A handy flowchart that summarizes a penitential’s rules for sex.
Click to (ahem) engorge the image.
According to The History Blog:
Penitentials were handbooks listing many sins a confessor could be expected to encounter during private confession and the appropriate penances he should assign for each act (or the appropriate moneys the penitent should pay to commute a penance).
In essence, they were a set of violations and corresponding punishments not unlike the ones that Jasper from The Simpsons gave out when he became a substitute teacher during a strike. The History Blog cites an example from Corpus Christi College’s Corpus 190 of the Canons of Theodore, which I’ve bullet-pointed it for easier reading:
- Whoever fornicates with an effeminate male or with another man or with an animal must fast for 10 years.
- Elsewhere it says that whoever fornicates with an animal must fast 15 years and sodomites must fast for 7 years.
- If the effeminate male (bædling) fornicates with another effeminate male (bædling), (he is to) do penance for 10 years.
- Whoever does this unintentionally (unwærlice) once must fast for 4 years; if it is habitual, as Basil says, for 15 years if he is not in orders and also one year (less?) so as a woman does. If it is a boy, for the first time, 2 years; if he does it again, 4 years.
- If he is a boy, for the first time, 2 years; if he does it again, 4 years.
- If he fornicates interfemorally (between the limbs), he must fast for 1 year or the 3 40-day periods.
- If he defiles himself (masturbates), he is to abstain from meat for four days.
- He who desires to fornicate (with) himself (i.e., to masturbate) and is not able to do so, he must fast for 40 days or 20 days.
- If he is a boy and does it often, either he is to fast 20 days or one is to whip him.
- If a woman fornicates [with another woman?] she must do penance for 3 years.
- If she touches herself in the same way, i.e., in emulation of fornication, she must repent for 1 year.
- One penance applies to a widow and a virgin; more (penance) is earned by her who has a husband if she fornicates.
- Whoever ejaculates seed into the mouth, that is the worst evil. From someone it was judged that they repent this up to the end of their lives.
Under these rules, I would’ve spent my teenage years as a vegetarian.
The flowchart at the top of this article is one created by University of Kansas history professor emeritus James A. Brundage, and its appears in his book, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, and it provides an easy-to-parse summary of all the rules and regulations concerning sex as written by a group of people who “saw marital sex as a concession, not as a right or even a gift from God.”
Being my geeky self, one of my first thoughts was: “This might be fun to code up as an app.”