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Subjects of confession, objects of desire: (dis)engaging constructs of sex, power and sin in Eca de Queiros's O Crime do Padre Amaro.


Generally acclaimed by the critical establishment as the novel that best charts Eca de Queiros's literary aesthetic development through rigorously sustained naturalist techniques to more poignant caricatural procedures, O Crime do Padre Amaro has merited vast critical attention in regard to the problematic circumstances surrounding its publication, the conflating of the different versions, and the satirical attack that it directs against the customs of the time and the power of a corrupt Church. As Reis and Cunha state in the introduction to their critical edition of the text, 'O Crime do Padre Amaro permaneceu, na nossa historia literaria, como obra asperamente estigmatizada pela intensidade da sua critica anti-clerical'. (1) Indeed, the anti-clerical aspects of the novel are central to Eca's critical representation of a society driven by material values and outwardly sustained by religious ritual. (2) Though the practices of the clergy are by no means solely responsible for the ills of society, these are the mores that Eca vividly foregrounds in O Crime, with particular emphasis on the act of the confession. Among the ecclesiastic rituals depicted in the novel the confession is emblematic of the control exerted by the Catholic priests in and through a 'clos(et)ed space of disclosure and concealment'. (3) Throughout the novel the confessor represents 'a probing force whose panoptic powers surpass the physical boundaries of a confessional booth', extending to public and private realms, from a one-on-one personal level to political and domestic circles. (4) By conveying the main character Amelia as a sexually marked woman within a gendered and sexualized discourse of desire and transgression, the act of the confession conveys the ideological constructions of gendered power and privilege, and discloses the material and psychological consequences of female subordination to priestly paternalistic rule. Drawing on the theories of Freud and Foucault, the two master theorists of confession par excellence, my objective in the present study is to analyse the empowered act of the confession, a key component of O Crime do Padre Amaro that has not been explored theoretically. (5)

Although Foucault's theories on sexuality have received rigorous critical attention, his formulations on the confession are less well known. In Foucault's analysis, the confession is perceived as 'an obligatory act of speech', an effect of power intimately related to discourse, which places 'the agency of domination [...] in the one who listens and says nothing; [...] in the one who questions and is not supposed to know'. (6) Though Foucault was not interested in exploring gender issues--the whole discussion on the confession refers to a neutral (masculine) confessant despite the overwhelming tradition of women predominantly practicing the act of confession--his analysis of penance is pertinent to our study as it underlines the loss of freedom through a ritual that is 'inscribed at the heart of the procedures of individualization of power'. (7) It is this power endowed upon a single authority that enables the listener to 'require the confession, prescribe and appreciate it, and intervene in order to judge, punish, forgive, console, and reconcile'. (8) This power places the confessant at the mercy of the confessor: the confessor appropriates the confessing subject's thoughts and desires and translates them into the economy of power and knowledge.

The Republican intellectual Sampaio Bruno has formulated an in-depth critique of the confession in connection with the Portuguese Church at the turn of the nineteenth century, underlining the mental enslavement of the women who sought temporal and spiritual direction in the confessional booth. (9) Bruno views the priests' intrusion into domestic and state affairs as 'particularmente agravada com a grande atraccao que a mulher manifestava por tal pratica'. (10) These ideas are by no means specific to the Portuguese confessional mode, as the works of Blakeney, Michelet and Proudhon attest. (11) As the historian Fernando Catroga demonstrates, within a widespread anti-clerical sentiment, the nineteenth-century campaign against auricular confession and ecclesiastical celibacy aimed to safeguard the privacy of the family, the honour of virgins, conjugal fidelity and the natural transmission of inheritances. (12) Following Catroga's arguments, fundamental to these attacks was the intention to nullify the mediating function of the Catholic clergy by relegating it to the status of a man subject to passions and subordinate to worldly interests. (13)

Written in the 1870s at a time that witnessed the intensification of the debate concerning auricular confession, O Crime do Padre Amaro focuses on the power conferred upon the confessor in relation to female confessants. Eca's satirical portrayal of the confession emphasizes the importance of appearances and the monetary factors in regard to a supposedly sacred and reverent ritual. From this perspective the act becomes void of religious significance and may be regarded as a decisive indicator of social acceptability, prestige and spiritual 'good' standing. The criticism 'e nao se confessa ha mais de seis anos' (p. 493), repeatedly enunciated against Amelia's suitor the clerk Joao Eduardo, epitomizes this social 'requirement'. In this respect, Norman Araujo's study 'The Practice and Pretense of Religion' pertinently summarizes Eca's view:
The people of Leiria are as superficial in their adherence to the faith
as their spiritual leaders, in whom they appreciate, more than anything
else, urbanity, good appearance and a fine speaking voice. [...] The
congregation of Leiria demands no more of itself than it demands of its
priests, deeming it sufficient to attend Mass regularly and confess
frequently. (14)

These characteristics are borne out in the novel by the factors determining the beatas' choice of confessors, as illustrated by the burping, vulgar, insensitive Father Jose Migueis who loses most of his confessants to his antipode, 'o polido padre Gusmao, tao cheio de labia' (p. 97).

