” Mr. abbot, is this allowed ? “

Exit, voice, or loyalty1

About Mr. abbot, a short film by Blandine Lenoir featuring letters to the abbot Viollet, founder of the Association of Christian Marriage.

The abbot Viollet took the initiative to make the speech clerical more clear and accessible to christians, he created to this end the Association of Christian Marriage, which publishes brochures, very read and appreciated. It is worth to him to receive hundreds of letters during the period from 1924 to 1943. They are written by men and women who do not find the answer in religious texts or from the staff of clerical, manifesting as a characteristic of modernity, which is the growing need for rationale and understanding of the standards and rules of life, especially in regards to intimacy.

The period between the two world wars was that of a hardening of the roles genrés within the couple. Talcott Parsons has done the analysis, a point of view, also own at the time, the role functionalist family. At the same time the development of the marital family, centered on the couple and born of the love between the spouses has created a widening gap between the precepts of the catholic religion, and the new aspirations of the couples. We all know more or less precisely the position of the Church on sexuality. It is, above all, sinful, and should therefore be limited only to the need to give birth. Watching this short film, Blandine Lenoir, we can only observe the gap which separates us from the concerns of these people as well as their ignorance of issues related to sex.

These letters illustrate the crossroads of two worlds : the shift from traditional society to modern society, that is to say, of a society marked by the weight of religion and of its character as a prescriber of good practices. Index of a decline of the religious institution, the dogma is no longer accepted as such, believers are allowing them to question him in the light of their life experiences intimate. But they are still waiting for a definition of life given by religion, they are intended to keep pipes that are respectful of the divine law.

The grid of reading of Hirschman can be used to understand these statements of christians. If most of the letters correspond to the principle of loyalty (to stay in the religion, but to question his principles), the documentary gives also to hear voices on protesters. These people dispute the power of the Church to define good conduct in sexual matters : the jurisdiction of the abbots to know, advise and prescribe in matters of sexuality, questioning the power of the institution, a mockery. They are clearly on the side of theexit : the sexuality would be on the side of the natural needs.

This short film sheds light on the disconnect between the aspirations and issues of ordinary christians and the discourse of clerical prescriptive and dogmatic. Despite the taboos that weigh heavily on issues of sexuality, we can first of all recognize the courage of those who dare to explain the resentments that are difficult to admit for the time. Thus, this young man, who talks about his homosexuality, it does not qualify as well. But it goes further by also expressing the pleasure he has to look at the young men. Aware of the ban that he’s brave, he made sure to suppress her pleasure, but he says but it makes him unhappy. Women are also likely to ask direct questions about their sexuality : they speak without the detours of a need for knowledge of things sexual. You may also be amazed of the good will of people to want to combine the more piously possible, a healthy sex life with the precepts of the christian religion. And this couple five children is faced with the discrepancy between the means of reaching the orgasm in the joint. The woman who was not pleased by the simple coitus, “but to which one cannot refuse the pleasure as she bravely assumed five births,” says the husband, reaching orgasm after arousal of her clit by the tongue.

These letters are a unique testimony of practices and norms related to sexuality, during the period between the two world wars.

To learn more, we will read with profit the work of Martine Sevegrand, Love all letters : Questions à l’abbé Viollet on sexuality, 1924-1943, Albin Michel, 1996

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