3 years ago

Homonegativity in the Religious Dress History of the Marist Brothers, 1817–1840

William J.F. Keenan


This article presents a historical sociological case study of sexual oppression within the early nineteenth‐century foundation period of a French Roman Catholic male religious order, the Marist Brothers, founded in 1817. The different sexualities of two rival founder figures, the priests Jean‐Claude Courveille and Marcellin Champagnat, the former homosexual, the latter heterosexual, found expression in radically divergent conceptions of the religious habit. For Courveille, the costume design for the Brothers was ostentatious and stylish; for Champagnat, it was sober and clericalised. This archive‐based investigation shows how Courveille's sexual orientation led to his fall from grace within the Church and the suppression of his sartorial self‐expression. Champagnat, whose conventional dress rules prevailed, became a canonized saint. In the victory of the orthodox sacred dress code, the ideology of ‘clerical masculinism’ weaves its hegemonic power over the bodies of ‘men of the cloth’.

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