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Journal > Volumes > 34 (2003) / 2 (Summer)
Incest and Lust in Luther's Marriage: Theology and Morality in Reformation Polemics
Thomas A. Fudge
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

Clerical marriage during the time of the Reformation raised issues of theology for the reformers, but for the Catholics it flagged issues of morality in its verdict that theology was simply being used in the service of immorality. This is best underscored in the matrimonial case involving Martin Luther and Katherine von Bora. Luther's writings on the subject of marriage had to be applied to his own life. Protestants defended Luther, while Catholic polemicists, especially Thomas More, attacked the matter of clerical marriage relentlessly. In more strident denunciations, Luther's marriage specifically, and clerical marriage generally, was rooted in charges of lust and disobedience to God. As for the Luthers, who had been under holy orders, their union, by definition of canon law, was blatant and deliberate incest.The reformers regarded clerical marriage as an act of faith, a work of God, and a witness to the gospel. Catholic theologians perceived it as sin, the breaking of faith, an offense to God, and an abuse of the freedom of the gospel. The Luther marriage is a test case for exploring one dimension of the social implications of theology.

Pages: 319 - 345