Indulgences In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

Before Martin Luther posted his 95th thesis on a church door in Worms, Germany so as to publicly air his grievances against the Church, another prominent figure also criticized the abuses of the Church. This man was no clergyman or ruler; he was a prominent literary figure of his time. This man was Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in part, deals greatly with the abuses and scandalous behaviors of authority figures in the Catholic Church. Before Luther and before changes were made, Chaucer’s novel sheds light on some of the more questionable behaviors of those in the Catholic Church.

An example of Chaucer’s criticisms is visible in the prologue of the Pardoner’s Tale. Here, the pardoner admits with ease his unkemptly practices
…show more content…
Many crooked and greedy men, many including those amongst the clergy, utilized indulgences to fill their coffers. The selling of indulgences quickly became akin to the modern day Ponzi scheme, only this promised spiritual not financial gains. The abuse of indulgences was rampant and commonplace during the late 1300’s, so clearly a learned man like Chaucer would have been disgusted by the crookedness of the Church officials. This practice continued long after Chaucer’s death. Eventually, it began to strike a nerve with fellow clergymen. This practice helped inspire Martin Luther write his 95 theses condemning the abuses and corruption within the Catholic Church. Soon after, the Catholic Church began to take a deep and serious look at this practice. On December 4th, 1563, the Roman Catholic Church convened a council in Trent. The council affirmed that general and original practice of indulgences was still valid, but the council ensured that abuses would not continue. “And being desirous that the abuses which have crept therein, and by occasion of which this honorable name of Indulgences is blasphemed by heretics, be amended and corrected, It ordains generally by this decree, that all evil gains for the obtaining thereof, --whence a most prolific cause of abuses amongst the Christian people has been derived, --be wholly abolished” (Council of Trent). Indeed, Chaucer’s concerns were valid, and his criticisms were based on

Related Documents