II. SEXUALITY AND TEXTUALITY
CHAPTER THREE: SEXUALITY
his chapter will discuss texts men created - and women's subversion of those texts for their very survival - in which the body and the book are yoked together. Interestingly the most vociferous. the most outrageous, of these subversions is a parody of them and was created by a man. Chaucer's Wife of Bath tells us - in an interpolation to the canonical text\1 - that she was "of many clerkys' scoyling," that she had acquired that forbidden learning by forbidden sex with university students, breaking the barriers of literacy and celibacy those universities set up. To do so Chaucer has her challenge Pauline Epistles and Jerome's Vulgate. That joke had been present in La Vielle's sermon to Bel Acuiel in the Roman de la Rose.\2 Those male texts inscribed by Paul and Jerome became the basis for canon law as well as paradoxically establishing modes of writing between men and women. Those male texts regulated sexuality and surprisingly establishing sexual relations in marriage on a basis of mutuality and equality, while prohibiting it otherwise. They also, surprisingly, upheld that marital sexuality against chastity in certain instances, instances which we will find in the fourth chapter, on pilgrimage. There we will meet with women who on pilgrimage preferred not to pay their marriage debt, seeking the power and freedom that chastity would give them and in doing so defying and subverting the texts of Paul and Jerome.
Jane Barr's essay discusses the accuracy of Jerome's translation of the Vulgate Bible from the Hebrew and Greek into Latin - except where he must inscribe women's sexuality. Thus the major Book of Christianity is seen to have been subverted and betrayed away from women by its male translator. Elsewhere, in discussion between Paula and Jerome, we find them squabbling over these inaccuracies.\3
The second essay, by Elizabeth Makowski, discusses women and sexuality in marriage in medieval canon law. While literature, in its imitation of life, can be persuasive, the abstractions and theories of law paradoxically have far greater application in praxis, being enforceable texts in reality, not merely vicarious reading. Where the literary texts make use of medieval legal practices it is important for us, as modern readers, to understand that legal and literary alterity. These legal texts become structure, become literary theory, to epistolary texts in Lain and pilgrimage texts in the vernacular. Thus, to grasp the status of women in men's texts, we have to look at Paul and Augustine and their influence on the law concerning women and men, we have to look at Jerome and his transmission of the Hebrew scriptures to Christianity.
Legal structures, in a sense, are metatexts, theoretical abstractions, mapping, somewhat inexactly but with much power, humankind. Similarly, the translation of the Vulgate Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, and then the logical formulations of university dialectic carried out by Jerome and Augustine, Abelard and Aquinas, are major textual creations shaping the Middle Ages. When celibate male clerics represented women as either the descendants of Eve, who had led mankind to perdition, or as divine virgins, free from the tain of Eve's sexuality, they revealed less about women than about their own withdrawal from sexuality into the world of textuality. Women, in turn, tragically internalized those negations self-destructively. Yet, for each man and his text, there are - powerfully - women and their counter texts: with Jerome, there were Paula, Eustochium and Marcella; with Abelard, Heloise and her nuns of the Paraclete. And even illiterate Margery Kempe understood she had to create her counter text, her Book, in which to speak of her body and her gynecology.
Elizabeth Makowski states that
Marriage in Western European society was the preserve of the Christian Church throughout the later Middle Ages. The law of the Church played a significant role in the formation of doctrine concerning that institution, including the sexual relationship of spouses. Adopting a debt-model of conjugal relations, the canonists maintained that each partner owed marital coitus to the other. The lawyers emphasized the mutually binding character of this obligation and consistently defended the right of spouses to exact their marital due, insisting that this duty could be abrogated only by mutual consent. As heirs to an ascetic patristic tradition, however, the lawyers tended to be suspicious of fleshly pleasure. A peculiar and ambivalent doctrine resulted from this tension between an appreciation of the intrinsic goodness of the married state and a distrust of sex, one of its major constituents.Her observations, based on what seem to be dry as dust legal tomes, actually show that medieval women possessed, legally, a surprising - to us -sphere of sexual equality - in sex. We need that knowledge to understand such texts as Chaucer's of the Wife of Bath, in which he has the Wife make use of these canon laws to assert her equality and even dominance - for she cheats and demands more than just the fair payment of the marriage debt while, at times, punitively withholding her side of the bargain to her spouses. This chapter suggests that that material is intertext to Abelard's and Heloise's Letters, Chaucer's Wife's Prologue and even Natalie Zemon Davis' Return of Martin Guerre.\4 We recall the first chapter's disobedient wives.
This chapter originally ended with an essay on a wife and mother as pilgrim and inscriber of a book, on Dame Margery Kempe, who was copying Birgitta of Sweden, and who had to argue with her husband to get him to stop demanding the payment of the marriage debt.\5
In the next chapter to this, on pilgrims and hermits, we shall witness women freeing themselves from sexual bondage and exploitation. Our last chapter shall be on disobedient chaste nuns, opposing our first chapter's disobedient wives.
wonders by whom that couplet was written - as one had done with the
gloss to Brunetto Latino's text concerning women in God's image. The
demonstrates an excellent reading of the text.
2 Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la Rose, ed. Félix Lecoy (Honoré Champion, 1979), II. 160.
3 Jerome, Epistola CVIII: Patrologia Latina, ed. J.P. Migne, XXII (Paris, 1854); trans. Aubrey Stewart, in The Letter of Paula and Eustochium to Marcella about the Holy Places (365 A.D.) (London: Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, 1896). He is telling her daughter Eustochium, after Paula's death, about the argument he had with her over the translation of the Hebrew "zo" in Psalm 132, Paula insisting it was "her," Mary, Jerome, that it was "him," God.
4 Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983).
5 Gail McMurray Gibson asks that we buy her two books in which this essay likewise appears, the first, The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages, published by Chicago University Press, ISBN 0226291022, the second in The Book of Margery Kempe (Norton Critical Editions), ed. Lynn Staley, ISBN 0393976394, and which is not included on the web for copyright reasons.
The Vulgate Genesis and St. Jerome's Attitudes to Women
Much has been written about Jerome's attitudes to women as expressed in his letters and pamphlets, and it has not gone unnoticed that his exegesis contains anti-feminist material. To quote from David Wiesen's work, St Jerome as a Satirist:
The major vehicles of Jerome's propaganda were his letters and polemical works. When composing his biblical commentaries, however, he naturally found it difficult to suppress entirely thoughts of those causes for which he was simultaneously campaigning in his other works. Satiric comments, therefore, intended to promote such causes, frequently obtrude themselves incongruously into his exegesis.\1Wiesen then goes on to quote examples of "profound anti-feminism" in Jerome's commentary on Isaiah.
I would like to carry this argument a stage further and to suggest that Jerome's attitudes to women were such a powerful and all-pervasive influence upon him that the accuracy of his Vulgate translation itself has been affected.
