What did the Friar get in return for pardons he granted?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Friar receives money in the form of silver for granting penance. He will, it is said, "grant penance" whenever he knows he can get a "pittance," meaning a fee for the service. In a typically wry passage, Chaucer says that to the Friar (and, perhaps, not just this friar) "money given/Is sign that any man has been well shriven." In other words, whether or not a person is earnest in their confession of sins, a small fee can gain them forgiveness, no matter, it seems, how bad the sin was. "Therefore," it is concluded:

instead of weeping and of prayer,
Men ought to give some silver to the poor freres.

Contrition, it seems, is best shown by giving a gift to the avaricious Friar to intercede on one's behalf. Overall, the Friar is a greedy, "wanton" character, and certainly not consistent with the bahavior one would expect of a member of an order. 

missbc | Student

"Sweetly he heard his penitents at shrift

With pleasant absolution, for a gift.

He was an easy man in penance-giving

Where he could hope to make a decent living;

It's a sure sign whenever gifts are given

To a poor Order that a man's well shriven,

And  should he give enough he knew in verity

The penitent repented in sincerity.

For many a fellow is so hard of heart

He cannot weep, for all his inward smart.

Therefore instead of weeping and of prayer

One should give SILVER for a a poor Friar's care."

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