2007 | 3 | 351-367
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The authoress deals with adultery in the legislation of the Catholic Church concerning persons, who were forbidden to enter into wedlock. The chronological censure closing the scope of interest of the article is the time when the Church finally worked out its doctrine in that matter. Apart from the analysis of the legislation itself, the authoress looks into its practical functioning too. In the period in question adultery was considered a grave sin, treated in the primary sources 'de pair' with pederasty or patricide, and its committing led to prohibition of future marriage, or dissolution of the marital bonds already in existence. She indicates that with time the prohibitions tended to encompass larger circles of blood relations and persons connected by affinity (since 8th - 9th c. prohibition of levirate and sororate) and persons conjoined by spiritual kinship (godchildren, godparents, and their relatives). This tendency may have been caused by the differences in calculating the grade of consanguinity in the Roman and German traditions (finally accepted in the 9th c.) on the one side, and the Jewish tradition on the other. Nevertheless, practical implementation of such legislative prohibitions encountered numerous obstacles, such as local customs or endogamous tendencies within economic and political elites, which were keen to tighten alliances and keep landed property within the same social group. More often than not local clergy, which usually stemmed from the same elitist milieus, or was connected to them by economic ties, supported these attitudes. We are also aware of instances when knowledge of too close familial relations of spouses was exposed to the public in order to discredit political enemies, acquire property (progeny of adulterous marriages was deprived of inheritance rights), or dissolve marriages inconvenient for one of the sides. This constant friction between legislation and practice may have been the reason, why in 1215 the Council of Lyon slackened the Church doctrine in this respect.
  • A. Pieniadz, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Instytut Historyczny, ul. Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28, 00-927 Warszawa, Poland
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