The Catholic Church in the 14th century What were some weaknesses that the Church struggled with in the 14th century? Are any of those weaknesses still of concern to the Church today? What does the 14th century offer for us?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Yes, I agree that the Schism was of much greater significance than the retreat to Avignon. It did expose the various power structures in the regime and showed how they were far more interested in their own enrichment rather than spiritual enrichment, unfortunately. This of course has been something that unfortunately has echoed down on through the ages to today's age, where church politics still remains a bitterly contested domain.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It appears to me that even in today's modern world, Catholicism has evident flaws and weaknesses. A church that compels its members to believe a certain way, while not allowing free thinking, speech, and expression, is bound to run into problems. Look at the ways in which the Catholic religion was forced upon the inhabitants of North and South America in the 14th century. Whole cultures and societies were wiped out . . . all under the auspices of divine authority! The Mayans, Toltecs, Incas, Aztecs, and more recently the Native American Indians, are prime examples of religious colonization gone awry.

Catholicism, like any religion, is not a perfect way to live one's life. While many of its precepts are pure and wholesome, it's believers are not. In more recent years, I've heard stories of cloistered nuns giving birth to illegitimate babies and discarding them in the trash can! Can you imagine? But, consider this . . . it states in the Bible that "the man is not without the woman and the woman without the man in the Lord." So, isn't it reasonable to assume that it isn't natural to take away a man or woman's desire to have affection and intimacy, or marry and have a family?

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One significant weakness in the Catholic Church in the latter half of the 14th century (1300s) is that the Inquisition, instituted in 1229, was catching up with the Church. The decades of interrogations, inhumane treatment and unjust treatment (such as expelling all Jews) had worn a deep furrow of hatred and animosity in Western Christians hearts. This odium (i.e., intense hatred, dislike and reproach) tainted the effectiveness and believability of the Papacy that was further exacerbated with the Great Western Schism in which there was divisive disputation over the rightful designee as Pope. A scar that has followed into the present age is the treatment of Jews who were not only expelled from France and England and congregated in Germany and Italy but also compelled under the effects of duress and persecution to convert to Christianity.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the weaknesses, as noted, was the corruption of the Catholic Church as noted by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. One of the previous posts spoke of the sale of indulgences (with a great quote), and the Pardoner in Chaucer's story is one of the corrupt servants of the church who sold stolen indulgences, as well as fake artifacts—a piece of cloth said to be from the Virgin Mary's veil; another the sail of the ship when Peter walked on water with Christ. Though Chaucer does not directly censure the Pardoner, we can read between the lines. And the story the Pardoner shares with the group of pilgrims speaks of the death of three men because of their greed.

The Protestant Reformation was obviously an unwelcomed development. The Church also had to face the plague, which swept Europe twice—the Church tried to explain it away as punishment for sin. They were no more able to explain in than anyone else, but populations died, giving decreased, the Church's servants and workers died...it was a difficult time for everyone.

Division within the Church caused serious problems, while things were in chaos around them.

However, the Church's failure to move away from tradition could have been both a blessing and a curse. Those looking for change did not find it in the Roman church; however, those who felt comfortable and safe, especially facing plague and war, would have taken comfort from the unchanging Church, especially when so much around them was changing—and death was everywhere.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Thinking about the fourteenth century, the thing that jumps out is that amidst all the crises- the Hundred Years' War between two Christian kingdoms, the Great Famine of the first part of the fourteenth century, and of course the Black Death- the Church was too riven with controversies that were ultimately political to fulfill the spiritual needs of the people of Europe. When they needed it the most, the Church was divided.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the problems was the church's blind adherence to traditions, even when the traditions were corrupt. This is one of the reasons, if not the greatest reason, for the Protestant Reformation. When Tetzel, a Catholic preacher started selling indulgences with the slogan - - "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory spings" - - Luther had enough. I would say that at times, the Catholic church is not as strong as it could be because they value tradition too much.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Historically and in contemporary times, the sad truth is that the Roman Catholic Church, and any other denomination of Christian faith or any other faith-based organization you care to name, is run by a group of fallible and sinful people. None of us are perfect, and we are all subject to influences that lead to corruption. Human beings are persuaded by earthly power and appeals to personal vanity, and they lose focus on spiritual goals when secular concerns arise.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Babylonian captivity, it seems to me, was not as important as the schism.  Sure, it was bad for Rome when the papacy went to Avignon, but not so bad for the Church as a whole.  What was really bad was when there were two (or at one point three) popes.  This showed the moral bankruptcy of the Church as the two popes vied for power and leaders across Europe took sides.

The problem that was more clearly connected to today, though, was the lack of spiritual leadership from the Church.  It was more concerned with money and power than with its flock.  You can argue the Church has shown this same tendency as it has tried to cover up things like the sex scandals, seeming to be more concerned with how it looks to the world than with what is happening to its people.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This was a time of schism in the church. Many Popes during the 14th cedntury abandoned Rome and ruled from Avignon. This period is often referred to as the "Babylonian captivity" of the church.  The church at this time was also corrupt in various ways. Some would argue that this latter problem is relevant to recent scandals in the church.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial