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Three's A Crowd: Wives, Husbands, And Priests In The Late Medieval Confessional

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Chapter Summary

Although women had their own souls and came to priests as individuals, the reality was that wives lived under both the patriarchal authority of their husbands and the spiritual authority of their confessors. A husband who loved and respected his wife and governed his household wisely would have had little reason to fear the relationship between his wife and her confessor. And a priest who upheld his clerical vows, respected his parishioners, and tried to maintain confessional privacy would have had little reason to fear losing the trust of his penitents. Yet, in other many casessuch as that of Alexander Champion and wives of his parishthe dual-authority structure mattered a great deal. Wives and priests had to be more cautious about meeting together for confession. Thus, for many married female penitents and the priests who cared for them, the late medieval confessional would have been a very crowded place indeed.

Keywords: confessional; confessor; husbands; parishioners; patriarchal authority; penitents; priests; spiritual authority; wives



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