It is Jerome's hostility to women (and his suspicion and fear of them) that is usually emphasized. Some of my examples show evidence of this bias. But some of my examples also show a great warmth and sensitivity on his part to the women concerned in the passages, and I am inclined to attribute to St. Jerome a much more sympathetic and affectionate nature than does David Wiesen, who says:
In his relationship with Paula alone does Jerome reveal any natural tenderness or affection. The tone of his relationship with other people was determined above all by the harsh and inexorable nature of a scholarly and doctrinaire ascetic.\2Now it was, as is well known, Jerome's intention to produce a strictly accurate translation from the Hebrew. In his introduction to his translation of the Psalms from the Hebrew he says emphatically (and I believe that the same statement would have equal validity with reference to his translation of the Pentateuch): "Certe confidenter dicam . . . me nihil, dumtaxat scientem, de Hebraica veritate mutasse."
It is my contention that in the Book of Genesis Jerome is, as a general rule, a very careful and accurate translator (I am confining myself to a discussion of this one book only, although similar examples could be adduced from other books). When I assembled my list of passages in the Book of Genesis where Jerome's translation is either quite inaccurate, or is too free to accord with his aim of attaining Hebraica veritas, I was interested to find that most of these irregularities occurred in passages concerning women. It is my observation that whenever Jerome approached a passage where women were involved his usual objectivity deserted him, and his translation became less precise, and, not infrequently, biased. (I would, as an aside, want to make this plain: this paper does not spring from a preconceived belief that Jerome's attitude might have affected his Vulgate translation, or from a feminist stance. It sprang from observations made during a linguistic study of the Vulgate Genesis in relation to the LXX, the pre-Vulgate Latin and, especially, the Hebrew.)
It is of course important for us to be sure that Jerome knew Hebrew well, otherwise we might have to attribute his mistakes to simple ignorance. As we have just heard, it was his declared intent to change nothing, at any rate, not knowingly. I am quite sure that he knew Hebrew well. Where the Septuagint and Old Latin had an error, Jerome usually noticed and produced a correct rendition.
In both of the following
it would have been easy to overlook the error because the LXX
made sense in the context. But Jerome noticed and corrected:
Now the examples I am bringing forward to support my argument are by no means all errors. Most of them are examples of a rather free translation. My argument would have less validity if it were the case that Jerome did translate rather freely throughout the Book of Genesis. But, as I have already said, this is not the case. I use the term "free" with regard to meaning and content. The one exception I would make is the matter of adverbs. Jerome is inclined to insert these gratuitously. This is an interesting observation, suggesting, I think, that he noticed a dearth of adverbs in the Hebrew language and felt that Latin called for them. While he insists that elegance of style should be shunned in a Bible translation,\3 I think that he was an instinctive stylist and felt that the insertion of adverbs was essential for a readable and smooth-flowing Latin version. While many of his added adverbs are somewhat conventional ones like magis, valde, vere, etc., he also uses highly descriptive words like sapientissime or violenter, for which there is no Hebrew equivalent.
I have therefore treated
as a special case and have excluded them from consideration, but the
example will illustrate their use. As you will see, the first adverb, propius,
some basis in the Hebrew verb, but the second, confidenter,
Now at this point I have to make a qualification. The possibility cannot be excluded that Jerome had in places a different Hebrew text from ours or that of the early Greek or Latin translators. It is also possible that the Vulgate itself has suffered alteration and that we do not have Jerome's version at all points. But for practical purposes we are entitled to work with the texts as we have received them and draw our conclusions on the basis of them.
Another question might be put. Jerome is known to have consulted Jewish scholars on difficult points. Might not they have persuaded him of some unusual interpretation? They might indeed, and, except where we have evidence in the Targums or other relevant sources, it is impossible to be sure. But one should not suppose that Jewish interpretations worked so frequently on Jerome's mind that they caused him to differ from the plain sense of the language of the text; there are many places where Jewish interpretations are well known, but where there is no sign of them in the Vulgate. If Jerome in fact produced renderings which were not required by the language of the text, whether or not these interpretations reached him from other sources, he produced them because they appealed to him at these particular points. It was not his normal practice to fly in the face of the accepted text and the traditional meaning of the passage.
The following are only a few instances from a large collection of examples, and they are treated only very briefly. They have been chosen for their variety. Some betray Jerome's antipathy to women, some show a deep sensitivity and awareness. Some may seem trivial at first sight, but Jerome is a faithful translator of the Hebrew as a rule, and therefore any divergence from it is unusual and assumes importance.
First, an example from the
Here Jerome has both perceived the correct meaning of the Hebrew verb (in contrast to the Greek and the Old Latin) and used an extremely vivid expression, conglutinata est: the Hebrew means, literally, "to stick," and his vivid rendering is also very close to the original.
In the second part of the same
The Hebrew seems to say, "he spoke to the heart of the girl," which is commonly understood to mean "he spoke kindly to the girl." The Greek and Latin hardly express the emotional depth of the phrase; they are something like,"he spoke according to the understanding of the girl." Jerome goes much farther: "He soothed her in her sadness with soft words." Notice the tristem, an addition to the bare text. Here Jerome is adding his own comment. The girl is grief-stricken, and he is interpreting her feelings sympathetically. The tenderness towards her is shown by two words: "He soothed her with soft words."
In the next example we again
The LXX and OL follow the Hebrew and say simply "he went in to Rachel." Jerome says "having at last obtained the desired marriage." Then he produces the strained and periphrastic phrase amorem sequentis priori praetulit in place of the simple and touching "he loved Rachel more than Leah." I do not think he has improved on the original; his usual good judgement is here at fault.
A much more marked lack of
is evident in the next example, from the story of Judah and Tamar:
Here for the simple Hebrew "Behold, she is with child" we have videtur uterus illius intumescere. Jerome found the sight of pregnant women disgusting, and in his letters speaks with distate of tumor uteri.\4 He inserts the reference here quite unnecessarily and crudely. Look however at v. 28:
Here Jerome again adds his own material, this time however in a most striking and effective manner. The Hebrew has simply "at her giving birth." The birth (of twins), you will remember, is complicated. First one child appeared (the nurse tied a colored cord round its hand); then it disappeared again, making way for the other. Jerome, with a touch of brilliance, says in ipsa effusione infantum.
The rest of my examples
a hint, sometimes more than a hint, of moral judgement. Not
the story of Potiphar's wife yields some examples. In Genesis 39.7 we
her demand to Joseph, "Lie with me." In the next verse the Hebrew,
by the LXX and OL, then says simply "And he refused."
Jerome makes Joseph's denial much more emphatic, and stresses the wickedness of the deed: Vg nequaquam adquiescens operi nefario. Two verses later, at 39.10, the woman is called molesta and her crime is called stuprum, a very strong word. While one may agree with the justice of Jerome's condemnation, the fact is that these words are not in the Hebrew. I have noted two other insertions by Jerome in the same story, at verse 13 se esse contemptam and verse 19 nimium credulus.