Amaro's conception of the confession prior to his entry into the priesthood corroborates the irreverence of this religious institution: 'convinha-lhe aquela profissao em que se fala baixo com as mulheres,--vivendo entre elas, cochichando, sentindo-lhes o calor penetrante,--e se recebem presentes em bandejas de prata' (p. 143). His idealization rests primarily on the proximity to women that the confessional booth provides, the privileged access to their secretive discourse, and ipso facto the sensuous warmth bestowed upon the confessor. In the seminary he envisions one day becoming 'o paroco numa bonita vila, numa casa com quintal cheio de couves e de saladas frescas, tranquilo e importante, recebendo bandejas de doce das devotas ricas' (p. 165), thus the recipient of female donations, esteem and prestige. The monetary gifts of the female confessants to their male confessors, an integral part of this gendered institution, were a universal practice that equated the power to withhold or grant absolution with monetary values; a well-known critique of anti-Catholic appeals. (15) In Leiria, Amaro will briefly live in comfort thanks to the appropriately named D. Maria da Assuncao, 'a sua melhor confessada' (p. 785). This expression plainly weighs the quality of the penitent against her material generosity.

Eca further encapsulates the corruption of the confession in one of the novel's central chapters in which self-indulging, gluttonous priests symbolically express the true colours of the confession over a copious dinner in the home of Abade da Cortegaca. (16) The pantagruelesque background vividly illustrates the correspondences between carnal and sexual appetites and provides a context for Father Natario's provocative arguments concerning the confession: 'e um meio de persuasao, de saber o que se passa, de dirigir o rebanho para aqui ou para ali [...] E quando e para o servico de Deus, e uma arma. Ai esta o que e--a absolvicao e uma arma!' (p. 313). Natario's blatant affirmation ascribes the merits of the confessional act to the contriving of female confessions to serve political advantage. In what concerns the remainder of the novel, it is surprising that at this point Amaro defends the sacred nature of the confession; yet as Alan Freeland rightly explains, there are 'one of two possibilities: that he still takes doctrine seriously, or that he is making a pedantic attempt to impress his superiors'. (17) Viewed as a speech act that can be manipulated through the constructs of power in action, the confession is both revealing and self-incriminating. As Blakeney states, the priest 'can exercise control by threat. He holds the secrets of his penitent in his hand, and can, therefore, mould him at his will'. (18) The confession serves as a prime vehicle to extract invaluable information concerning secretive affairs, and it is precisely such a contrivance that the abusive Father Silverio skilfully achieves with the wife of Dr Godinho. Though Godinho is ruled by his wife, she is a slave to her confessor, as evidenced by the epithet 'uma escravazinha' (p. 793). This is effectively illustrated by the enigmatic episode of 'O Comunicado de Leiria' whereby the anonymous 'liberal' is rightfully identified as no other than Amelia's fiance Joao Eduardo.

Father Natario's declaration 'a absolucao e uma arma' gains emphatic force when compared to Joao Eduardo's fear of having a wife controlled by the confessional booth: 'odiava a confissao que julgava uma arma terrivel contra a paz do lar [...] receava ter mais tarde uma mulher que [...] se confessasse aos padres que arrancam as confessadas os segredos da alcova!' (p. 393, my emphasis). This echoes Michelet's statements concerning the confessional violation of privacy: 'ce qu'il [le pere de famille] reve sur l'oreiller, il est bien etonne le lendemain de l'entendre dans la rue'. (19) From this perspective, the problem of the confession is related to the more general idea of submitting to a priest. It is an act that provides the clergy with authority over another man's wife and access to more knowledge than other men. Indeed, the revelation of domestic secrets constituted a mainstay of the priests' pervasive control over their parishes, as Eca's novel makes clear.


Though the confession is traditionally an act associated with discursive revelation, or extraction, of crime, sins, illnesses, desires or innermost secrets, in O Crime it is the external theatrics surrounding the confession that dominate the narrative and evince the constructs of power that are engaged. (20) I will return to this aspect at the conclusion of this study, but what is of interest here is to note that the discourse proper of the confession becomes secondary to the outwardly manifested constructs of ecclesiastical domination and female submission. As Bernstein notes, 'the confession never occurs outside of particular relationships marked by privilege and dependence, authority and vulnerability'. (21) Thus, 'to confess' to a priest, or from the priest's perspective, 'to be chosen for confessor', strictly implies these dyadic relationships of power. As the Darwinian Doctor Gouveia emphasizes, forcefully and succinctly, Amelia belongs to the father who confesses her (p. 583). In the subsequent chapter Gouveia's theory is vividly exemplified by the first sexual encounter between Amelia and Amaro. 'Belonging' and 'possessing' constitute key referents in the text that are intrinsically articulated in relation to the act of the confession. In the case of Amelia such constructs emphasize the objectification of the penitent whose moral, spiritual and intellectual dependency ultimately culminate in obsessive physical possession. Michelet's depiction of the Holy Father as the chief adversary to male domestic authority is pertinent here: 'Tout homme qui reflechit sait trop bien que la pensee est dans la personne ce qu'elle a de plus personnel. Le maitre de la pensee est celui a qui la personne appartient.' (22) Endowed by the 'privilegios do confessor' (p. 393) to which, ironically, Joao Eduardo mistakenly attributes Amelia's attitude of respect, Amaro (ab)uses the power of a confessor to satisfy his sexual desires. Once more Doctor Gouveia neatly encapsulates the man/God duality: 'ele tem para as mulheres, como homem, paixoes e orgaos; como confessor, a importancia dum Deus. E evidente que ha-de utilizar essa importancia para satisfazer essas paixoes' (p. 587).

