By Michelle Armstrong-Partida
Viator, Vol.40:2 (2009)
Abstract: The image of priests as family men is contrary to the one of a lecherous, sexually promiscuous clergy so often highlighted in the works of medieval historians. Yet visitation records from fourteenth-century Catalunya show that a great number of Catalan clerics entered into marriage-like unions despite the church’s two hundred year ban on priestly marriage. Indeed, many parish clergy went to great lengths to engage in relationships that could offer them a sexual outlet, as well as a union that would create a family and household. This article explores the practice of clerical concubinage in the dioceses throughout the region of Catalunya and draws comparisons with other regions in Spain. It argues that clerical concubinage was a custom entrenched in Spanish society. Synodal decrees banning concubinage and the fines attached to them did not to deter clerics from forming long-term unions with women. Ecclesiastical officials tolerated the tradition of concubinous unions and did little to change clerical culture and practice.
See also this interview we filmed with Michelle Armstrong-Partida in 2009: