The conversation on the personal lives of priests, and whether they should marry, is not a new debate, but has been ongoing for centuries. Dr. Xavier Marechaux, chair of the SUNY Old Westbury Adolescence Education Department and associate professor of history, recently explored this topic during the French Revolution in his new book, “Noces Révolutionnaires: Le mariage des prêtres en France, 1789-1815 [Revolutionary weddings: The marriage of priests in France, 1789-1815].”
“The marriages of thousands of priests between 1791 and 1815 can be directly linked to the Dechristianization spearheaded by radical members of France’s legislature that fanned out into the countryside as 'representative on mission' to enact anti-clerical policies,” explains Marechaux. “Some priests married to put into practice Enlightenment principles, but most who married did so as a rejection of their vocation.”
The book shares letters from married Catholic priests as well as information that tries to understand their motivations for either staying married, or renouncing their vows of marriage or priesthood. The 192-page paperback is written in French, and published by Editions Vendémiaire. Featured within its content is a foreword from noted French historian Michel Voyelle – a former teacher and doctorate research mentor of Marechaux.
Marechaux, a resident of Brooklyn, earned his Ph.D. from Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. His research focuses on the secularization of the French Society from the 18th century to present day.