This pattern of associations between the spiritual guide and physical lover continues to pervade the narrative when the point of view shifts to that of the confessant. (23) Designated as 'uma confessada [...] muito desejada' (p. 781), Amelia reciprocates the desire to have Amaro as her confessor. Given the known restraints of the ecclesiastical vows and desperately imagining that he does not perceive 'nos seus olhos a confissao do seu amor', Amelia fantasizes about having Amaro as her confessor: 'Desejou te-lo por confessor: como seria bom estar ajoelhada aos pes dele, no confessionario, vendo de perto os seus olhos negros, sentindo a sua voz suave falar do Paraiso!' (p. 333). As an extension of this desire to be his confessant, Amelia is naturally jealous of any new penitent whom Amaro mentions, once again conjuring up the belonging/possessing dichotomy deeply engrained in the confessional mode. Likewise, when Amelia pictures her future as Joao Eduardo's wife, the possibility of continuing her confessional relationship with Amaro constitutes a form of empowerment and revenge vis-a-vis a loveless arranged marriage: 'pensou com deleite como depois de casada (ja que tinha de casar) se confessaria toda ao padre Amaro' (p. 469, my emphasis). 'Confessar-se toda' is clearly a sexualized metaphor for giving herself completely to the priest, and resembles a sexual act based on male norms. It further constitutes a discourse of infidelity by which she will betray her husband-to-be, Joao Eduardo, and confirms Amaro's position as an interloper in future domestic affairs. Allowing Amaro to make inroads into the domestic sphere by appropriating her mind, soul and body, Amelia schemes to displace the husband who can legally and lawfully provide for her future but for whom she feels no physical attraction. On a similar note, towards the resolution of the novel, pregnant and forced to be separated from Amaro, Amelia's jealousy is expressed in relation to the women she assumes Amaro is now seducing through the confessional: 'Que desespero quando pensava nele! Estava em Leiria sossegado, comendo bem, confessando outras, namorando-as talvez--e ela ali sozinha com o ventre condenado e enfartado do pecado que ele la depusera, ia-se afundindo na perdicao sempiterna!' (p. 863). Thus Amelia's desire for Amaro is repeatedly invoked in the novel, filtered both rhetorically and literally through the act of the confession: she envisions the position of the confessant in the confessional as the rightful means and privileged terrain for seduction. The explicit juxtaposition of Amaro satisfying both his physical and sexual appetite 'sossegado, comendo bem, confessando outras' and Amelia's impregnated 'ventre condenado e enfartado do pecado' replicates the biblical notion of woman-as-Eve, responsible for sin and for the destructive powers of sexuality. (24) The consequences of a mutual 'transgressive act' are depicted solely as a woman's transgression and epitomize gendered structures of sin, power and privilege. Purportedly commanded by Amelia's geographical displacement to the rural confines of society, women's sexuality is here viewed as threatening and anti-social. Furthermore, the physical and emotional transformations due to her pregnancy project a stark contrast to Amaro's unchanged demeanour and indifferent continuation of former habits. (25)

Just as Amaro capitalizes on his religious status and authority, when pressured by an increasingly stifling chain of events, he further abuses the specific religious rhetoric of the confession to persuade a pregnant Amelia to marry Joao Eduardo: 'escuta, filha. Nao te aflijas com o que te vou dizer, mas e necessario, e a nossa salvacao' (p. 795). As one critic has pertinently indicated 'the immediate effect, save for the plural possession adjective nossa, is to make a parody of the formula used by a confessor issuing a prescription for penance, enhanced by filha, necessaria, salvacao'. (26) The language of this passage locates Amelia's position in relation to Amaro as that of a submissive and impressionable confessant even outside the boundaries of the confessional; this repeatedly invoked leitmotif emphasizes the omnipresent power of the priest. Insomuch as the confessional mode, even when applied in a non-religious context, reinforces pre-existing constructs of domination, the 'truth' Amaro imparts to Amelia coincides with an identity of power implicitly gendered masculine and embedded in other configurations such as age and status.

