I'm midway through John Maynard's Victorian Discourses on Sexuality and Religion (Cambridge, 1993), and so find myself thinking about two related issues in literary and intellectual history. (Warning: this post is going to go off in weird directions. Bail out now while you still can!) The first is the kaleidoscope effect, wherein the received "picture" changes once you rearrange the components. The second is the extent to which our priorities inadvertently blind us to those of our forebears. Maynard destabilizes "medicalized" histories of Victorian sexuality by arguing that religion and sexuality were inextricably linked in the Victorian imagination--indeed, that religious language opened up new vistas for imagining sexual experience and vice-versa. This argument requires Maynard to set aside William Acton--"an obscure medical writer" (36)--and instead call our attention to Arthur Hugh Clough, Charles Kingsley, Coventry Patmore, and Thomas Hardy. Of this group, only Hardy qualifies as a full-blown canonical figure; fairly or not, Clough and Patmore exist in the shadowy netherland of the "not-quite-great-enough," while Charles Kingsley is often dismissed under the "muscular christian" label. Maynard, however, makes serious claims for both Clough and Patmore as major poets, while arguing that Kingsley is, if not first-rank, at least interesting (and representative of some otherwise ignored trends in Victorian sexual thinking more generally). In other words, Maynard's puts his revisionist argument into the service of some canon revision as well--rotating the kaleidoscope, if you like.
Maynard's interest in Kingsley has its own interest for me, since I seem to be spending most of my time working on Victorian anti-Catholicism (and now, as it happens, nineteenth-century reinterpretations of the Reformation, which, as you might expect, tend to be bound up with debates over Catholicism more generally). A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about the Protestant argument that both Catholicism and Judaism undermined the family, and, for the most part, I ignored Kingsley. Not entirely--I discussed one of his minor works, The Saint's Tragedy (1848), in a minor way--but mostly. Why? Kingsley is pretty rabid about his anti-Catholicism (as people occasionally forget, J. H. Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua is a response to Kingsley), but, unlike historian Kevin L. Morris , I don't think Kingsley's overheated obsession with celibacy adequately represents Victorian anti-Catholic sentiments. It's not that the Victorians, on both sides of the pond, didn't get all hot and heavy when it came to priests and sex, especially when it came to the confessional; Justin Fulton, a Baptist and one of late 19th-c. America's most popular anti-Catholic polemicists, snapped that confession was "believed by those who know most about it, to be the plot of the Devil against virtue and against the home" . But even in the more sex-obsessed authors, there's something else just as important: an argument about authority.
Put simply, Protestants thought Catholics and Jews couldn't have "real" families not because of sexual issues, but because of what underpinned some of those issues--namely, the priest's or rabbi's role in the family itself, along with the parents' spiritual and moral blindness when it came to the sanctified nature of parental authority. This critique remains consistent through the nineteenth century. When anti-Catholic and/or anti-Jewish (and, for that matter, philosemitic) writers talk about "the family," or "the home," or "the domestic circle," they aren't most interested in sex and reproduction; instead, they tend to focus on the divinely ordained relationship between parent and child, husband and wife, and sibling and sibling. This relationship mandates absolute and mutual confidences within the family circle , but pointedly excludes outsiders from any such intimacy. The defrocked priest Charles Chiniquy , who tends to join in with the heavy-breathing contingent, nevertheless also ascribes the following scene to a "Mr. Dubord":
"'Madame, it is long since the priest became everything, and your husband nothing, to you! There is a hidden and terrible power which governs you; it is the power of the priest; this you have often denied, but it can not be denied any longer; the Providence of God has decided to-day that this power should be destroyed forever in my house; I want to be the only ruler of my family; from moment, the power of the priest over you is forver abolished. Whenever you go and take your heart and your secrets to the feet of the priest, be so kind as not to come back any more into my house as my wife.'" 
Note that the wife has committed metaphorical, not literal, adultery: she dethrones her husband in favor of the priest. Insofar as the priest presumes the right to know the wife's most intimate secrets, he subverts the husband's role as her rightful confidante; more significantly, the priest thus violates the sacred order of the family, in which the husband is the ultimate "ruler." The logic here is not original. Anna Eliza Bray puts the implied pun--Father/father--to good use in The Protestant (1828), while the Rev. T. S. Millington makes the figurative adultery far more explicit in The Shadow on the Hearth: "At that moment she felt herself unfaithful to her husband. She could by no means reconcile her duty to him with the line of conduct forced upon her by her confessor" . As Prof. Maynard would no doubt note, Millington puts the language of sexual betrayal (further underlined by "forced upon her," a kind of spiritual rape) to use to describe emotional and spiritual betrayal. But Dubord's wife commits a further error. Just before Dubord resumes his throne, we are told that his wife cautions their daughter against revealing the priest's "shameful" (194) questions to him, because "he has little enough of religion already, and this would leave him without any at all" (195)--another sign of Dubord's unnatural position within the household, since his wife not only presumes to judge him, but also to belittle his supposed lack of faith to their child. Far from lacking "religion," it is only Dubord who understands that this order of things contravenes God's divine will.
