abuses of the medieval catholic clergy essay

, Research Paper

The Dark Ages of Europe were called such for several grounds. One of the more ill-famed grounds was the province of the Catholic Church. In the old ages before the Reformation, members of the Catholic clergy had reached an all clip low in footings of their morality. The maltreatments of clerical power and privileges by the medieval clergy spanned all parts of their day-to-day lives. Members of the Catholic clergy were financially, politically and socially corrupt. Each of these corruptnesss made up the tremendous spiritual corruptness that was the logical consequence of such orgy.

Of the several grudges against the Church, ? [ T ] he foremost and sorest was that she loved money, and had excessively much of it for her ain good? ( Durant 17 ) . Documents on the exact wealth of the Church in the Middle Ages merely do non be. Historians, nevertheless, speculate that the Church? s portion of the wealth made up anyplace from a 5th to three-fourthss in each of England, France and Germany. ? In Italy, of class, one tierce of the peninsula belonged to the Church as the Papal States, and she owned rich belongingss in the remainder? ( Durant 17 ) .

The clergy was ill-famed for sucking money out of the people any manner they could. They were known to hold sold false relics to unsuspicious trusters, go throughing carnal castanetss and spots of lacerate cloak as those of Christ. Often times? priests? charged a touch excessively much for burial services? ( Mee 151 ) or raised the sum of revenue enhancements due by a few ducats. Charging excess for revenue enhancements was non hard because clergy frequently served as local functionaries, including those in charge of roll uping revenue enhancements ( Clifford 7 ) .

Had he Church been utilizing the skimmed/scammed money for legitimate Church intents, it may non hold been so contemptuous. However, it was blatantly obvious that the hard currency was traveling to the clergy, who were going worldlier by the twenty-four hours. Even the pontificate, the highest representative of God? s church on Earth, had become about mortally corrupted. Pope Clement VI? s? epicurean tribunal and gorgeous cortege were those of a secular prince, non a prince of the church? ( Kelly 220 ) . Even literature of the period portrays the clergy as being over-wealthy. There are several illustrations in Chaucer? s famed Canterbury Tales. Chaucer foremost describes a Prioress bedecked with beads, broachs and other bangles who makes certain her small Canis familiariss are fed with? roasted flesh, or milk, or all right white staff of life? ( 151 ) . Such refined things were non meant for nuns, allow alone their pets. Following described is the Monk. The narrative says his favourite interest is runing, whereas a monastic should pass his yearss in supplication and labour. His apparels are trimmed? With all right grey pelt, the finest in the land, / And on his goon? /He had a wrought-gold cunningly fashioned pin? ( Chaucer 198-200 ) . The frock of the clergy was seldom allotted a soft cloth. To be utilizing beads, gold and pelt should hold been unheard of.

Another grudge that finally became a drive force behind the Reformation, was the sale of indulgences. Priests are authorized to shrive a confessor from the guilt and penalty of wickednesss in snake pit, but non from earthly repentance. If all repentances are non performed, the balance would hold to be paid in purgatory, a sort of

impermanent snake pit. The indulgence began to replace supplication, pilgrim’s journey and alms as repentance to get away a short piece of their term in purgatory.

Thomas Gascoigne? complained that? evildoers say presents: ? I care non how many immoralities I do in God? s sight, for I can easy acquire plenary remittal of all guilt and punishment by an absolution and indulgence granted me by the Catholic Pope, whose written grant I have bought for four or six pence, or have won as a interest for a game of tennis [ with the forgiver ] ? ( Durant 23 )

The political issues of the clergy were seated in their lecherousness for power and money and their assortment of privileges. Th sale of church offices had a batch to make with the political corruptness. Important, every bit good as undistinguished offices were offered up to the highest bidders. ? Careerists accumulated Numberss of benefices [ church offices ] that made it impossible to function them all personally. Ill-paid replacements were who were frequently uneducated and negligent provided for the demands of the people? ( McBrien 1091 ) . Such pluralism led to a batch of nil. Nothing was accomplished for the people and nil was accomplished for the church.