It is certainly not incidental that Eca's text presents an obsessive thematization of Amaro's insistent desire to possess Amelia's body by drawing on his ecclesiastic authority to physically usurp Joao Eduardo's lawful place: 'Nao, o outro nao a possuiria! Quando viesse a apoderar-se legalmente daquela cinta, daqueles peitos, daqueles olhos, daquela Ameliazinha,--ele, paroco, la estava para lhe dizer alto: Para tras, seu canalha! Isto aqui e de Deus!' (p. 495). In this declaration Amaro's mental dissection of his penitent reduces Amelia to her bodily parts (waist, breasts and eyes) as he lustfully objectifies his confessional subject. This lecherous anatomization, coupled with the repetitive use of the diminutive 'Ameliazinha', underlines the seemingly unbendable symbolic structure of patriarchal domination facilitated by the confession and Amaro's priestly status. The religious pretence to the appropriation of Amelia's body and the narrative (con)fusion between Amelia and the Virgin Mary or other female saints has merited the attention of several concise studies that analyse Amaro's exploration of Amelia's naivety and sheltered upbringing among priests and sanctimonious devotees. (27) Exploiting the juxtaposition of religious-amorous appeals, Amaro leads Amelia to believe that their relationship belongs to a spiritual sphere of 'amor puro'. (28) More specifically, in relation to the act of the confession it is not surprising to note that from the beginning of Amaro's interest in Amelia he schemes to secure his position as her confessor. In Amaro's premeditated conversation with D. Josefa the priest very obviously states the necessity of guiding Amelia from the privacy of the confessional, 'so se esta a vontade no confessionario. E e o que me falta, sao as ocasioes de lhe falar so' (p. 525). The erotic symbolism purportedly commanded by Amelia's need for 'um confessor teso' (p. 525), a key metaphor in the text, blatantly suggests the male ready access to confessing women within the exclusive intimacy of the confessional. One can understand how the act of the confession, itself a private and secretive injunction to render into language innermost thoughts and desires, transgressions and reprisals, gives way to subsequent transgressions, equally reliant on constructs of intimate privacy. This customary conflation between speaking and 'doing sex', reaches its apex (climax?) when Amaro gives his housekeeper and 'factotum' three coins to remain alone with Amelia for the 'confession' that constitutes their first sexual encounter (p. 689).

This erotic confessional dynamic is foreshadowed throughout the first part of the novel. In a Bovaresque manner, the readings of 'Os Canticos de Jesus', a tract of eloquent eroticism commonly given to confessants, predict the sexual encounters and conveys Amaro's animalistic desire to physically possess Amelia, his 'decisao brutal de a possuir' (p. 283). Just as one of the priest's primary functions is to listen to narratives of transgression while separated from the confessant whom he cannot see but can hear, in the close living quarters of D. Joaninha's home he lewdly listens to every sound Amelia makes as she undresses, as would an 'auricular voyeur'. And during Amaro and Amelia's meetings in the bell-ringer's house the paralytic child Toto listening below to their love-making plays a similar role.

Deeply rooted in Amaro's naturalist character formation is the desire for unattainable women, which dates back to early adolescence. His lustful wanderings through the city, when he would stop 'encostado a vitrina das lojas a contemplar a nudez das bonecas' (p. 149), this desire for women which, when channelled through the ordination of the priesthood, becomes the desire to confess desirable women and to bring them to the intimacy of the confessional booth are expressions of this (p. 189). Thus just as Amaro's lust for the picture of the Virgin Mary in his seminary cell provided a needed shift, the confession is depicted as the outlet for the priest's repressed sexuality both figuratively and literally, and the desire for a confessant is sexualized. Whereas, in a Freudian reading, the confessant would typically be the one 'releasing' built-up tensions and gaining relief from 'telling things', here, unable to engage in normal conjugal relation-ships, the confessional and the act of listening substitute/constitute the direct access to the object of desire. This act of telling as a substitute for the act itself is cynically and grotesquely portrayed as Conego Dias extracts with salacious pleasure the details of Amaro's and Amelia's encounters from the disabled child Toto, bringing to mind the Foucauldian double impetus of power and pleasure: 'the pleasure that comes of exercising a power that questions [...] searches out [...] and brings to light'. (29) Toto's interrogation assumes the form of a testimonial discourse. This too reproduces the controlled pattern of the confession. It also adds a pseudo-incestuous twist to the confessional mode as the father figure Dias shows prurient interest in his lover's daughter's affair with his surrogate son Amaro.


After entering the priesthood Amaro's increasing frustration at forfeiting a normal secular life by taking vows of chastity is revealed. Indeed, the castrating effect of the ecclesiastical vows is repeatedly emphasized by Amaro's frustrated libidinal drive. The contrast between the emasculated priest who in principle is unable to reify his sexual fantasies and the virility of secular men is reinforced by Amelia's impending marriage to the clerk who, unlike Amaro, can provide a legal marital status, 'o seu nome, uma casa, a maternidade' (p. 295). Central to Amaro's bitter resentment towards Amelia's potential marriage to Joao Eduardo is the husband's sexual access to Amelia's body that the priestly order forbids; Amaro can only offer her 'sensacoes criminosas' and 'os terrores do pecado' (p. 295).

