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Honor Thy Father (and Thy Mother): Child Marriage and Parental Consent in Calvin's Geneva


John Witte Jr.


Emory University School of Law


“Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother? Child Marriage and Parental Consent in John Calvin’s Geneva,” Journal of Religion 86 (2006): 580-605
Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 05-16

Abstract:     
Parental consent to engagement and marriage was a major reform that the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation introduced to stamp out the late medieval Catholic toleration of clandestine marriages. John Calvin introduced the doctrine of parental consent to Protestant Geneva both in statutes that he drafted and in cases that he adjudicated as a member of the Consistory court. Calvin and his fellow reformers insisted on the priority of the father's consent over the mother's consent, but also insisted that even the father could not override his child's own consent to an engagement or marriage contract. Parents and guardians who neglected their duties or abused their authority at this fateful stage of their child's lives were severely punished and often forfeited their right to have their child's secret marriage annulled.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 25

Keywords: John Calvin, marriage, honor, consent

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Date posted: July 14, 2005 ; Last revised: July 16, 2014

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Honor Thy Father (and Thy Mother): Child Marriage and Parental Consent in Calvin's Geneva. “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother? Child Marriage and Parental Consent in John Calvin’s Geneva,” Journal of Religion 86 (2006): 580-605 ; Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 05-16 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=755108

Contact Information

John Witte Jr. (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)
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