Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

Interestingly enough, we find no revival of this public humiliation when the puritan view again triumphed during the Victorian period, while at the present day, when standards are once more permissive, it is beginning to be used again. The Russians rely rather extensively on these public pressures, and they are also the real sanction behind Congressional investigations when these are conducted with the extensive publicity accorded to the Committee for Investigating Un-American Activities. They are, of course, a dangerous device since they provide an opportunity for the malignant to direct their hatred and sadistic impulses on the victim. The pillory itself was not a severe sanction, it was the stones thrown by the Crowd which were liable to cause permanent injury, and it was not unknown for prisoners to commit suicide in it. (200) In thus slyly appealing to these destructive forces, the Puritans betrayed the vindictive character of their own unconscious motives.

The Reformation gave rise to the Counter-Reformation — the attempt of the Catholic Church to correct the abuses which, it was assumed, had caused the defection of much of northern Europe to the Protestant teaching. For the ordinary historian, this is a movement opposed to the Protestant Reformation and contrasted with it. Psychologically, however, it can be regarded as an exactly similar movement — a retreat to patrism. Finding that the Church, in the softer air of Italy, had gone so far towards matrism as to antagonize the powerful patrist element which survived in northern Europe, the Church hastily retreated to a stricter standard before any more of its followers left it.

There were certain points of difference, naturally. The Catholic Church made no attempt to substitute the infallibility of the Bible for that of the Pope; nor did it adopt the patriarchal and almost polygamous view of the family which Luther and Calvin favoured. While it revived its former attitude of seeing sexual sin as infinitely worse than other sins, it did not make the general attack on light-hearted gaiety which the Calvinists were making. But, in broad terms, its reforms were patrist. In particular, it reverted to sadistic persecution and masochistic self torture in the mediaeval manner, and it opposed the growth of research and enquiry even more rigidly than had Calvin. The Council of Trent, summoned by the Pope, reiterated all the mediaeval regulations and, as Lord Acton, himself a Catholic, has observed,

“impressed on the church the stamp of an intolerant age and perpetuated by its decrees the spirit of an austere immorality”.

The enactments of this ill-attended body remain the Catholic code to this day.