Then a minor but typical example from the story of Rachel's theft of her father's idols. Rachel is sitting on them to conceal them from Laban.
The Hebrew says, "He searched and did not find the teraphim," The Vulgate has "Thus the anxious care of the searcher was cheated" - a much more emotive phrase than the original.
We now have a more serious
from Genesis 3.16:
It is the first half of the verse that concerns us. In the Hebrew we have the word [ ] which means "strong desire," probably of a sexual nature, giving "Your desire will be for your husband." The LXX amd OL have the unsatisfactory [apostroph] and conversio, "turning"; but the general meaning is not too far from the original. In the Vulgate however we have sub potestate, "you will be under the power of your husband." Now it is not the case that Jerome found the Hebrew word difficult. In the next chapter in the story of Cain, the same word occurs and Jerome there translated it as appetitus, "strong desire." So unless the Vulgate has meantime been changed by another hand we must conclude that Jerome intended to suppress the true meaning here, and this alteration is of the greatest significance.\5
My last example is from the
of Abraham, Sarah and Abimelech. Abimelech is addressing Sarah before
The Hebrew form [ ] is still difficult today. Probably it may be understood as from the root [ ] and therefore as meaning "to be found to be right," that is, "be vindicated" (cf. RSV, NEB). The Greek and the Old Latin, however, probably identified it as belonging to the root [ ] (cf. LXX alhqeia for this at Isaiah 26.10), and this led to their interpretation "tell everything true" or "tell the whole truth." Even more uncertain is the basis for Jerome's rendering quocumque perrexeris, mementoque te deprehensam. We shall leave aside the first phrase, as it makes better sense if taken as belonging to the previous clause; or else it may arise from double translation of the Hebrew. The second phrase, however, is very interesting indeed: "Remember that you were caught [i.e. caught out in wrongdoing]." There are several ways in which Jerome may have analyzed the Hebrew in order to reach such an understanding of the sense: possibly, for instance, he derived it from another meaning of the verb [ ], coming close to "convince, convict, reprove, chide"; or else he might even have diagnosed it as a form from [ ], with the meaning therefore of "to be taken." In any case, his rendering, as it emerges, expressed more than a hint of moral judgement; it is a very strong reproof to an erring wife. Jerome uses deprehendere for the catching out of a woman in immorality also in places like Leviticus 21.9, Numbers 5.13, where there is no closely corresponding Hebrew term. The expression seems to have appealed to him. Was his mind perhaps echoing the more famous mulier deprehensa, the "woman taken in adultery," of John 8?
If it is true, and here I quote J.N.D. Kelly, that "Jerome's treatment of questions of celibacy and marriage enormously helped to shape the Christian sexual ethic that was to dominate Western civilization until the Renaissance at least"\6 - then, if it can be shown that the accuracy of the Vulgate was even to a small extent affected by his attitude and prejudices, this is of considerable importance.
Wiesen, St. Jerome as a Satirist (Ithaca: Cornell University
1964), p. 160.
2 P. 142.
3 Epistle 49.4.
4 Epistle 107.11, cf. Epistle 22.2.
5 See Jane Barr, "The Influence of St. Jerome on Medieval Attitudes to Women," in After Eve: Women in the Theology of the Christian Tradition, ed. Janet Martin Soskice (London: Marshall Pickering, 1990), esp. 94-95.
6 J.N.D. Kelly, Jerome, His Life, Writings and Controversies (New York: Harper, 1975), p. 106.
See also the review of Cary
J. Nederman, Nancy Van Deusen, and E. Ann Matter., eds. Mind
Matters: Studies of Medieval and Early Modern Intellectual History in
Honour of Marcia Colish. Disputatio, vol. 21. Turnhout, Belgium:
Brepols Publishers n.v., 2009. Pp. viii, 308. €60.00. ISBN:
978-2-503-52756-7. Reviewed by Charles G. Nauert Emeritus, University
of Missouri NauertC@missouri.edu
The Conjugal Debt and Medieval Canon Law
Elizabeth M. Makowski
[Citations to the text of the canon law are cited from Corpus iuris canonici, ed. E. Friedberg 2 vols (Leipzig, 1879-1881. The Glos. ord. is cited from the 1605 of the Corpus iuris canonici una cum glossis, 4 vols (Venezia, 1605). Notes are here presented within the body of the text, separated by \\ \.]
Legalism permeated the medieval Christian church and the impact of that legalism on medieval institutions is an uncontested, if somewhat under-explored phenomenon. The institution of matrimony received a definition and character at the hands of the canon lawyers which it would continue to posses for centuries to come. If their efforts to regulate medieval marital practice were less than completely successful, the canonists did not fail to influence Western attitudes towards marriage and human sexuality.
This essay deals with canonical doctrine about sexual relations in marriage in the period between the twelfth and the mid-fourteenth centuries - the era in which scientific jurisprudence came of age. Its specific focus is the concept of conjugal debt, that is, the notion that both husband and wife had a duty to perform sexually at the request of their mate. Originally derived from Paul, 1 Corinthians 7.3-6, this equal opportunity concept formed a cornerstone for canonical discussions of marital sex. The lawyers attempted to assimilate this ideal along with other more restrictive but no less authoritatice pronouncements, into the developing laws of the Church. An ingenious and eclectic doctrine resulted in which the canonists relied frequently, though not exclusively, on two distinguished authorities, Paul and Augustine.
