition-related actions in Portugal between 1674 and 1681, has been approached by historiography principally from the points of view of its controversial authorship, its compositional framework, and even the accuracy of its contents. This article proposes a different perspective, focusing on its circulation and reception in the eighteenth-century England. Comparing different handwritten and printed versions of this text reveals numerous additions, transformations, and adaptations of its contents and structure, from its moment of composition until its publication and even afterwards. Eighteenth-century London, where anti-Catholic polemical literature was flourishing, is the place of publication of the first editions. There, Notícias was also appropriated by Anglican polemists with one main purpose in mind: attacking the Catholic Church. This, however, did not suit the text's original goals of making contributions to reforms to the Inquisition in Portugal and raising awareness for the New Christian cause. Therefore, identifying and analyzing the discrepancies among the different versions of the text give way to new questions concerning the intervention of copyists, translators, compilers, and publishers in order to achieve specific objectives and to reach target audiences.
Historians have long known that antebellum American Protestants were fascinated by death, but they have overlooked Protestant relationships with the dead. Long before the advent of séance Spiritualism in 1848, many mourners began to believe—contrary to mainstream Protestant theology—that the souls of the dead turned into angels, that the dead could return to earth as guardian angels, and that in graveyards one could experience communion with the spirits of the departed. The version of Protestantism these mourners developed was therefore, to use Robert Orsi's term, a religion of “presence,” a religion in which suprahuman beings—in addition to God—played an important role. Based on diaries and popular sentimental literature written mostly by women, this article brings to light an unexplored facet of antebellum Protestant lived religion: that the dead were “present with us tho’ invisible,” as one young woman wrote about her deceased sister.
In 1833, the Swiss city-republic of Basel separated into two distinct cantons. During the three-year period known as the “Troubles” (Wirren), landowners in the countryside, inspired by the French July Revolution of 1830, rebelled against the city government. The roots of the division, however, run deeper in Basel's religious and theological culture and also reflect the outgrowth of the German Confederation's “persecution of demagogues.” This article examines these neglected aspects of the cantonal division, showing the importance of Christianity, and the complex politics of Protestantism, in Europe's revolutionary century.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, there was a growing concern within the Church of Sweden that the church was, to a too large extent, managed by the clergy alone. In an attempt to give the laity a more active and influential role in the Church of Sweden, the Brethren of the Church was established in 1918. Since it was only possible for men to become members, the organization simultaneously addressed a different issue: the view that women had become a much too salient group in church life. This process was described by the Brethren and similar groups as a “feminization” of the church, a phrasing which later came to be used by historians and theologians to explain changes in Western Christianity in the nineteenth century. In other words, the Brethren considered questions of gender vital to their endeavor to create a church in which the laity held a more prominent position. This article analyzes how the perceived feminization and its assumed connection to secularization caused enhanced attempts to uphold and strengthen gender differentiation in the Church of Sweden in the early twentieth century. By analyzing an all-male lay organization, the importance of homosociality in the construction of Christian masculinities will also be discussed.