In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

340book reviews Sexuality in the Confessional: A Sacrament Profaned. By Stephen Haliczer. [Studies in the History of SexuaUty] (New York: Oxford University Press. 1996. Pp. vU, 267. $49.95.) The use of the confessional as an instrument of seduction, largely of female penitents, feU under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Inquisition between 1 530 and 1819. It investigated such cases with its customary efficiency down to the most intimate sexual detaUs. This fascinating study of the Inquisition's determined campaign against priests who violated the sanctity of the confessional is at one level an institutional study of the organization and procedures of the tribunal in solicitation cases. But it is also concerned with the sexual mores of clergy and laity foUowing the efforts of the CouncU ofTrent to tighten Church control over morality.The author maintains that from the mid-sixteenth century increased attention was given to the abuse of the confessional as the relative tolerance of irregular sexual conduct among the clergy found in the medieval period gave way afterTrent to stricter controls over clerical conduct.The postconcUiar Church also gave priority to defending the sanctity ofthe confessional at a time when the sacrament of penance was subject to withering criticism by Protestant reformers.The Council also exalted the sacrament's spiritual importance by stressing the need for more frequent confession and communion in contrast to the once-a-year obligation common in medieval Europe.The author argues that the disciplinary controls imposed on the clergy afterTrent and the increased frequency of confession aggravated the soUcitation problem among priests no longer able to take advantage of the more lax arrangements of the past as far as sexual conduct was concerned. The study is based on 223 detailed case histories drawn from several regional tribunals, although the author recognizes that these formed only a smaU part of the total number of accusations because of the loss of inquisitorial records. These micro-histories provide abundant examples of a wide range of sexual practices among accused confessors. The individual cases studied say a good deal about sexual attitudes within the increasingly puritanical moral world of post-Tridentine Catholicism.The sexual pathology ofpriests functioning within these more restrictive moral confines receives considerable attention. But for the ecclesiastical historian, the author's discussion ofthe organizational and sociological causes of the phenomenon of solicitation is of greater interest.The poor state of clerical education, at least untU the second half of the eighteenth century, the practical appeal of a priestly career for many lacking a reUgious vocation , and inadequate means of supervision within a clerical estabUshment of over one hundred thousand are properly considered as contributing factors. It is interesting that the largest number of accused came from the ranks of the mendicant orders, especiaUy the Franciscans, Ui which admission standards were notoriously loose weU into the eighteenth century. In contrast, the more selective Society ofJesus provided few cases for inquisitorial investigation. This study offers a plausible and coherent explanation for the phenomenon of soUcitation. It provides an abundance of rich detaU about the state of the clergy and prevailing moral values for the period under study. But for the eccle- book reviews341 siastical historian it also raises questions. It would be useful to know, tf only in approximate terms,how many accusations were made beyond the limited number of cases studied.Within the sprawling and, in some respects, disorganized organization of the Spanish Church in the early modern period, it was not surprising that cases of irregular sexual conduct occurred among the clergy. Although the author suggests that the problem was widespread, we do not have reUable statistical information for the kingdom as a whole to indicate how great or smaU the problem was in relation to the clergy's overall size. It also would be useful to have a greater sense of change from one period to another. Although solicitation accusations continued to be made through the eighteenth century, for example, there is evidence from the records of episcopal pastoral visits that the Spanish Church made substantial progress in improving the moral quality of the clergy after 1750. Even the mendicant orders, the largest source of solicitation accusations, underwent sporadic reforming efforts during...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 340-341
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.