Protestants similarly argued that rabbis had too much influence within the Jewish household--a claim which, when applied to modern Britain, conveniently ignored the number of rabbis actually on hand to do the influencing. More to the point, most rabbis, then and now, would be rather startled to find themselves invested with the same powers as a Catholic priest. That being said, philosemitic and anti-Jewish literature, at least in Britain, generally leaves sex out of the equation, and there are cetainly no confessionals to be seen anywhere. (In fact, some novelists manage to simultaneously equate Judaism with Catholicism and argue that Jews are even more likely to dislike Catholicism than Protestants are. This takes some doing.) In this tradition, the rabbi's intrusion into the household may be a sign that the parents have abjured their duty; for example, in Amelia Bristow's Emma de Lissau, Rabbi Colmar aids and abets the unnatural Anna de Lissau ("Call me not her mother!...I hate her, even should she not be the apostate I believe her to be" ) in her impassioned persecution of her converted daughter, Emma, while her husband objects but takes no action.
As the Bristow example suggests, however, Protestants were even more interested in arguing that Jews could not, in fact, be good parents. In these texts, Jewish families are often represented as close, even remarkably idyllic, until the fateful moment that the child converts; then, the parents (the father in particular) instantly mutate into full-blown tyrants. As Elizabeth Fox Wheeler puts it, "The ancient law of his people bad them stone such an one [a Christian] whether he be husband or wife, son or daughter. To carry out this law was impossible now--away from the land of Judah, without a king, without a lawgiver; and so the Hebrew puts the worshippers of the Nazarene into the land of oblivion, and many a heart has bled, many a kindred tie has been broken that once love cemented" . Wheeler, and many other writers in the same strain, thus write the possibility--even the inevitability--of violence, figurative or literal, into familial relationships, while also implying strongly that observant Jews necessarily loathe their Christian neighbors. Drawing on a real practice among the Orthodox--treating Jews who converted or "married out" as, to all intents and purposes, dead--evangelicals argued that conversion was grounds for automatic rejection, no matter how old the child . Osborn W. Trenery Heighway's Leila Ada finds that her father abruptly tosses her out of the house (and into the hands of his far more orthodox brother) once she refuses to abjure her new-found Christianity, while Wheeler represents a far more fanatical father ordering his young son, another convert, "to leave his home, and never to return" . In these instances, it's worth noting that the problem is not that the rabbi is usurping the father's place, but that the father overestimates the extent of his rightful power; where Catholicism shatters families by diverting the father's power to a tyrannical outsider, Judaism does the same by making the father himself a tyrant. Often, this tyranny means that women, in particular, lose their full humanity; in one American novel, a Jewish man cheerfully asserts that “My daughter has no will but mine,” and his wife exhibits "an anxious, timid look [...] when she addressed her husband" . Only Protestantism, as it happens, offers the solution to the Jewish domestic crisis .
What I'm suggesting, then, is something that pulls me in the opposite direction from Maynard: while the Victorians certainly link sexuality and religion when it comes to the family, they also tend to define the family in ways that to us, right now, look like they ought to be about sexuality--but, in fact, are not.
 I should add that I'm otherwise a fan of Morris' work on Victorian anti-Catholic literature.
 Justin Fulton, Why Priests Should Wed (1888; Boston: Rand Avery Company, n.d.), 95. There's an excerpt from another of Fulton's polemics here.
 This attitude persists into the upper reaches of High Church Anglicanism; Charlotte M. Yonge's sensationally popular The Heir of Redclyffe, for example, partly turns on the grave sin of a daughter who keeps her engagement secret from her mother.
 It seems that getting oneself defrocked was a good way of kickstarting a full-time job as an anti-Catholic propagandist; see also the careers of Giovanni Giacinto Achilli and William Hogan. Alessandro Gavazzi and Joseph Blanco White, who left the priesthood of their own accord, also went into the business, although White (a friend of Newman's when they were both at Oxford) wasn't very successful at it.
 Father [Charles] Chiniquy, The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional, 43rd ed. (1880; New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.), 195-96. I must say that Chiniquy seems a trifle addicted to the semi-colon.
 T. S. Millington, The Shadow on the Hearth (London: Religious Tract Society, n.d.), 94. This appears to be the only non-historical novel in the RTS' late-Victorian "For Faith and Freedom" series.
 [Amelia Bristow], Emma de Lissau; A Narrative of Striking Vicissitudes and Peculiar Trials; With Notes, Illustrative of the Manners and Customs of the Jews, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London: T. Gardiner and Son, 1829), I:127.
 Elizabeth Wheeler, Child of the Ghetto: From Petticoat Lane to Rotten Row: A Jewish Story, 3rd ed. (London: John Heywood, n.d.), 11.
 Scholars like Todd Endelman have noted that socially conscious, upwardly mobile Jews were perfectly happy to convert themselves, their children, or both; besides his immediate squabble with his synagogue, Isaac D'Israeli had perfectly pragmatic reasons for having his children baptized. The current consensus is that, in England, working-class and immigrant Jews were much more likely to be antagonistic to converts. Jewish pop culture has sometimes made much of this form of "death."
 E[lizabeth] W[heeler], The Jewish Converts (London: G. Morrish, n.d.), 41.
 C. A. O., Into the Light; Or, the Jewess (1867; Boston: Lee and Shepard, n.d.), 15-16.
 As a side note, I should point out that members of various Protestant denominations regularly accused each other of endangering domestic stability--this, for example, partly motivates Dickens' attack on Calvinists (or something resembling thereof) in The Old Curiosity Shop and Little Dorrit, as well as Frances Trollope's lengthier assault on evangelicals in The Vicar of Wrexhill--while Catholics themselves were only too happy to return the favor (for which see Andrea Ebel Brozyna).
UPDATE: Edited to clean up one paragraph and add a footnote.