Once the occupations had been filled, the appointees created more new offices to sell for net income. The pattern of making new offices as a fu

nd-raiser is most documented with the Catholic Popes. Alexander VI created eighty antecedently non-existent offices, each traveling for a monetary value of about 19,000 dollars each ( Durant 19 ) . Julius II and Leo X created similar Numberss of offices, which would run at about the same monetary values. Alexander besides had a soft

topographic point for his friend? s kids. For them he arranged brilliant matrimonies and named one a cardinal.

The church was besides benefited with particular privileges. The political privileges of the church were intended to? Protect them from onslaughts on the self-respect of their map, to relieve them from public responsibilities incompatible with their place, to screen them from civil justness, and to guarantee them a just agencies of subsistence in all fortunes? ( Strayer Vol 3 445 ) . The four resulting privileges are as follows: of the canon, of the forum, of freedom and of competence.

The privilege of the canon provides that any individual who strikes a member of the clergy can be excommunicated ( Strayer Vol 3 445 ) . An maltreatment of this was that if a churchman had a personal docket with person, the individual could easy be accused of such an act. The privilege of the forum states that a churchman can non be summoned before a laic tribunal to be tried before a ballad justice ( Strayer Vol 3 445 ) . Often times a cleric tried before ecclesiastical tribunals would acquire particular intervention because of relationships with those seeking the instance. Those governing in ballad tribunals did non appreciate the lenience sometimes practiced in ecclesiastical tribunals. The privilege of freedom or personal unsusceptibility stated that churchmans were exempt from offices incompatible with their station ( Strayer Vol 3 445 ) . This included obligatory labour, quartering military personnels on the March and certain financial freedoms. Since many of these freedoms were non expressly stated, freedoms were sometimes authorized though questionable in rightness. The privilege of competence allows for indebted churchmans to maintain the money necessary for their honest support ( Strayer Vol 3 445 ) . Originally meant to maintain the clergy off the streets but non rather

comfy, the sum considered? honest support? rose well among some spiritual circles.

Possibly the most interesting of the clerical corruptnesss are the societal 1s. It has already been addressed that the vow of poorness had been broken in half, smashed and land into the soil. The position of their vow of celibacy was in even worse status. ? [ T ] he nuns of Godstow spread pox in England? and, what was worse, they spread it to their neighbours? hubbies. The corruptness was remarked at all degrees, and there was no signifier of wickedness the clergy left unseasoned? ( Mee 152 ) . Alexander VI fathered several illicit kids, four of which were those kids of his friend, whom he provided with benefices and dramatic matrimonies. In remarks on medieval work forces? s and adult females? s convents, they are described as differing small from public whorehouses ( Durant 20 ) .

The clergy? s societal corruptness was that it was excessively societal. Clerics focused more on their public position that on their folds. They openly drank, owned private belongings, slept in, kip around and reasonably much ignored their spiritual obligations.” Some confessors solicited sexual favours from female penitents. Thousands of priests had courtesans: in Germany about all. In Rome it was assumed that priests kept courtesans? Bishop Hardouin of Angers reported ( 1428 ) that the clergy of his bishopric did non number concubinage a wickedness, and made no effort to mask their usage of it” ( Durant 21 ) .

The day-to-day lives of the Catholic clergy were filled with intemperance. Their fiscal, political and societal corruptnesss made it practically impossible to function their places genuinely. In kernel, the clergy about wasn? t even truly clergy at all. They were merely ordinary people in spiritual vesture.

Clifford, Alan. The Middle Ages. St. Paul: Greenhaven Press, 1980. 5-9.

Durant, Will. The Reformation.New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980. 17-25.

Kelly, JND. Oxford Dictionary of Popes. New York: Oxford University Press. 1986.

220-1, 248-9, 252-5.

McBrien, Richard P. Encyclopedia of Catholicism.San Francisco: Harper Collins. 1989. 1091-4, 1027-8.

Mee, Charles L. White Robe, Black Robe. New York: GP Putnam Sons, 1972.64-5,


Strayer, Joseph R. Dictionary of the Middle Ages. New York: Charles Scribner? s Sons, 1983. Vol 3. 440-5, Vol 6. 446-50.

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