Crowhill makes the point:

There is a perspective on the problem of (heterosexual) abuse that I think Catholics avoid — for obvious reasons.

When a man gives a woman spiritual counsel, it is an intrinsically intimate thing and the possibility of sexual entanglement is very real. The husband is the head of the home and of his wife. When a priest gives “spiritual direction” to a married woman, he is usurping the husband’s place and creating sexual tension.

No man, priest or not, has any business giving spiritual counsel to any woman who is not his wife. And no woman has any business giving spiritual counsel to a man.

I have been researching anticlericalism. It is much milder in Protestant countries than in Catholic countries, where it sometimes becomes murderous.


A recurring theme in Catholic anticlericalism is the resentment and jealousy that the husband feels when his wife starts talking intimately to another man, whether in confession or spiritual direction.


Jules Michelet, the French historian, was horrified by this intrusion into the relationship of husband and wife. He objected to confession because priests asked detailed questions about sexual practices. One historian has observed that French disliked priests “because through the confessional, where the penitents were mostly women, they exercised power over men’s sexuality.”


A really sore point in France for Catholic men was contraception. If the married couple practiced coitus interruptus, the wife was blameless; the sin was solely the husband’s. The French bishops in 1870 at the First Vatican Council were going to ask the Council to allow priests to give absolution to a man if he was practicing coitus interruptus, but the Council adjourned because of  the political situation before the matter could be discussed.


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