The apostle Paul was the earliest influential spokesman for a Christian view of marriage and sexuality. Marital sex was, for Paul, a safeguard against human weakness (1 Cor. 7.1-2). Even allowing for the apocalyptic and epistolary nature of his writing, it betrays a kinship with Hellenistic rather than with older Hebraic interpretations of man's sexuality.\\ Cole, Sex in Christianity and Psychoanalysis (New York: 1955), pp. 32-42.\ Nevertheless, Paul was no thoroughgoing ascetic. The passage which most clearly illustrates this fact also guided medieval discussions of conjugal relations (I Cor, 7.3-6):
Let the husband render to his wife what is her due, and likewise the wife to her husband. A wife has no authority over her body, but her husband; likewise the husband has no authority over his body, but his wife. You must not refuse each other, except perhaps by consent, for a time, that you may give yourself to prayer, and return together again lest Satan tempt you because you lack self-control. But I say this by way of concession, not command.The outstanding point in Paul's formulation, and one which would distinguish the Christian viewpoint from that of later dualist heresies, is that marital intercourse is, at the very least, lawful for Christians. It is also significant that Paul's purpose for marital union was not specifically procreative. He emphasized instead a conjugal obligation, binding both husband and wife, for the maintenance of conjugal chastity - an emphasis wholly in accord with Rabbinical prescriptions.\\ S Belkin, Philo and the Moral Law, Harvard Semitic Series 11 (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1940), p. 219; The Code of Jewish Law, ed. S. Ganzfried (New York: 1927), pp. 15-16; The Babylonian Talmud, trans. I. Epstein (London: Kethuboth, 1935-52), 61b.\ Paul's legitimation of and provision for man's sexual energies set him apart from many of the early church fathers whose extreme asceticism was rivaled only by that of the heretics with whom they competed.\\ Select Letters of St. Jerome, trans. F.A. Wright (Loeb Classical Library: 1933), p. 233; V. L. Bullough, The Subordinate Sex: A History of Attitudes towards Women (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1973), pp. 114 f; H.C. Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church (London: 1966), pp. 25f. Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. R. Naz (Paris: 1935-65), pp. 2078-2115; Early Christian Fathers, ed. C. Richardson (London: 1953), pp. 260, 337.\ Although the importance of these early fathers for the development of medieval doctrine cannot be denied, most of their comments on marriage and sex were little more than asides. It was St. Augustine's discursive thought on these subjects that served as a touchstone for medieval writers.\\ D.S. Bailey, Sexual Relations in Christian Thought (New York: 1959), p. 102; J. Gaudement, "L'apport de la patristique latine au Decret de Gratian en matière de mariage," Studia Gratiana, 2 (1954), 51-81.\
Augustine's analysis was based on the distinction between man's condition before and after his fall from grace.\\ For a thorough analysis of Augustine's teaching about marital sex, see Augustine, Doctrina de bonis matrimonii quam colligit et exposuit Amandus Reuter (Roma: 1942), pp. 41-62, 172-180.\ Marital intercourse, had it occurred in Paradise (it had not according to Augustine), would have been accomplished without guilt or shame since in that uncorrupted state coitus would have been passionless and controlled by reason. After the sin of our first parents, however, man was burdened with concupiscence and therefore was no longer in full control of his passions. Concupiscence was most strikingly displayed in the sexual impulses. No sexual activity could take place without its corrupting effect, without passion and unruly desire. Sex in marriage could be fully blameless only when concupiscence was mitigated by a marital good, that is, when desires were tempered by procreative intent or by the intention of "rendering the debt" exacted by one's spouse. Marital intercourse motivated by lust or merely to avoid the greater evil of fornication was a venial sin.\\ The Fathers of the Church, trans. R.J. Deferrari (Washington: 1955), 27:25.\
Augustine did accept the Pauline injunction but his belief in the ongoing and debilitating effects of concupiscence led him to interpret the apostle's "concession" to the married as a pardon (veniam) for intemperance.\\ Pp. 16-17.\ Hence it was necessary to redeem an otherwise tainted process either through procreative intent or by paying a just demand. Augustine's artificial distinction between the blameless act of rendering the debt, and the venially sinful act of exacting it, would hamper the development of a more positive view of conjugal sex for generations to come.
When, in the mid-twelfth century, canonical jurisprudence began to emerge as a discipline distinct from theology, the lawyers looked to Augustine as the preeminent authority on questions relating to conjugal sex. Gratian, the "father of canon law," drew heavily upon Augustine as his leading authority for marriage law.\\ See Walter Ullman, Law and Politics in the Middle Ages (London: 1975), pp. 119 f, for an account of early canon law development and the importance of Gratian and his successors. For an indication of the extent to which Gratian relied on Augustine see J. Gaudemet.\
Gratian was well aware of the stringent asceticism of the early church fathers, an asceticism which branded anything beyond dutiful procreative intercourse as sinful. He was also mindful of Paul's more positive evaluation of coitus. True to his goal of erasing "apparent" contradictions and producing a rational statement of Christian teaching, Gratian chose a middle ground. Citing Paul, he declared that rendering the debt was a recognized purpose of marital intercourse and just as worthy as procreative coitus.\\ C 32 q 2 d p c 2.\ With Augustine, however, he differentiated rendering the debt, which was blameless, from exacting the debt because of lust or incontinence, which was venially sinful.\\ C 32 q 2 c 3 and d p c 5.\
Gratian's distinction between the initiating and complying spouses involved a differentiation that Paul had never made. Gratian, however, did emphasize the continuing and obligatory nature of the conjugal duty. Payment of the debt, he maintained, could be evaded only by the mutual consent of the spouses. Although spouses were allowed to take a vow of continence, they could never do so if their actions jeopardized the conjugal rights of their partners.\\ C 27 q 2 d p c 26 and d p c 28; C 33 q 5 c 2.\ Mutual consent, free and unextorted, was as necessary a precondition for a private vow as it was for entrance into the religious life; monastic officials were warned that they must determine whether that condition had been met before admitting a married candidate. If, despite these warnings, one party entered a monastery without the other's consent he could be forced to return to the defrauded spouse.\\ C 27 q 2 c 20-5.\ Even when the departure from marital relations was only temporary, mutual consent was still required.\\ C 33 q 4 d p c 9.\ In all these regulations, the intention is obvious. Both husband and wife were to be protected from any unilateral action that might extinguish or diminish their marital rights. The early decretist commentators patterned their analysis of conjugal relations on that of the master. In unison, they echoed Gratian's sentiments that conjugal relations were necessary not only for the procreation of children, but also as a remedy for man's sinful nature.\\ Die Summa des Paucapalea über das Decretum Gratiani, ed. J.F.V. Schulte (Giessen: 1890), to C 27 pr, pp. 110-11; Die Summa magistri Rolandi nachmals Papstes Alexander III, ed. F. Thaner (Innsbruck: 1874), to C 27 q 2, p. l28; Die Summa magistri Rufini zum Decretum Gratiani (Paderborn: 1902), pp. 480-1; Summa Parisiensis on the Decretum Gratiani, ed. T.P. McLaughlin (Toronto: 1952), pp. 232-3; J. Roman, "Summa d'Huguccio sur le Decret de Gratien d'aprés le manuscrit 3891 de la Bibliothèque Nationale, Causa XXVII, Questio II," Revue historique de droit français et étranger, 27 (1903), to C 27 q 2, pp. 771, 775; Glos. ord. to C 33 q 4 c 20 ad v. conditione, and to C 33 q 5 c l ad v. quod autem, and to C 33 q 5 c 11 ad v. nisi auctor.\ Rufinus of Bologna (died 1192), for instance, was even more sophisticated than his mentor in his treatment of continence vows. He differentiated between implicit and explicit vows, the latter referring to pilgrimage commitments which by their very nature would involve separation of spouses for an extended period of time. since both types of vow involved neglect of the conjugal duty, Rufinus concluded that neither could be undertaken unilaterally.\\ Rufinus, Summa to C 33 q 5, ed. Singer, pp. 504-5.\
The decretists, then, agreed on the essentials. Payment of the debt was a principal purpose for marital intercourse, and one which could not be lightly abandoned. One element in Gratian's analysis, however, was subject to considerable reinterpretation. The decretists differed about the degree of guilt involved in intercourse. Gratian had considered marital sex for lustful ends venially sinful - some of his successors took a far sterner view of the evil inherent in sensual pleasure.