The harshly felt lack of manliness that exasperates Amaro is portrayed as an ineluctable character trait: fitting in with the naturalist mode, it predates his entry into the priesthood and stems back to his childhood when the servants at the Marquesa de Alegro's home would dress him in girl clothes. In general terms, the feminization of the priest has caught the attention of many critics who see him as a 'sexually ambiguous figure, neither female nor truly male'. (30) A number of factors contribute to creating this feminized image: the sheltered life of the seminary, the sacrifice of legitimate descendants, a predominantly female sphere of action, celibacy, culturally effeminized personal characteristics (such as developed sensitivity), seclusion from other men and a distinct dress code. In O Crime, due to the restrictions of the priesthood in general, and the lack of facial hair and an unshaven crown in particular, Amaro does not perceive himself as particularly masculine. Moreover, the unsightly black robe, the quintessential symbol of the priesthood, emblematizes his embitterness towards the fashionable, worldly attire of laymen. Both literally and figuratively the robe disguises his phallicized passion: 'sob uma negra batina, uma paixao devota a [Amelia] espreitava, a seguia, tremia e morria de impaciencia!' (p. 295). (31) The holy appearance cloaks his forbidden lust and sexual drive, which are like those of any layman; he is bursting with impatience to seize the object of desire.

What is here of prime significance are the oscillating gender roles that Amaro alternatively fills. If in S. Joaneira's intimate circle and with the other priests he projects an image of respectability and dignified 'asexuality' (though he himself feels insecure and deprived of his manliness), in the intimacy of the confessional and in the seduction arena Amaro regains the full extent of his virility. The metamorphosis of Amaro into a sexualized, virile predator is aptly and vividly encapsulated by the narrator when the protagonist is compared to a bull ready to mount his victim during their first sexual meeting: 'Amelia la estava, imovel, toda palida. O paroco fechou a porta--e foi para ela, calado, com os dentes cerrados, soprando como um touro' (p. 691). The language of this scene expresses the sexual conquest in the same terms as the confessional: Amaro is empowered to sexually dominate his 'confessant' over whom he exerts pervasive coercion.

It is only through his despotic relationship with Amelia that Amaro feels that he is at last the one able to exercise domination and thus avenge a lifelong existence of being dominated. Sadistically he relishes this domination over Amelia for whom he becomes a God: 'era ele tambem agora o Deus duma criatura que o temia e lhe dava uma devocao pontual [...]. E Amelia, resignando-se a vontade de Deus em tudo, ia deixando cair as saias' (pp. 733, 777). This passage, as with many other episodes, relates 'God's will' to Amelia's submissive undressing, a metaphor for her acquiescence to Amaro's sexual advances. As Carlos Ceia notes, it is a sort of 'mystical neurosis' that enables Amaro to justify the sexual desires prohibited by his priestly condition. (32) Through their relationship both Amelia and Amaro vindicate a censoring society that, at least in appearance, prescribes to repressed sexuality: Amelia's life surrounded by beatas and Amaro's priestly vows.

The transformation from confessional subject to mental slave is central to debates concerning the range of the confessor's influence; debates mostly voiced by anti-Catholic activists. (33) A fictional illustration of this mental enslavement stemming from the confession is explicit in the portrayal of Amelia and Amaro's relationship culminating in the frequent sexual meetings in the bell-ringer's house. The narrative explicitly depicts Amelia as suddenly becoming fully dependent on Amaro, 'uma dependencia inerte da sua pessoa [...] gozava em se humilhar, oferecer-se sempre, sentir-se toda dele, toda escrava' (p. 733). As Maria Luisa Nunes states, 'She enjoys being dominated and led. Physically and mentally she belongs to the priest. The fulfilment of sexual relations seems to confirm this relation. She seems quite masochistic in her enjoyment of humiliating herself before him and showing herself to be his slave' (p. 246). (34) Thus Amelia's blind obedience and willingness to be subservient to Amaro facilitates his domination of her, a domination that leads to the sexual act: 'tinha so a curvar-se quando ele falava, e quando vinha o momento a desapertar o vestido' (p. 733). Amelia gives Amaro power over her as her spiritual guide and sexual instructor; both functions are emblematically fused in Amelia's sexually loaded invitation, addressed to Amaro at one of their first meetings: 'Ensina, entao!' (p. 725). If on the one hand it is apparent that throughout the narrative Amelia manifests devout subservience, on the other one cannot overlook her role in fuelling the relationship by suggesting incitingly an open door. The micro-scenes of seduction outside the confessional booth (such as the cosy evenings playing cards, rubbing knees, holding hands, exchanging glances) provide numerous examples of Amelia's amorous interest in Amaro.


Though this study has been based on the final version of O Crime do Padre Amaro, special attention needs to be drawn to an aspect that distinguishes the final version from the previous ones, specifically in relation to the confession, and that is revealing of Eca's development as a writer. Despite the fact that the conflation of the three stages of O Crime has dominated the critical discourse concerning this novel, the progressive 're-writing' of the confession has not merited due attention. The confession is depicted differently at each stage of the 'trilogy', and the final version truncates certain scenes that previously reproduced the confessional discourse verbatim. Two examples illustrate this narrative evolution: Amelia's first confession to Amaro when she is taken there by D. Josefa, and in a slightly different context, though under the pretext of a confession, the first sexual encounter between Amaro and Amelia. In contrast, D. Josefa's absurd confessional discourse, envisioning S. Francisco Xavier in the nude and mixing the name of God and the Virgin with her faeces, is fully recounted. In line with Foucault, one can interpret Eca's portrayal of D. Josefa's fanatical religiosity as satirizing the nineteenth-century commonplace impetus to confess not only acts contravening the law, but to transform every desire into discourse. (35) This is of interest especially when viewed in relation to the entire text in which the discourse of the confession, though referred to 'externally', is for the most part removed from the final version. In relation to the confession the final version of O Crime do Padre Amaro explicitly undermines its institutional value and in so doing clearly highlights the problem of representation in the post-Flaubertian novel, which considers that it is more effective to show than to tell.

Furthermore, in relation to the confession, one of the most significant differences between the definitive form of O Crime do Padre Amaro and the previous versions is the addition of Father Ferrao, a rural, seemingly uncorrupted, priest who will attempt to absolve Amelia of her past sins without demanding the impossible (p. 911). If one can speculate as to the reasons that led Eca to introduce a priest detached from the rest of the Church both geographically and morally, it may be noted that it is with great cynicism that the author articulates the reception of Amelia's turning to this father figure for confession. The 'maniaca perigosa' D. Josefa correlates such scandalous behaviour to ingratitude and treason: 'a Amelia tem-se portado muito mal [...] confessou-se ao abade' (p. 891). Of course D. Josefa's real objections are couched in her indignation that Ferrao, unlike the urban priests, does not marvel at her 'sins'. The choice of a confessor is a fundamental indicator of behaviour and here appears coupled with the issue of loyalty. In the presence of Abade Ferrao, for the first time, or at least for the first time signifying a sexual content, Amelia's confessional discourse speaks the narrative of sex as she relates her relationship with Amaro and as they dissect Amaro's letters sentence by sentence. Since Amaro as Amelia's ex-confessor is also the object of her confession, her infidelity towards him is twofold. Unable to acknowledge the meaning of her own confession, Amelia relies upon Father Ferrao to interpret her narrative. Deciphering her confessional discourse, Ferrao becomes more than simply the forgiving master, but the master of truth fulfilling a hermeneutic function. (36)

Although bound by the priestly vows of secrecy, a brief, evasive comment uttered by Ferrao to Amaro verbalizes the conflict between the manipulation of the confession by corrupt urban priests and Ferrao's view of the Church and his hope to wean Amelia away from Amaro's negative influence. Drawing on his four years of experience in the confessional booth, Amaro has no doubt that he will be able to undermine Ferrao's control over Amelia and regain his former domination were he to go to Ricoca on a regular basis. Reading like a page from Foucault, Amaro feels empowered by this knowledge: he has learned of Amelia's emotional state and knows his victim. It is his intimate knowledge of Amelia, from both within and without the confessional booth, that makes him confident that Amelia could not have forgotten him. Ironically, following Amelia's death, Amaro swiftly and conveniently leaves Leiria, unsoiled by the liaison and the crime of indirectly killing his own child.

Through the confessional Ferrao provides Amelia with solace and peace of mind as he enables her to perceive Amaro's interest as 'brutalidade e furor bestial' (p. 913). Ferrao views Amaro's behaviour as a form of lust that is likened to a momentary explosion of repressed desire (p. 913). These passages bring to mind Freud's comparison of the secular listening treatment of psychoanalysis and the auricular confession. Insomuch as this 'listening treatment', in a Freudian sense, can be considered a means of psyche liberation, when Amelia confesses to Abade Ferrao, the confessional discourse becomes a form of cure. As outlined by Freud, the confessional mode is predominantly used to treat mental illness. Ferrao exemplifies this by attributing Amelia's ills to 'as perturbacoes da razao doente' (p. 869). From this perspective, in Ricoca Amelia has mentally and physically removed herself from confessional subjugation in regard to her former relationship of control and repression with Amaro, and has engaged in a Freudian confessional mode of resistance and healing. Furthermore, as Freud explicitly argues in his 'Studies on Hysteria', the 'physician' (here the Abade) becomes the substitute for love (her relationship with Amaro); he takes on the role of a surrogate lover of sorts. (37)

