Forgive Me Father: The Sacrament of Confession as a Means to Control and Debauch Young Girls and Women

  • Diana Peschier


The perpetrators of anti-Catholic ideology in the nineteenth century were prompted by a particular set of anxieties concerning the wives and daughters of English, Protestant men, who allowed themselves to be deceived and seduced by effeminate, reptilian, Catholic priests. Reptilian because the Catholic priest was often compared with snakes and other reptiles. This is an extended image of the priest as the Devil in the guise of the serpent in the Garden of Eden which is employed to illustrate his deadly cunning. Danger was perceived to be lurking in the dark recesses of the Catholic confessional and the key to the hearts and minds of innocent English women was to be found in specific beliefs surrounding the female psyche. Jules Michelet, writing in 1846, makes the unequivocal observation that women, in particular wives, confess not to wood, ‘the black oak of the old confessional’, but to a man of flesh and blood: ‘and this man now knows of this woman more than even her husband in their long intercourse by day and by night.2 The priest is viewed as dangerous because he ‘has her secret’ and he will never forget it. Michelet believes that women, because of their modesty, are originally unwilling to speak to the priest and yet they speak inspite of themselves because they are ‘fascinated like the bird by the serpent’.3 He writes about the confessing woman having two husbands, one who has her soul and the other her body


Catholic Priest Cabinet Minister Spiritual Director Roman Catholic Priest Weekly Register 
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© Diana Peschier 2005

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  • Diana Peschier

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