Lay Marriage and Clerical Celibacy

J. Patrick Hornbeck II

in What is a Lollard?

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199589043
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191594564 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Theological Monographs

Lay Marriage and Clerical Celibacy

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The fundamentally conservative impetus of much dissenting thought can perhaps best be seen in the areas of lay marriage and clerical celibacy, which this chapter examines. After surveying the development of the medieval church's doctrine of marriage, it argues that Wyclif's views were conservative but ultimately pragmatic. Though chaste marriage was his ideal, Wyclif acknowledged that not all have the capacity to abstain from sexual intercourse. In any case, marriage should not be governed by church courts; it is the mutual consent of the partners and not the approval of the priest that creates a marriage. Later writers tended to articulate somewhat more pessimistic views, conceiving of marriage primarily as a remedy for lust. At the same time, Wyclif's grudging acceptance of some married clergymen was taken in the opposite direction by many of those who came after him, who insisted that all clerics should marry in order not to succumb to the temptations which might arise from a lukewarm commitment to chastity. The views articulated in dissenting texts as well as trial records thus call into doubt the traditional view that lollardy was an innovative movement where issues of gender and sexuality were concerned.

Keywords: Lollard; Wyclif; marriage; celibacy; intercourse; sodomy; canon law; divorce

Chapter.  17716 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

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