Though Freud and Foucault's theories of the confession may diverge on several levels, it is interesting to note that both theorists attribute a liberating force to the act of the confession. In Freudian terms, as mentioned above, one can envision the confession as a form of self-empowerment, the concealment and repression of which would disempower the subject by constituting a psychic disorder. Foucault further suggests that 'the expression alone [of the confession], independently of its external consequences, produces intrinsic modifications in the person who articulates it: it exonerates, redeems, and purifies him; it unburdens him of his wrongs, liberates him, and promises salvation'. (38) Bernstein's refutation of this passage in relation to women is of interest here:
The confession is seldom so restorative for women. Certainly Foucault
understands confession as a corrective measure that is effectively a
form of ideological laundering, but [...] techniques of containment
function differently for those outside the purview of a dominant social
identity. (39)

Bartkowski likewise draws attention to the 'irony [Foucault] locates in movements of liberation, which, even as they operate, are constrained by the power-knowledge-pleasure apparatus of the dominant order'. (40) This certainly rings true in Eca's portrayal of Amelia. Faced with an unwanted pregnancy on the margins of society, she will ultimately remain marked by the past transgression that causes her death. Though her displacement from the city provides a means to evade the imprisoning confession linked to the containment of the dominant religious urban ideology, it is but an attempt temporarily to renegotiate the terms of power and knowledge. The short-lived sense of peace resulting from confessing to Father Ferrao constitutes an ephemeral form of empowerment: she dies following the 'materialization' of her transgression, that is, after giving birth.

It is not surprising that such a paradoxical apparatus of power and liberation should find a substantial voice of resistance in the discourse of contemporary feminism. Helene Cixous's remarks in 'The Laugh of the Medusa' call into question the liberating/constraining dynamic of the confession and the 'necessary' subordination of the feminine. According to Cixous, the confession can be read as an instrumental site to transmit transgressive language relating to female sexuality and a means to dismantle patriarchal hegemony. Cixous's provocative argument suggests that the confession is the ideal site for liberating female sexuality from phallocentric imprisonment: 'let the priests tremble, we're going to show them our sexts!' (41) Notwithstanding, in Eca's novel simply 'speaking' is not enough of a challenge to patriarchy or phallocentrism. Amelia's confession will only momentarily constitute a deviation from the dominating forces of the urban priests who represent the dominant religious authority. Nor is Amelia's death sufficiently exemplary to put an end to Amaro's abuse of the confessional mode. This is perfectly expressed in O Crime's cynical all-encompassing punch line, a trademark of Eca's closing paragraphs: 'Ja nao as confesso senao casadas' (p. 1029). (42) Referring explicitly to the act of the confession, this statement concludes Amaro's search to adjust to the duplicity required by society and his function therein.

The importance that Eca attributes to the confession in O Crime do Padre Amaro reinforces key aspects of his literary ideology that project a critical representation of society, here centred on the clergy. As a vehicle for criticism, O Crime combines caricatural elaboration and satirical developments to focus on the absurdity of the confession when it becomes a means for exerting power and securing sexual favours. In the third and final version of O Crime it is indeed representative that the only transcribed 'confession' is of Josefa's 'peccadilloes', a fact that vividly denounces the confession as a religious institution rapidly losing its credibility. Consistent with debates of the time, Eca's novel provides a forceful critique of priestly licentiousness and of the confession as a relationship of privilege and sexual/moral dependence. Yet extending beyond the blanket criticism of 'anti-clericalism' that figures prominently in literary criticism of the text, O Crime engages the act of the confession with broader social constructs. Eca's articulation of the gender, knowledge and privilege inherent to the confessor/confessant dynamic portrays the confession as a site that fortifies traditional structures of power and equates domination with masculinity and submission with femininity. Deeply embedded in the rhetorical folds of the confession and duly emphasized throughout the novel is the hegemonic representation of gendered confessional relations.

(1) Eca de Queiros, O Crime do Padre Amaro, ed. by Carlos Reis and Maria do Rosario Cunha (Lisbon: INCM, 2000), p. 29, n. 38. All subsequent page references in the text are to this edition.

(2) Joao Jose Cochofel, 'Anticlericalismo', in Grande dicionario da literatura portuguesa e de teoria literaria, ed. by Joao Jose Cochofel (Lisbon: Iniciativas Editoriais, 1977), pp. 323-42 (p. 339).

(3) Susan David Berstein, Confessional Subjects. Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Culture (NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), p. 1. Berstein borrows Frances Bartkowski's expression 'clos(et)ed space of the confessional discourse' from 'Epistemic Drift in Foucault', in Feminism and Foucault, ed. by Irene Diamond and Lee Quinby (Boston: Northeastern University, 1988), pp. 43-58 (p. 49).

(4) Bernstein, p. 110.

(5) I am borrowing this expression from Bernstein, who rightly suggests Freud and Foucault's 'very different intellectual and professional relationships to confession', namely Freud's psychoanalysis and Foucault's policing system. Bernstein, p. 166, n. 1.

(6) Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, trans, by Robert Hurley, 3 vols (New York: Vintage, 1990), 1, 62.

(7) Foucault, p. 58.

