In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the Pardoner is a man who ignores the tenents of the Church, especially with regard to a vow of poverty. The Pardoner is not only wealthy, but makes his money by tricking unsuspecting parishoners and country parsons.
The Pardoner is described in The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales as a man who does not deny that he cheats the people and the Church to make money for himself.
He boasts openly of his corrupt practices and manipulative methods of getting money out of the gullible.
He is disheveled and he does not cover his head; he keeps his hood in his wallet (bag), but that is not all he keeps there...
His wallet lay before him in his lap,
Stuffed full of pardons brought from Rome all hot. (15-16)
These pardons that he sells are not given to him by the Church: for that money would return to the church. These pardons that he sells for the forgiveness of sins are stolen ("hot"), and he gets the money. He also sells relics that are fake, e.g...
For in his bag he had a pillowcase
The which, he said, was Our True Lady’s veil... (23-24)
The Pardoner loves to sell fake relics to the people and to "simple" or gullible country preachers (parsons).
In "The Pardoner's Tale," the Pardoner tells the story of three scurrilous men who (drunk very early in the day) decide to find Death and hold him accountable for a friend's demise. Ultimately, the men climb a small hill where they believe they will catch up with the person of Death (personified) and to find gold. Their greed leads them to plot murder amongst themselves, all three discovering Death quite literally. While the third is getting fooding and drink, two plot his death:
And then shall all this gold divided be,
My right dear friend, just between you and me…
And thus agreed were these two rogues, that day… (218-219, 222)
Ironically, the third man is just as greedy. Buying drink for all, he poisons one bottle of wine, intent on taking the gold for himself. When he returns, the two murder him. With poetic justice, they sit down to drink to their success, taking up the poisoned wine, and each dies. Greed led all three to their destruction.
The tale is a perfect example of the dangers of greed, but the Pardoner is not one to follow his own advice. He is the bane of the Church: a religious hypocrite.
The Parson, on the other hand, is much different. He lives a life of poverty. What he has, he gives away. Chaucer describes him...
...rich he was in holy thought and work... (3)
The Parson works tirelessly to save souls. He is not a pushy man and does not like to demand tithes. Instead, he would give of what little he had:
...rather would he give, in case of doubt,
Unto those poor parishioners about,
Part of his income, even of his goods. (11-13)
He believed that to sincerely be a shepherd to his flock, he needed to set a fine example for them to follow; he could not afford to be hypocritical. And making money is of no importance to him:
He was a shepherd and not mercenary.
While Chaucer describes several worldly clerics in his tale, the Parson is a genuinely decent man:
Christ’s own lore, and His apostles’ twelve
He taught, but first he followed it himself. (50-51)