The decretists' treatment of sexual pleasure and guilt centered around their interpretation of the Responsa Gregorii - a succint summary of Pope Gregory the Great's feelings about the morality of intercourse. For Gregory the evil of marital coitus did not consist in the act itself, or in the concupiscence which impelled men to act irrationally. Instead it was sensual pleasure, even when only experienced incidentally, that tainted intercourse. Thus every instance of marital intercourse, despite motive, was at least slightly sinful.\\ J.T. Noonan, Contraception: A History of its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists (Cambridge: 1965), p. l5l.\ Gratian cited Gregory's letter but failed to comment on it.\\ C 33 q 4 c 7.\ The decretists, on the contrary, found Gregory's statement at odds with Gratian's. Some tried to deny that there was a discrepancy, while others capitalized on it.
Two early gloss apparatuses of the French school, the Summa Parisiensis (1160), and the Summa of Stephen of Tournai (1150), cited Gregory's argument that coitus could never be without sin because the pleasure inherent in the act was never without fault. Disdaining the conclusion which a literal interpretation required, both glossators preferred an analysis more consistent with Gratian's thought. When Gregory spoke of sinful pleasure, they surmised, he meant only the pleasure involved in lustful intercourse. Coitus for "good ends," procreation or payment of the debt, was free from sin. A union motivated solely by lust was indeed sinful, but only venially so.\\ Summa Parisiensis to D 5 c 2 and C 33 q 4 c 7, ed. McLaughlin, 5, 252; Stephen of Tournai, Summa to D 5 c 2, ed. Schulte, p. l5.\ The highly influential Bolognese commentator, Rolandus Bandinelli, later Pope Alexander III (died 1181) came to a similar conclusion, adding that "even union for the satisfaction of lust is not fornication, but licit due to the good of marriage."\\ Summa to C 32 q 2 c 3, ed. Thaner, p. 164.\ Rufinus, on the other hand, was not content with an already encumbered doctrine of marital relations, nor did he feel that lustful pleasure could be lightly condoned. Unlike Gratian, Rufinus differentiated between the motives of incontinence and lust.\\ Summa to C 32 q 2, ed. Singer, p. 480.\
He who renders the debt to an exacting wife commits no sin, not even venial. . . if a union takes place because of incontinence sin, albeit a venial one, is committed . . . when, however, two unite for the satisfaction of lust, mortal sin is committed.Rufinus was obviously struck by Gregory's notions about the evil of sensual pleasure. He reasoned that the pleasure derived from a lustful union was so far outside the bounds of a passionless, dutiful and "proper" kind of marital intercourse, that even the good of marriage was not sufficient to mitigate it. Rufinus took a stricter view of sex. He exchanged the already less than liberal Augustinian paradigm adopted by Gratian for one more easily reconciled with Gregory's rigorism.
Huguccio adopted a still harsher stance - one that was in complete accord with a literal reading of the Responsa. Huguccio (died 1210) was an important Bolognese canonist and an influential spokesman for the rigorist position. His distrust of sexual pleasure was uncompromising. Huguccio maintained that carnal union could never take place without sin. He linked coitus to concupiscence, and concupiscence to pleasure.\\ R. Wiegand, "Die Lehre der Kanonisten des l2, und l3 Jahrdunderts von den Ehezwecken," Studia Gratiana, 12 1967), 471: Summa to C32 q 2 ad v. quod enim.\ Admitting that it was better to unite with one's spouse than to fornicate, he sill contended that sexual realtions could never by fully sinless. This included intercourse motivated by such recognized purposes as procreation, or rendering the debt - purposes which had not been considered culpable even by Huguccio's least indulgent predecessors. Defending his position against the charge of heresy leveled by some of his detractors, Huguccio claimed that his view was not at odds with orthodox tenets. Heretics, he countered, believed that all coitus was mortally sinful, while he regarded intercourse for "good ends" (payment of the debt or generation) as only venially sinful.\\ Summa to C 32 q 2 c 4 ad v. set et alia, ed. Weigand, p. 472.\ Huguccio equated coitus with pleasure and venereal pleasure with sin. Given this nexus, the obvious question arose: could a spouse ever perform his marital duty (Huguccio had never denied that Paul's admonition still held), without sinning? Perversely, Huguccio answered in the affirmative.\\ Summa to D l3 pr, ed. Weigand, p. 472.\
Returning the debt to one's wife is nothing more than making your body available to her. Hence, one often renders the debt to his wife in such a way that he does not satisfy his pleasure, and conversely. Therefore, in the aforesaid case, I can so render the debt to my wife and wait in such a way until she satisfies her pleasure . . . . I can, if I wish, withdraw, not satisfying my pleasure, free of all sin, and not emitting my seed of propagation.For Huguccio as for Gregory, the evil of intercourse lay in the pleasure resulting from that act. If pleasure were avoided sin was eliminated. Huguccio's particular solution, as later canonists would note, thwarted procreation since a husband need not emit his "seed of propagation." Because he considered sexual pleasure so grave a threat to morality, Huguccio was even willing to tolerate an obvious departure from orthodox teaching.
The rigorist stance had its appeal. A number of other canonists, among them Pope Innocent III, embraced its allures. Writing as a private theologian, Innocent declared "who does not know that conjugal intercourse is never committed without itching of the flesh, and heat, and foul concupiscence, whence the conceived seeds are befouled and corrupted.\\ Noonan, p. 197.\ The extreme rigorism of Huguccio threatened to undermine the orthodox tradition that upheld the essential goodness of marital sex, properly motivated. Such a position was bound to be challenged. By the early thirteenth century, Huguccio's reasoning was considered suspect in some circles. The ordinary gloss on the Decretum, first written between 1215 and 1217, evidenced this scepticism. Joannes Teutonicus, author of the gloss, challenged Huguccio's teaching in no uncertain terms.\\ Glos. ord. to C 33 q 4 c 7 ad v. voluptate.\
Huguccio says that no coitus is possible without sin, hence even he who renders the debt sins venially because there is always pleasure in the emission of sperm. Huguccio holds others to sin because they are bound to render the debt . . . following this reasoning a man sins because of the need to follow a command.Needless to say, Joannes did not suscribe to this faulty reasoning. He aserted that rendering the debt was meritorious since it satisfied a just demand.\\ Glos. ord. to C 33 q 4 c 1 ad v. debeamus, and to C 33 q 5 c 1 ad v. pro satisfactione.\ The gloss upheld the Augustinian notion that intercourse for procreatin or for the return of the debt was lawful and blameless. Exacting the debt either through incontinence or lust, might be a mortal sin, but it was punished as a venial one, thanks to the mitigating effects of the good of marriage.\\ Glos. ord. to C 32 q 2 c 3 ad v. ab adulterio.\
Nor did Huguccio's rigorism find much support among the subsequent generation of canonists (the decretalists). Two influential thirteenth-century jurists, Raymond of Peñafort and Hostienses, preferred a slightly less trenchant model: intercourse for the purposes of procreation or return of the debt was sinless; union prompted by incontinence was venially sinful; only coitus motivated by lust was a mortal sin.\\ Raymond of Peñafort, Summa sancti Raymundi de Peniafort de poenitentia et matrimonia, una cum glossa Joannis de Friburgo (Roma, 1603), p. 5l9; Hostiensis, In quinque Decretalium libri commentaria (=Lectura), 5 vols in 2 (Venezia, 1537), pp. 196 vb-197 to X4.1.\ With the exception of these two writers, hoever, the decretalists had little interest in continuing an examination of marital sex along decretist lines. They avoided discussing the relationship between marital coitus and sin, choosing to treat the subject of conjugal relations in a juristic instead of a moralistic framework. But if their approach differed, their commitment to the ideal of sexual reciprocity in marriage remained as firm as that of their predecessors.
