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What is a Lollard?Dissent and Belief in Late Medieval England$
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J. Patrick Hornbeck II

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199589043

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589043.001.0001

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Lay Marriage and Clerical Celibacy

Lay Marriage and Clerical Celibacy

(p.104) 4 Lay Marriage and Clerical Celibacy
What is a Lollard?

J. Patrick Hornbeck II (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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

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