Mending Fences; or, What the Public Saw

Karin E. Gedge

in Without Benefit of Clergy

Published in print November 2003 | ISBN: 9780195130201
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835157 | DOI:

Series: Religion in America

 Mending Fences; or, What the Public Saw

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At the same time that ministerial misconduct exposed the flaws in separate spheres ideology, the accounts of two dozen clergymen’s trials disclose the ways they worked to repair and reinforce the damaged boundaries. Caught in a disgraceful liaison that threatened a career, ministers usually escaped conviction or severe punishment. In the course of these trials, clergy were rescued from the dangerous domestic sphere and “masculinized,” portrayed as valiant combatants in monumental political or theological battles that secured their positions in the public sphere and acknowledged their value to the church and to society. Only two of these men were Catholic priests, yet most enjoyed a cultural immunity similar to the medieval privilege of “benefit of clergy.” Women, however, were “feminized,” depicted as vulnerable victims in need of the protection of fathers and husbands within the domestic sphere and suffering public ignominy if they strayed beyond it. In short, clergy learned to stay out of the domestic sphere and women to stay in it.

Keywords: sexual misconduct; trial pamphlets; Catholic priests; “benefit of clergy,” separate spheres; public sphere; private sphere; gender ideology; masculinity; feminization

Chapter.  12926 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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