commented on Scripture at these meetings. Women were also imprisoned for distributing prohibited Jansenist literature. Despite its official prohibition, Jansenism continued to shape the religious life of many women in France, encouraging them not only to become literate but to become frequent readers, to develop their children's spiritual lives through family devotions, and to accept Catholic doctrine not simply as a matter of emotional commitment and habit, but through intellectual conviction.
Debates about women's duty of obedience and capacity for reason emerged not only within the context ofJansenism, but also, and ultimately more significantly, within the critical discourse ofthe Enlightenment. In the salons ofParis and other cities, and in letters and printed works, men and women discussed the degree to which rational abilities were shaped by gender, and whether men and women were, in their basic nature, equal or different. Those arguing for equality in reason, such as Louise d'Epinay, generally noted that men and women were also the same in exhibiting a range of propensity for virtue and vice. Those arguing for difference, such as Antoine-Leonard Thomas and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, asserted that contemporary women - especially those leading discussions in salons - were morally lax, but that in their basic nature women had more virtue.
For Rousseau in particular, whose ideas would become extremely influential, women's natural virtue was to be exhibited only in the private sphere of the household and family. Though in her role as wife and mother a woman was to be the moral centre of the family, she was still always to be obedient to her husband because, as Rousseau notes in Emile (1762), 'woman is made specially to please man'. Somewhat paradoxically, women's 'natural' moral capacity could be enhanced by training, and in this religious literature, especially the stories of virtuous women from the past, were especially helpful. Rousseau does not place religion per se within the 'private' realm of women and family, but nineteenth-century writers whose ideas were shaped by his writings often did. Those writers included Protestants as well as Catholics, and many scholars see the nineteenth century as a time when Christianity in many areas was domesticated, as well as feminized.
In terms of issues related to sexuality, during the seventeenth century more rigorous theologians, especially Jansenists, urged a greater attention to sexual sins, charging Jesuit confessors with 'laxism' and 'casuistry' when they examined the intentions and desires of confessants as well as their actions. During the eighteenth century, the bulk of the clergy took a more moderate position. The most influential Catholic writer on moral issues, St Alphonsus Liguori (1697-1787), advised confessors not to concentrate too much on sins which
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