Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

From Priest's Whore to Pastor's Wife: Clerical Marriage and the Process of Reform in the Early German Reformation

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

From Priest's Whore to Pastor's Wife: Clerical Marriage and the Process of Reform in the Early German Reformation

Article excerpt

From Priest's Whore to Pastor's Wife: Clerical Marriage and the Process of Reform in the Early German Reformation. By Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer. [St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History.] (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. 2012. Pp. xviii, 340. $119-95. ISBN 978-1-4094-4154-0.)

One of the most immediately visible changes brought by the Protestant Reformation was clerical marriage. Some late-medieval priests had concubines or short-term sexual relationships with women-despite all the attempts of the Church at reform-but this was still very different from having a wife. Almost all of the continental Protestant reformers married, and some (such as Luther) married former nuns. Despite this dramatic shift, relatively few studies within the vast outpouring of recent Reformation scholarship have investigated clerical marriage, and most of these have concentrated on the theological debate surrounding it. From Priest's Whore to Pastor's Wife takes this theological debate into account, but focuses primarily on the way in which clerical marriage was experienced on the ground by those who were spouses in such marriages and those who were their neighbors.

In this excellent study, Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer investigates a broad swath of Germany stretching from Swabia through Franconia to Saxony. Her evidentiary base includes manuscript sources from more than thirty city, state, and church archives ranging (alphabetically) from Augsburg to Zwickau and includes city council records, personal letters, visitation reports, court testimonies, and many other types of documents. Along with providing careful qualitative analysis, she also has compiled a database of more than 2500 men who became Lutheran pastors in the first decades of the Reformation; thus when she makes quantitative statements, she has the numbers to back them up. Many of these men had been Catholic priests, but she also studies the experiences of former monks and nuns who married and examines the women and men who married former clerics and nuns. In some places those women had been priests' concubines; Plummer examines the consequences of regularizing their already existing sexual relationships and also the reasons why clerical concubinage continued for decades even when marriage was an option.

The areas that Plummer studies were all within the Archbishoprics of Mainz and Magdeburg, which, during the period under study-1513 to 1545-were under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Albrecht of Brandenburg. …

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