When discussing the formation of marriage, the decretalists devoted considerable time and space to reaffirming the necessity of sexual ability in prospective marriage partners. If one party was not capable of returning the debt, he could not marry. This line of reasoning pervaded the lawyers' discussionof physical immaturity and bodily defects whch would make sexual relations impossible. The immature, Innocent IV reasoned, could be promised to one another but could not marry before they reached the canonically approved age of majority (corresponding to puberty). If, despite this regulation, they did contract marriage, the bond would be indissoluble only if the parties had consummated the union.\\ Innocent IV (Sinibaldis dei Fieschi), Apparatus in V libros decretalium (Frankfurt, 1570), p. 468 to X 4.2.6).\ Although the ability to procreate is mentioned, the canonists prohibited marriage below the age of puberty primarily because they were concerned that spouses be able to render the debt - a recognized duty stemming from the exchange of consent.\\ X. 4.15.2; Raymond de Peñafort, p. 514; J. Andreae, In quinque decretalium libros novella commentaria, 5 vols in 4 (Venezia, l53l), p. 16 to X. 4.2.3; Hostiensis, p. 195vb to X 4.1.9.\
The decretalists also stressed the fact that impotence or frigidity, at any age, was in impedient impediment to matrimony.\\ The decretalists followed Gratian's reasoning outlined in C 33 q l and C 32 q 7 c 25. See for example: Raymond of Peñafort, pp. 558-62; Hostiensis, pp. 213-13 to X 4.l5.l; Andreae, p. 46 to X 4.15.11; Panormitanus, Commentaria Decretalium, 9 vols (Venezia, 1588), p. 58 toX 4.l5.3; Innocent IV, p. 476 to X 4.l5.l.\ Such an impediment was grounds for forbidding the parties in question to marry, but insufficient reason to annul an already consummated union. The lawyers catalogued the kinds of defects that might impede marital union. Aside from natural infirmity (frigidity or impotence), such inability might stem from accident (castration), from the use of magical arts (maleficium).\\ We see this in the book and the film, Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1983).\ or even from mental imbalance. These defects were further sub-divided into those considered permanent and those which were remediable by medical or other means. When the inability to unite was obvious and could not be remedied without grave physical danger, the marriage might be annulled immediately. In cases when the impediment was less clearly ascertainable, a three-year waiting period, involving cohabitation and culminating in physical inspection, was prescribed. The consequences of separation in these cases varied as well. A permanent impediment barred the afflicted party from ever marrying. A hexed spouse, on the other hand, might be unable to perform only with his present mate. In maleficium cases then, remarriage to different parties was commonly permitted. annulment on grounds of sexual inability was, of course, predicated on the fact that consummation had never occurred and that the deprived spouse had not known of the impediment before marriage. Consent to marry one who was known to be incapable of performing sexually, excluded the possibility of separation and subsequent remarriage.\\ Innocent IX, p. 477 to X 4.15.4.\
The teaching of the canonists concerning sexual impediments served to safeguard the conjugal rights of spouses who had not consented to do without marital relations. It is significant that neither sterility nor old age was considered an impediment in this context. Sterility, whether known at the time or marriage or discovered subsequent to consummation, was not grounds for annulment. So too, the aged could marry even if there was little hope that they could ever produce children.\\ C 32 q 7 c 27; Noonan, pp. 289-292.\ The distinction beween the consequences of sterility and those of impotence underscores the importance which the canonists attached to the conjugal duty: "Both impotence and sterility made generation imposible but only impotence made marriage impossible."\\ Noonan, p. 292.\
If the decretalists were concerned that prospective spouses be able to carry out their moral obligations, they were no less interested in preserving spousely rights after the conjugal knot was tied.
In some instances, conjugal rights could be revoked or temporarily suspended. An infraction of the marriage contract might result in such a loss. In adultery cases, for example, the guilty party lost his right to seek the debt. Consequently, the innocent spouse did not have to return the debt since "where there is no petition there is no obligation."\\ Joannes Teutonicus, Apparatus to Compilia Tertia, appended to K.J. Pennington, A Study of Johannes Teutonicus' theories of Church Government and the Relationship between Church and State (New York: 1972), p. 629 to X 5.8.2; Raymond of Peñafort, p. 517; Hostiensis, pp. 120-121, to X 3.32.15; Glos ord. to X 3.23.16 ad v. veniens, and to 5.16.7 ad v. fornicationis.\ So too if a spouse entered religion without the consent of his mate, he would be compelled to return to his partner in order to render but not to exact the debt.\\ Glos. ord. to X 3.32.12 ad v. placet.\ The same ruling held true in cases of presumption of death. If a wife presumed her missing husband dead but had no substantial proof of his demise, she ought not remarry. If she did so and it was subsequently discovered that her first husband was alive, she was required to return to him and render but not exact the debt as penalty.\\ X 4.21.2; X 3.32.12; Glos ord. to X 4.1.19 ad v. viris.\ Prohibitions against demanding payment of the debt were applied in a number of other cases as well; for instance, to those who through false testimoney sought to dissolve a valid marriage.\\ X 4.13.1; Raymond of Peñafort, p. 568.\ In all these cases, the intent of the canonists is apparent. They strove to formulate suitable penalties for delinquent spouses without infringing on the conjugal rights of the innocent party.
