What challenges did the Church face during the 14th century?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Church faced many challenges during this century.  Three of the most important were heresies, the Black Death, and the Great Schism.

During this century, the Church was starting to face heresies and demands for reform that in some ways foreshadowed those of Martin Luther.  The most important of these heresies was Lollardy.  This idea was first propounded by John Wycliffe.  He called for a reduction in the power of Church officials like the Pope and he challenged such basic Church doctrines as the transubstantiation of the bread and wine at Communion.

The Church was also challenged by the Black Death.  It was unable to stop or even to explain this horrible tragedy.  This reduced its legitimacy and people's faith in it.

Compounding all of this was the Great Schism.  The Church essentially split in two with two different popes (and sometimes three) all claiming to be legitimate.  This brought the credibility of the Church into great doubt among many people.

All of these challenged the Church and helped to weaken it during the 1300s.

pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The greatest challenge that the Catholic Church faced in the fourteenth century was the Black Death. Originating in Venice and spreading all over Europe, the plague killed millions. Since the clergy worked closely with the dying, the disease seemed to target them. Some clergymen even abandoned their responsibilities and fled into the countryside, leaving lay people to hear confessions. The fatality rates also adversely affected church tithing. Many people questioned God and the church's authority during this difficult time. Some people even turned to immorality; they saw no sense in purity if they were only going to die anyway.

Another challenge to the Catholic Church was the frequent state of war in Europe. The instability the wars caused spread to Italy. There was a feud between Phillip the Fair of France and the Papacy which ultimately would end in the Babylonian Captivity, which was a period of seventy years in which the pope lived in Avignon as the king's vassal.

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