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Defending Clerical Marriage – Katharina Schütz Zell (1524)

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Third, since he didn't want to hang himself, they invented other lies. For example, that he seduced a local woman in a garden. Since this one wasn't believed, and their lie was discovered, they tried another one and invented other devilish and shameful lies, which they spread through the whole city of Strasbourg and in the countryside as well. One of them says that he beat me so terribly and such, that he often threw me out of his house. Another shameful lie tells that I found him with a maidservant, which I could not bear, and he beat me and kicked me out of the house. And that I went blubbering to the ammeister,* that for eight days I lived apart from him in my father's house, and other such fairy tales. They lie so badly that they tell one tale in one place and another in another.

What shall I reply, except that they are the Devil's children? He is also a liar who produces such lies in them. For these stories have no basis, being concocted solely out of the Devil's inspiration. For my husband, as God is my witness that I do not lie, has been with me and I with him, and we have never disagreed, not for a quarter of an hour. Nor has he ever injured me in any way, large or small, with word or deed. Nor I him, I trust. And all I know at this moment is that we think of ourselves as one, and whatever conforms to God's will, that thing we shall do. As for the maidservant, I have no maid but only a little girl, still young and innocent, who knows nothing of such things, and to whom my husband has said no more than four words while he was at home. Nor have I ever detected such lust or wantonness in him. And even if the girl were old enough to give me such concern, the Antichrist keeps my husband so busy that, even if he were so inclined, he has not time for it.

To bring this briefly to conclusion, [I will say that] I was not responsible for how my husband kept house before we were married, but [in fact] he did so as commanded by the popes and bishops who have forbidden marriage [to priests], which God permits, and allow the keeping of concubines, which God forbids. For this reason** I took him [in marriage], seeing how he and others lived, intending to help win his and many other souls through God's grace and power, as, I hope, I have done. But since I am a woman, I will stand for him with my honor, body, and life, since such liars attack him undeservedly and without true cause and tell lies about him. For the stories that have been told about him are all concocted and invented, without any basis in fact. Toward me and toward the whole world, he behaves in such a way that no one can denounce him to the world, except by lies. For the heart's power to seek God cannot be harmful to man, etc. God desires, therefore, that our marriage stand as it is now until the very end, and I hope that it is and will remain pleasing to God, useful to both of our souls, and beneficial to many others in soul and body. I can't help it if this marriage does not help the Antichrist and his crew. And even if he rises and comes to the aid of the princes of this world, so that we must suffer exile and death, it is a consolation to us that Christ says, "You foolish and downcast hearts, before you will believe everything the prophets have spoken, will Christ have to suffer and be glorified?" As we suffer, so Christ suffers in us, for we are his members. What did the prophets say? Read David, the great prophet, who in the Psalms says, the heathens have gnashed their teeth, and the peoples have fomented useless things. The kings of the earth stood by one another, and the princes gathered together against God and His anointed. Have they not gathered once again against God and His Word, in which Christ is proclaimed? Isaiah 47 says the same, how the just will be ruined here, and no one will take heed of them, but they shall one day have peace, etc. And all the prophets say how the just will be cast down, and the godless will rule, until God's judgment is passed over them. Thus, we Christians should await the end patiently. For this reason I have happily placed myself and my spouse in God's hand, and may His will be done in us. I know of no greater honor we can experience than to die cast down by this world, and that he should speak to me, and I to him, on the cross, and strengthen each another. Therefore, he and I will bear such lies and every insult, yes, even death, in patience, peace, and joy, which are the fruits of the Spirit. And we shall say with the prophet Isaiah, chapter 41, Do good or evil, as you can, we will speak with and see one another and have no fear of any man.

* The ammeister was the highest magistrate of Strasbourg; he was like a mayor. The office was reserved to members of the guilds, of whom six held office as ammeisters at one time, serving as ruling ammeister (de facto head of the government) in annual rotation – trans.
** That is, because he lived chastely – trans.

Source of original German text: Ruth Kastner, ed., Quellen zur Reformation 1517-1555. Darmstadt: WBG, 1994, pp. 366-72.

English translation: Thomas A. Brady Jr.

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