Individual power and accomplishment was enjoyed and seen as good. Members of the Catholic clergy were financially, politically and socially corrupt. The abuses of clerical power and privileges by the clergy spanned all parts of their daily lives. The daily lives of the Catholic clergy were filled with intemperance and overindulgence. Their financial, political and social corruptions made it practically impossible to serve their positions truly. In essence, the clergy almost wasn’t even really clergy at all. They were Just ordinary people in religious clothing.
Perhaps the most interesting of the clerical corruptions are the social ones. It has already been addressed that the vow of poverty had been broken in half, smashed and ground into the dirt. People were refused a stately funeral and sometimes denied burial on account of their poverty level (Rogers pig 380). The status of their vow of chastity was in even worse condition. The clergy’s social corruption was that it was too social. Clerics focused more on their public status than on their congregations which goes back to the Renaissance idea of individual glory.
They openly drank, owned private property, slept in, slept around and pretty much ignored their religious obligations. Medieval beliefs about the human body were that the flesh is sinful and should not be seen or touched. The clergy obviously thought differently about the human body and leaned more towards the Renaissance ideas. The political issues of the clergy were seated in their lust for power and money and their variety of privileges. The sale of church offices had a lot to do with the political corruption.
Important, as well as insignificant offices were offered up to the highest bidders. Once the Jobs had been filled, the appointees created more new offices to sell for profit. The practice of creating new offices as a fund-raiser is most documented with the popes. Alexander VI created eighty previously non-existent offices, each going for a price of about 19,000 dollars apiece. Julius II and Leo X created similar numbers of offices, which would run at about the same prices. Alexander also had a soft spot for his friend’s children.
For them he arranged significant marriages and named one a cardinal. The clergy was notorious for sucking money out of the people any way they could. They were known to have sold false relics to unsuspecting believers, passing animal difficult because clergy often served as local officials, including those in charge of collecting taxes. However, it was blatantly obvious that the cash was going to the clergy, who were becoming worldlier by the day. Even the papacy, the highest representative of God’s church on Earth, had become almost mortally corrupted.
Pope Clement Vic’s luxurious court and gorgeous retinue were those of a secular prince, not a prince of the church. Another grievance that eventually became a driving force behind the Reformation, was the sale of indulgences. Priests are authorized to absolve a confessor from the guilt and punishment of sins in hell, but not from earthly penance. If all penances are not performed, the balance would have to be paid in purgatory, a kind of temporary hell. The indulgence began to replace prayer, pilgrimage and alms as penance to escape a short piece of their term in purgatory