Sin and the Calvinists: Morals Control and the Consistory in the Reformed Traditioned. by Raymond A. Mentzer (review)
- The Catholic Historical Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 82, Number 4, October 1996
- pp. 717-718
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS717 Geneva's premier legal advisor in these cases, routinely presumed guüt and repeatedly advocated torture. Kingdon closes with a final case (Caracciolo v. Carafa) and an analysis of Beza's theoretical treatment of adultery, desertion, divorce, and remarriage. Caracciolo sought a divorce for "reUgious desertion"—an important aspect of Beza's treatise.Apart from its wonderful anecdotal value, Caracciolo's case highlights (with Beza) the breadth ofthe Protestant re-interpretation of marital matters . This fundamental departure from previous Christian tradition and its subsequent impact is made clear. It is perhaps Protestant and contemporary values which aUow the pragmatic sophistry of this change to pass largely unscathed . These case studies are of obvious interest to students of Genevan, Calvinist, and Reformation history. However, there is also much here to interest students of gender issues, social control, and urban history. The value of the consistorial records for aU these areas is readUy apparent. One awaits with anticipation both the (expected) pubUcation of the records' transcription and their detaUed study as a whole. William G. Naphy University ofAberdeen Sin and the Calvinists: Morals Control and the Consistory in the Reformed Tradition. Edited by Raymond A. Mentzer. [Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, Vol. XXXII.] (KirksvUle, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Journal PubUshers , Inc. 1994. Pp. Lx, 206. $35.00.) Mentzer,who teaches at Montana State University, has for a couple ofdecades been one of our best sources for the inner working of the French Huguenot churches. Central to French Reformed thought and practice was Calvin's famous "third use of the Law," as the guide and norm for the Christian life. Luther concentrated on the first two uses—driving the sinner to God's grace by realization that the Law was impossible to fulfiU, and as the principle oforder in the hands of the state. This meant that the Calvinists sought stronger means to edify and bring to maturity the simple and boisterous Christians who came into the Reformed churches, and that means was primarily the church Consistory or (in Scotland) the kirk Session. These consistories were ordinarily a mixed body of lay and clergy, usuaUy made up of the pastors of an area together with elders, often elected by the people, but sometimes (as in Calvin's Geneva) selected from among their own number by the city councU. The study consists of six essays, each based on archival study of consistories hard at work reforming people's morals in the sixteenth century. Heinz Schilling and his students have been working the materials at Emden in East Friesland and the Dutch city of Groningen for a decade now, and he uses that 718BOOK REVIEWS material weU in showing how church discipline contributed to the transformation of the institution of marriage in early modern Europe. Philippe Chareyre looks at the great difficulties the consistory at Nîmes in France encountered in order to strengthen famUy ties and pacify congregations who were restive when ancient traditions were disturbed even if they had chosen to be Reformed , and thus to avoid festivities associated with local saints. The editor himself looks at the use of excommunication in ten French churches (including Nîmes), especiaUy "major excommunication," which not only denied persons Holy Communion, but also cut them offfrom Christian society. Michael Graham draws on voluminous research from his dissertation based on kirk session records in Scotland, and finds that when the Reformed church there was weak at its origins, local kirk sessions spent most of their time with sexual sins. Only later, when the kirk was established, could sessions move on to neighborly disputes , breach of the Sabbath, superstitious practices, and the like. Geoffrey Parker, studying the kirk session at St. Andrews, argues that the discipline reaUy worked and evidences of society's agreement with the Reformed discipline are found very soon. The most enjoyable piece is Robert M. Kingdon's narration and analysis of "The First Calvinist Divorce," with the outrageous and probably insane Benoîte Ameaux arguing that she could have sex with any other Christian and even expressing a wish to bed Calvin himself! Kingdon says Calvin even had to have her arrested in order to remove her from his house, where (she said) she...