Essay, Research Paper: Catholic Church Description Of Chaucer


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Geoffrey Chaucer uses some of the characters in the Canterbury Tales The
Prologue in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to point out his view of what was right
and wrong within the Church during his time. He uses the Prioress, Monk, Friar,
Summoner, and Pardoner to illustrate what he saw wrong within the Church.
Chaucer uses the Clerk, Parson and the Plowman to illustrate the attributes the
Church should possess. The Prioress is a nun who is probably equal to the rank
of Mother Superior. She does not show the humility or dedication to God. Her
compassion is shown towards animals. She makes sure her animals eat the best
meats. She is more focused on natural love than agape love by the brooch she
wears which says "Love conquers all". She does not spend her time
fasting because the author lets us know that she is fat. In correlation to the
Church, the Prioress shows the Church's lack of dedication and humility towards
God. The Church is more concerned with matters which do not deal with the
deliverance of the human soul. Like the Prioress, the Monk does not walk in his
calling. He is the monastery's outrider. This position allows him to roam the
countryside at his will. Instead of being separate from the world, he is of the
world. He loves to hunt and enjoys riding his horse. He does not value the
teachings of his monastery because he feels they are somewhat strict. The Monk
does not like to study. "Why should he study, and drive himself mad, Over a
book in a cloister always to pour, Or work with his hands, and labor, As St.
Augustine bids? How shall the world be served? Let Augustine have his work to
himself reserved (12-13)." Chaucer sees the Church through the Monk as
being more involved in its own affairs. The Church has gotten away from the
basic Bible teachings and has instituted its own. Huburt, the Friar, like the
Prioress and Monk, is not operating within his vocation. He does not spend time
with the poor ministering to their phsyical needs as well as their spiritual
needs. The Friar believes that because of his status he couild not spend time
with these needy people. "It was not fitting, considering his position, To
be acquainted with sick lepers. It is not creditable, it holds no profit To deal
with any such paupers" (16). He spends time begging for donations from the
rich farmers and other worthy women of the town. For a price he will hear
confessions and give penance. He believes that "… instead of weeping and
prayers, Men should give silver to the poor friars" (15). This pilgram
shows the Church being more concerned with the financial support for itself than
the spiritual needs of the congregation. The Church has devised a way in which
to collect money from it's members by promising them forgiveness with dollar
signs attached to it. The Summoner is responsible for issuing summons for the
Church to people who have violated Church doctrine. His position is interesting
because he is handing out summons for people to appear before the Church when he
himself is living in direct violation of Church doctrine. The Church seems to
see what is wrong with everyone else but cannot focus on it's own violations of
the doctrine taught in the Bible. The Pardoner is the most corrupt pilgram. He
provides paper indulges for a price. These indulges are part of the scam the
Pardoner is running. He also offers junk for sale which he says were relics of
the saints. The Church has developed another mechanism for making money. It uses
the selling of crosses, statues, and other trinkets which are supposed to remind
us of what Christ has done for us. If these items were really to remind us of
what Christ did for us they would be free, since Christ gave his life freely.
The Clerk is the first pilgram Chaucer birngs into the script which has some
godly attributes. He spends time in prayer and fasting because the narrator lets
us know that he "…wasn't exactly fat, …"(19) and "…busily
prayed for souls" (20). He only spoke when it was necessary and when he did
speak people listened to him. "And that was said with care and respect,…
Resonant with moral virtue was his speech," (20). The Church lacks this
characteristic based on the corruption which Chaucer points out in the pilgrams
listed above. The Parson is the ideal clergyman. He places his congregation
above himself. He visits each member of his parish no matter what the weather.
He was rich in holy thought, patient in adversity and doesn't nag his parish for
contributions. He is truly a shepherd in word and in deed. "That first he
practiced, and afterwards he preached;" (32). The Church needs to be like
the Parson, a doer of the word instead of a hearer only. The Plowman is the
brother of the Parson. He is a good man, also. He possesses humility. He lived
in "…peace and perfect charity"(34). He did not have any problems
with doing the jobs no one else wanted to do. The Church is low on the attribute
of humility. The Church wants to be the center of attention instead of focusing
on the needs of the people. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales The Prologue points out
the corruption within the Catholic Church.
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