Aside from prohibitions against the exercise of one's conjugal rights due to sin, the lawyers supported an ecclesiastical traditon that counseled abstinence from sexual relations on holy days, in sacred places and during a wife's purification or menses. Despite these regulations, the overriding sentiment was that in such cases as well, the duty to render the debt, even if unjustly demanded, was still binding.\\ The Wife of Bath clearly seeks sex at the forbidden times; Abelard and Heloise have intercourse in the cloister.\ Although the party who exacted the debt at a forbidden time sinned, the compliant partner did not.\\ Glos. ord. to C 33 q 4 c 1 ad v. debeamus; Hostiensis, p. 196vb to X 4.1.20.\ Even those canonists who conceded that under some circumstances, such as during a woman's menses, spouses might refuse to pay the debt, added that this concesson was never absolute. If there was a genuine suspicion that the defrauded party would lapse into sin, payment of the debt was necessary.\\ Glos ord. to D 5 c 4 ad v. ablactetur.\
The way in which the canonists treated vows and their consequences also indicates their interest in preserving mutual rights to conjugal relations. The decretalists reaffirmed the earlier canonical opinion that after consummation, mutual consent was necessary for the assumption of a continence vow.\\ Glos. ord. to X 3.32.1.\ Consent could not be extorted but had to be given freely.\\ X 3.32.l7; Innocent IV, p. 426 to X 3.32.3.\ Once given, mutual consent could not be rescinded.\\ It was admitted that if one spouse was obviously not living up to his vow, the Church might intervene ex officio and reunite the parties. In this instance the innocent spouse would have to render the debt but could elect not to exact it: Glos. ord. to C 33 q 5 c 4 ad v. persevera; A. Esmein, Le mariage en droit canonique: Etudes sur l'histoire de droit canonique privé (Paris: 189l), 2.23.\ Innocent IV went so far as to declare that if a husband and a wife mutually vowed continence and if after the death of the first spouse one of them remarried, the children of the second union would be illegitimate.\\ P. 428 to X 3.32.20.\
The decretalists seemed even more concerned than their predecessors with the practical problems involved in mutual continence vows. If a husband consented to his wife's vow but did not take one himself, had he implicitly bound himself to remain continent? The decretalists thought he had.\\ Hostiensis, p. 116 to X 3.32.1.\ What if such a vow involved entrance into religion and not only a private commitment - could one spouse then become a religious while the other, observing continence, remained in secular society? The lawyers feared that if they permitted such a course of action, spouses might not only separate, but might also remain single without the benefit of supervision under a monastic rule. Such persons, they supposed, were liable to sin. To avoid such an occasion of sin, the canonists taught that "after two had become one flesh" one partner could not dedicate himself to God while the other remained in the world. Only when a spouse was deemed above suspicion, due to advanced age, could he or she be exempt from following his mate into the cloister.\\ X 3.32.1-4; Glos. ord. to X 3.32.1 ad v. praeterea.\ In all cases, the canonists taught, judgement must be exercised, since the moral welfare of married persons was a primary consideration.\\ Andraea, p. 163 to X 3.32.13.\ Throughout their treatment of continence vows, an are of the law which had direct bearing on the conjugal rights of spouses, the decretalists were careful to protect these rights. In this area as in others, they epanded and refined Gratian's teaching on the conjugal debt. Whether referring to vows, sexual impediments, or ecclesiastical penalties for a breach of marriage contract, the canonists stressed the importance of sexual reciprocity.\\ The one notable exception to this teaching was Pope Innocent III's concession regarding the crusading vow. Because of the importance of the crusading mission, Innocent allowed a husband to make a crusading vow even without the consent of his wife (X 3.34.9). Although this legislation undermined the traditional teaching concerning conjugal parity, the canonists who commented on the decree consistently attempted to minimize its implications by isolating it firmly within its historical context. See James A. Brundage, "The Crusader's Wife: A Canonistic Quandary," Studia Gratiana, 12 (1967), pp. 425-41; Medieval Canon Law and the Crusader (Madison: Wisconsin: 1969).\ Obviously, the faithful did not always obey the teaching of the Church. Desertion and remarriage in a different locality and even abandonment of a spouse in order to enter the religious life, were far from infrequent occurrences in the Middle Ages.\\ R.H. Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England (New York: 1974), 28-31; M.M. Sheehan, "The Formation and Stability of Marriage in Fourteenth-Century England: Evidence of an Ely Register," Mediaeval Studies, 33 (1971), 229-263; J. Turlan, "Recherches sur le mariage dans la practique coutumière (XII-XVIs)," Revue historique de droit français et étranger, 35 (l957), 477-528.\ Few would have been better aware of these transgressions than the lawyers and judges who not only helped to form the law but were frequently responsible for its enforcement in the church courts as well. Along with their doctrinal writing on the substantive issues, the decretalists outlined a procedural formula designed to redress a spouse whose conjugal rights had been unilaterially denied.
Relying on Roman law categories, canon law distinguished between possessory and petitory actions. The most common matrimonial cause, a suit to enforce a marriage contract, was a petitory one. This petition asserted the existence of a marriage contract and asked the court to declare it valid. Even if the plaintiff could establish that present tense consent had been exchanged - an action that made for a valid marriage - he would still have to use the petitory action to claim the defendant as his legitimate spouse.\\ In this instance, the suit would not specifically be for restitution of conjugal rights. Although the rignt to exact the debt was commonly thought to begln when consent de presenti was exchanged (Esmein, pp. 10-11) the fact of possession did not exist until after consummation. The court could force spouses to consummate their marriage if a reasonable time had elapsed and they had not done so (Glos. ord to Extrav. 6.1 ad v. consumare) but this ex officio action was differentiated from a suit for restitution.\ If however, a plaintiff could allege that the union had been consummated as well as merely consented to, he had access to a special remedy - the suit for restitution of conjugal rights.\\ Glos. ord. to X 2.13.8 ad v. et ab ea cognita; Hostiensis, p. 50 to X 2.13.101 Andraea, pp. 77, 84 to X 2.13.8 and 2.13.14; Panormitanus, p. 263 to X 2.13.18.\ The consequences of a successful suit for restitution were essentially the same as those in a petitory action since, if the court found for the plaintiff, it would order the defendant to return to his legitimate spouse and to treat the spouse with "marital affection"\\ Helmholz, pp. 67 ff.\ As its name implies, however, the intent of the suit for restitution was to restore the rights to sexual relations conceded by Paul. The decretalists then did more than uphold the Pauline dictum in theory. They provided legal remedies for spouses who had been defrauded of their marital right. Furthermore, their teachings were applicable and their rememdies available to more than a select, privileged few. In an age when social equality was neither a fact of life nor a guiding canonical principle, that last observation is significant. One indication of the degree of importance that the canonists attached to the notion of conjugal rights is their willingness to concede these rights even to the "naturally" disadvantaged members of society.
