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Reverential fear and consent to marriage

Christensen-Nugues, Charlotte LU (2009) The Cultural history of Emotions in Premodernity
Abstract
According to medieval canon law, a marriage could be declared invalid if the consent had been given through force or fear. This ruling was a natural consequence of the insistence on free consent as the only requirement for a valid marriage. It did, however, entail a number of both practical and theoretical problems. It could be difficult to prove force and fear within the family, but also to define what should count as sufficient force and fear to render a marriage invalid. In Roman law, the fictional figure of the ”constant man” was used to determine different degrees of coercion. The constant man standard was however difficult to use in marriage cases that often involved very young people, dependent on those most likely to use force and... (More)
According to medieval canon law, a marriage could be declared invalid if the consent had been given through force or fear. This ruling was a natural consequence of the insistence on free consent as the only requirement for a valid marriage. It did, however, entail a number of both practical and theoretical problems. It could be difficult to prove force and fear within the family, but also to define what should count as sufficient force and fear to render a marriage invalid. In Roman law, the fictional figure of the ”constant man” was used to determine different degrees of coercion. The constant man standard was however difficult to use in marriage cases that often involved very young people, dependent on those most likely to use force and fear against them.

In this paper I examine the notion of reverential fear timor reverentialis (i.e. the natural respect and awe that a subject feels towards a superior, such as a son toward his father, or a wife toward her husband) in connection with freedom of consent. Already in the Thirteenth Century canonists and theologians, such as for example Hostiensis and Thomas of Chobham, acknowledged the particular difficulties to assess force and fear in marriage cases where the parties were economically, socially and even emotionally dependant on those most likely to use force and fear against them (i.e. parents/guardians). The most developed discussion on the subject of reverential fear is however to be found in Tomàs Sànchez De Sancti Matrimonii Sacramento from 1602.

To judge the impact of force and fear in marriage cases the relationship between the involved parties was, according to Sanchez, of central importance. Reverential fear could not be considered as in itself sufficient to render a marriage invalid, but it was an important aspect to consider when assessing the impact of additional fear or threats. All facts and circumstances, such as for example the father’s character and his relationship with his children, must be taken into account to determine whether consent was freely given

Sanchez account gives a subtle analysis of the complexity of human emotions and their impact on free consent as well as a valuable insight in how relationships within the family could be perceived in the late Sixteenth Century. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
in press
subject
keywords
Tomas Sanchez, timor reverentialis, consent, Marriage, Medieval Canon Law
conference name
The Cultural history of Emotions in Premodernity
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
75fe6717-de0c-4b6a-9fe7-e23b60866908 (old id 1274599)
date added to LUP
2009-01-29 11:46:22
date last changed
2016-04-16 11:37:51
@misc{75fe6717-de0c-4b6a-9fe7-e23b60866908,
  abstract     = {According to medieval canon law, a marriage could be declared invalid if the consent had been given through force or fear. This ruling was a natural consequence of the insistence on free consent as the only requirement for a valid marriage. It did, however, entail a number of both practical and theoretical problems. It could be difficult to prove force and fear within the family, but also to define what should count as sufficient force and fear to render a marriage invalid. In Roman law, the fictional figure of the ”constant man” was used to determine different degrees of coercion. The constant man standard was however difficult to use in marriage cases that often involved very young people, dependent on those most likely to use force and fear against them.<br/><br>
In this paper I examine the notion of reverential fear timor reverentialis (i.e. the natural respect and awe that a subject feels towards a superior, such as a son toward his father, or a wife toward her husband) in connection with freedom of consent. Already in the Thirteenth Century canonists and theologians, such as for example Hostiensis and Thomas of Chobham, acknowledged the particular difficulties to assess force and fear in marriage cases where the parties were economically, socially and even emotionally dependant on those most likely to use force and fear against them (i.e. parents/guardians). The most developed discussion on the subject of reverential fear is however to be found in Tomàs Sànchez De Sancti Matrimonii Sacramento from 1602. <br/><br>
To judge the impact of force and fear in marriage cases the relationship between the involved parties was, according to Sanchez, of central importance. Reverential fear could not be considered as in itself sufficient to render a marriage invalid, but it was an important aspect to consider when assessing the impact of additional fear or threats. All facts and circumstances, such as for example the father’s character and his relationship with his children, must be taken into account to determine whether consent was freely given<br/><br>
Sanchez account gives a subtle analysis of the complexity of human emotions and their impact on free consent as well as a valuable insight in how relationships within the family could be perceived in the late Sixteenth Century.},
  author       = {Christensen-Nugues, Charlotte},
  keyword      = {Tomas Sanchez,timor reverentialis,consent,Marriage,Medieval Canon Law},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Reverential fear and consent to marriage},
  year         = {2009},
}