Superstition can be good

There is still, even to this modern, jaded day, there is a certain taboo about messing with priests, even wicked ones. But, back in 1562, the taboo was much stronger, strong enough to save a man’s life.

William van Keppel, a former priest, was picked up in Cologne for having Anabaptist sympathies, according to the Martyrs Mirror. He was thrown in jail with George Friesen, a cabinet maker, and the pair were sentenced to die by drowning in the Rhine river. The executioner took the men out into the river by boat, and Keppel was resigned to his fate.

William divested himself of his clothes, and laid his hands upon his feet, to be bound thus; for he thought that he was to be drowned and get home first. But this was not to be his fate, they made him put his clothes on again, and told him that he should wait.

It was George who went overboard first.

After George was drowned, the executioner said to William, “Put on your clothes; I will take you to the shore, and there behead you.” William, through the grace of God, was willing and ready for it, and said, “You may do with me whatever God wills and permits.”

When they came on shore, they set William at liberty. The executioner said to him, “Go your way.” Whether they did this because William had been a priest, and they would have had to desecrate him before putting him to death, and whether they therefore rather released him than go to such trouble, is not known.

I’m trying to find some information on what “desecrating” a priest entails. It seems that defrocking can be done by an order, but I’m not sure if it’s the same thing.

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