Women, traditional inferiors in both canon and civil law, were, surprisingly, at no disadvantage with reference to the conjugal duty.\\ For an overview of attitudes toward women in the Western Christian experience see: Bullough; Julia O'Faolain, Not in God's Image (New York, l973); Ruether. For specifically canonical sentiments see: J. Backeljauw, "De uxoris statu sociali iniure canonici medii aevi," Divus Thomas, 89 (1968), 27-296; R. Metz, "Recherches sur la condition de la femme sÿealon Gratien," Studia Gratiana, l2 (1967), 380-396; and C 33 q 5 c 5-20; Summa Parisiensis toC 33 q 5 d p c ll, ed. McLaughlin, p. 254; Rufinus, Summa to C 27 pr. and C 33 q 5, ed. Singer, pp. 43l, 505; Glos. ord. to C 33 q 5 c 4-15; X 2.20.3; Innocent IV, 12.565 to X 1.3.13 and 5.41.9; Joannes Teutonis, Apparatus to X 2.l2.6, ed. Pennington, p. 294.\ The consent of the wife as well as the husband was a necessary precondition for any vow that might prejudice their marital rights.\\ Summa Parisiensis to C 33 q 5, ed. McLaughlin, p. 253.\ If a husband did enter religion, go on a pilgrimage, or simply desert his wife, without her free, uncoerced, consent, she was fully empowered to sue for his return in a church court. The specific guidelines set down by the canonists and a number of extant formularies and notarial records indicate that such actions were not only available to but were used by wives as well as husbands.\\ Guillermus Durandus, Speculum iuris, 4 vols in 2 (Torino, l578), p. 400; R. Aubenas, Recueil de lettres des officialités de Marseilles et d'Aix (XIV-XVs), 2 vols (Paris: 1938), pp. 72, 85; M.G. Dupont, "Registre de l'officialité de Cérisy, 1314, 1457," Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Normandie, 3rd Ser, l0 (l880), pp. 350, 37l.\
Serfs constituted another group in society for whom the status of spouse carried with it certain "inalienable rights" which bore little correspondence to their otherwise restricted legal and social prerogatives.\\ Hostiensis, p. ll9.\ although careful not to seriously jeopardize the rights of a lord, the canonists not only conceded a serf's right to marry freely, but also sought to avoid the separation of spouses so joined.\\ X 4.9.1; Glos. ord. to X 4.9.1 ad v. sacramentis; P. Landau, "Hadrians IV dekretale 'dignum est' (X 4.9.1)," Studia Gratiana, 12 (1967), pp. 514-533.\ While serfs had no legal capacity to initiate a suit for the restitution of a spouse sold by a lord, the lawyers did provide some recourse against such arbitrary actions. Hostiensis for one, allowed a judge to intervene ex officio in defense of the rights of a married serf.\\ P. 206 to X 4.9.1.\
Even that most notable pariah, the leper, was not rightless as a spouse. In direct contradiction to the customary law of many regions, the canonists stipulated that a spouse must not be deprived of the consolations of his mate even if afflicted with leprosy. Not only was leprosy regarded as insufficient grounds for desertion but the healthy partner was also obliged, in most cases, to render the debt if it was demanded.\\ X 4.8.1; Glos. ord. to X 4.8.1 ad v. consuetudine; Andreae, p. 34a to X 4.8.2; Innocent IV, p. 473 to X 4.8.1.; Bernardus Papiensis, Summe Decretalium, ed. E.A.T. Laspeyres (Regensburg: 1860), p. 152). There was some flexibility in these cases. Actual cohabitation with a leprous spouse was not insisted upon and even payment of the debt might not be compelled if the healthy spouse literally could not bring himself to render it propter horrorem: Panormitanus, 4lra to X 4.8.2; Glos. ord. to X 4.8.1 ad v. ministrent; Hostiensis p. 21 to X 4.8.1.\
With slight modification, the decretalists applied their teaching concerning the importance of sexual reciprocity in marriage to all Christians. Even when, through the exercise of these rights, the traditional distinction between superior and inferior was obscured, spouses were justified in their actions because of the independent value attached to conjugal fidelity.
By about 1250, the substantive law of the Church concerning marriage had crystallized. The decretalists had refined and supplemented the earlier law sufficiently to create a workable basis for ecclesiastical decision-making. Lengthy analysis of the morality of sexual relations - the kind of excursus of which the earlier canonists were so fond - found little place in their more pragmatic works. The elaboration of moral doctrine did, of course, continue, but it became the special preserve of theologians rather than canonists. Aquinas' revaluation of pleasure, specifically the pleasure experience as a result of sexual intercourse served to undermine the rigorous notion that all fleshly pleasure was suspect.\\ Noonan, p. 293.\ Nevertheless, the movement away from Augustinian pessimism was slow, and some would contend, incomplete. The belief that a Christian couple could properly seek and enjoy the pleasure of sexual union without specifically intending to procreate, render the debt or "avoid fornication," became the dominant view among intellectuals only in the twentieth century.\\ Pp. 491-5.\
The law, as guardian of morality, does not respond quicky to changing social mores. Given the rather slow rate of legal change even in the modern era, it is not surprising that throughout the Middle Ages, canonical discussions of marriage continued to be inspired by the thought of the fathers. Gratian and his successors accepted and developed Paul's concept of a conjugal debt, and defended the right of spouses to exact their marriage due. Conjugal obligations could be evaded only by mutual consent. If a partner arbitrarily denied his mate, the defrauded party could sue for restitution in an ecclesiastical court. Nevertheless, as heirs to the patristic tradition, the canonists saw man's carnal nature as distinct and lower than his rational one, and viewed the pleasures of the flesh as inherently evil. They expressed their distruct of sensual pleasure most vehemently in the Gregorian rigorism of the twelfth century which equated all sexual pleasure with sin.
Canonical ambivalence to sexuality and fleshly pleasure created a peculiar doctrine of marital relations. The canonists preserved the legalism of the Pauline injunction while they all but stripped it of its positive intent. Instead of being used to support the idea of marital relations as a legitimate outlet for sexual energies, Paul's dictum was encumbered with abstract distinctions between initiating and complying spouses. The fact that such distinctions made one spouse a sinner while the other fulfilled his marital due, did not seem problematic to the canonists.
Undoubtedly, most laymen were blithely oblivious to the fine distinctions and subtle arguments of theologians and canonists. But there can be little question that the general uneasiness about human sexuality evident in canonical writing pervaded the consciousness of medieval people. It is still a part of their legacy to us.
Impotent Husband brought to Court by Wife
Walters Art Gallery, MS 10.133, fol. 277
Gail McMurray Gibson asks that
buy her two books in which her essay, that was in this book, 'St.
Book of Margery Kempe', is now published, in The Theater of
East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages, Chicago
Press, ISBN 0226291022, and in
The Book of Margery Kempe (Norton
Critical Editions), ed. Lynn Staley, ISBN 0393976394.
This is Chapter Three from the E-Book: Equally in God's Image: Women in the Middle Ages
GO TO CHAPTER FOUR: HERMITS AND PILGRIMS:
Section III. On Pilgrimage and
Chapter 4: Hermits and Pilgrims
I. An Anchorhold of Her Own: Female Anchoritic Literature in Thirteenth-Century England, Elizabeth Robertson
II. Englishwomen as Pilgrims to Jerusalem: Isolda Parewastell, 1365, Anthony Luttrell
III. Convents, Courts and Colleges: The Prioress and the Second Nun, Julia Bolton Holloway
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