The Catholic Church Exposed In The Character of The Friar Essay

The Catholic Church Exposed In The Character of The Friar Essay

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During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church was one of the wealthiest institutions in Europe, but the people of the land suffered in poverty. Chaucer exposes the hypocritical greed of the Catholic Church with the description of the Friar in The General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales. Instead of giving aid to the poor, the Friar lived gluttonously and encouraged parishioners to give money in exchange for absolution. Chaucer defines the inconsistency within the Church: the institution and its leaders claim to be available to guide people to live Christian lives, yet selfishly encourage the public to pay for absolution, corrupting the original purpose and meaning of confession and absolution.
Chaucer begins the description of the Friar by defining his authority. The Friar “hadde power of confessioun / As seyde hymself, moore than a curat, / For of his ordre he was licenciat” (218-220). He was licensed to hear confession and according to himself, he had more power than a priest. While not pertaining to money at this point, Chaucer presents the greedy personality of the Friar by demonstrating his hunger for power and his pompousness about possessing such power. This reflects the attitude of many clergy because as clergymen, they held higher status and received more money than a regular person, with the exception of some landowners.
The Friar does not uphold the basic value of absolution but instead he turns it into moneymaking scheme. The Friar is “an esy man to yive penaunce / Ther as he wiste to have a good pituance” (222-223). According to the Friar:
For unto a poore ordre for to yive
Is signe that a man is wel yshrive,
For if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt
He wiste that a man was repentaunt;
For many a man so hard is of hi...

... middle of paper ...

...any confessors opt to give him silver for their absolution. This reflects the irony within the Church in regards to its parishioners: the wealthy Church continues to receive money from the poor public in exchange for salvation and eternal life.
Chaucer’s description of the Friar reveals the nature of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. The Friar encourages monetary penance for absolution and, similarly, the Church favors wealth and the wealthy. The purpose of absolution is lost because the Friar will grant it to anyone who can make the payment. Chaucer carefully maintains a neutral stance throughout the illustration of the Friar, but the use of irony demonstrates and discreetly comments on the way he handles absolution, which reflects how the Church handles salvation for its followers. The Friar portrays the Church’s greed amidst poverty in the Middle Ages.

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