(8) Foucault, pp. 61-62.

(9) Sampaio Bruno, A Questao Religiosa (Porto: Lello & Irmaos, 1907), p. 439.

(10) Bruno, p. 439.

(11) See for example Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Pornocratie ou les femmes dans les temps modernes (Paris: Lacroix, 1875); Richard Blakeney, Popery in its Social Aspect (Edinburgh: George McGibbon, 1854); and Jules Michelet, Le Pretre, la Femme et la Famille (Paris: Chamerot, 1861).

(12) Fernando Catroga, 'O laicismo e a questao religiosa em Portugal (1865-1911)', Analise Social, 24 (1988), 211-73 (p. 220).

(13) Catroga, p. 219.

(14) Norman Araujo, 'The Practice and Pretense of Religion in Eca de Queiroz's O Crime do Padre Amaro', in Aquila: Chestnut Hill Studies in Modern Languages and Literatures, ed. by Normand R. Cartier (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1968), pp. 1-7 (pp. 2-3).

(15) Emmett McLoughlin, Crime and Immorality in the Catholic Church (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1962), p. 230.

(16) O Crime, Chap. VII.

(17) Alan Freeland, 'Degrees of determinism: The three versions of O Crime do Padre Amaro', Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 57 (1980), 321-37 (p. 327).

(18) Blakeney, p. 175.

(19) Michelet, p. 219.

(20) Foucault, p. 59.

(21) Bernstein, p. xi.

(22) Michelet, p. 213.

(23) A frequently overlooked aspect of O Crime do Padre Amaro is Amelia's point of view, that becomes apparent for the first time after the encounter at Sra D. Maria's property when the narrator shifts the focus to Amelia's thoughts as she is alone in her room. Throughout O Crime the narrator is predominantly omniscient, allowing little space for internal focalization and the development of stream of consciousness. For a discussion of the narrator in the novel, see Carlos Reis, Estatuto e perspectivas do narrador na ficcao de Eca de Queiros (Coimbra: Livraria Almedina, 1981), pp. 55-80.

(24) See Joao de Pina-Cabral, Sons of Adam, Daughters of Eve (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).

(25) This gendered portrayal of punishment is not unique in Eca's work as the outcome of O Primo Basilio similarly projects: Luisa remains alone to bear the consequences of the affair whereas a seemingly unmoved Basilio goes merrily on his way back to Paris. See Claudia Pazos Alonso, 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Female Transgression and Punishment in O Primo Basilio', Portuguese Studies, 15 (1999), 93-104.

(26) Robert M. Fedorchek, 'On Character Portrayal in O Crime do Padre Amaro', Hispania, 59 (1976), 34-40 (p. 38).

(27) See for example Alberto Machado da Rosa, Eca, discipulo de Machado? (Brasil: Editora Fundo de Cultura, 1963), pp. 167-87; Carlos Ceia, 'A dialectica do desejo n'O Crime do Padre Amaro', in 150 Anos com Eca de Queiros, III Encontro Internacional de Queirosianos, 1995 (Sao Paulo: Centro de Estudos Portugueses. Area de Estudos Comparados de Literaturas de Lingua Portuguesa. Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciencias Humanas, Universidade de Sao Paulo, 1997), pp. 131-50; and Norman Araujo, see n. 13.

(28) Though the expression is implicit throughout the novel, it appears in the second version on p. 544 of the text used here. In direct opposition to this sphere of spiritual love is Toto's later treatment of the lovers: 'estao a pegar-se os caes' (p. 749).

(29) Foucault, p. 45.

(30) Lena Gemzoe, Feminine Matters, Women's Religious Practices in a Portuguese Town (Stockholm: Stockholm Studies in Social Anthropology, 2000), p. 228.

(31) This image of the priest with a 'devout passion' hidden beneath a black robe brings to mind the popular wooden figures sold throughout Portugal. A string lifts the traditional black habit and reveals an erect sexual organ, attesting to the common knowledge of the libertinage of the clergy.

(32) Ceia, p. 138.

(33) See McLoughlin, pp. 215-33.

(34) Maria Luisa Nunes, 'Techniques and functions of Character Drawing in the Three Versions of O Crime do Padre Amaro' (doctoral thesis, City University of New York, 1972), p. 246. Published in Portuguese as As tecnicas e a funcao do desenho de personagem nas tres versoes de O Crime do Padre Amaro (Porto: Lello & Irmao, 1976).

(35) Foucault, p. 21.

(36) Foucault, pp. 66-67.

(37) Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, 24 vols (London: Hogarth Press, 1953-74), 11, 301.

(38) Foucault, p. 62.

(39) Bernstein, p. 18.

(40) Barkowski, p. 46.

(41) Helene Cixous, 'The Laugh of the Medusa', in New French Feminisms, ed. by Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron (New York: Schocken Books, 1981), pp. 245-64 (p. 255).

(42) Machado de Assis characterized this phrase as 'calculado cinismo': quoted in Rosa, p. 85.

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