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Lecture Notes

This illness continues to dog me, taking my crops, land, money, and womenfolk. For today, I merely present part of my notes from Part I of the Theology on Tap Lecture on the causes of the Reformation . . .

The Black Death: As much as 60% of Europe wiped out. Good clergy especially hard hit . . . as much as 90% of clergy in some areas . . . probably 100% in some areas. The leaven of society removed. We can't over-emphasize this enough. Unfortunately, we can't really under-emphasize it either, since it's spiritual and can't really be measured.

The Black Death resulted in improved conditions for peasants. Fewer workers.

As the population improved, wages began to fall again. Nobility started pressuring the peasants, such as by enclosing grazing land to exclusion of peasant livestock. Resentment in general.

Clerical Privilege: pay no taxes, don't undertake civic duties like night watch, and no secular courts for crimes committed. And remember: There were a ton of clergy. Resentment at church. Lots of clerics. It was either be a priest or harvest turnips for a living.

This weakened confidence in the sacraments. Not necessarily Donatism, but a creeping doubt perhaps. I mean, if the sacraments bestow grace and lead people to virtue, how come so many priests are sons of bitches?

Monasteries: We discussed this last month: Good men start monasteries, they get lots of donations, they then attract lesser men, eventually, flat-out bad men: sloths. Tons of monasteries. I envision them like McDonald's today. And remember what monasteries were supposed to do: foster spiritual growth, virtue. This becomes relevant.

Institutional Corruption: The Church had a lot of things it did: missionary work, care for the sick, maintaining churches, etc. Those things take money. When it moved to Avignon (see below), it lost revenue from the Papal States in Italy. The Church looked for ways to cover shortfalls. It made honest mistakes, and it also had the “mistakes” of grasping popes and bishops, men who took advantage of the position. Simony, pluralism, extravagance.

Avignon: Pope Clement the V was a Frenchman and loyal to France. He moved the Papacy there, where it became pretty much a “French thing,” instead of a universal church. Gregory XI to move back to Rome. Greatly hurt the prestige of the Papacy, but not as much as the great schism.

The Great Schism: After Gregory XI died, Urban VI was elected in 1378, and he was a piece of work, possibly mentally unstable, definitely a dick. He even had some enemy cardinals tortured. A majority of cardinals retaliated, saying the election was bogus, and elected Clement VII as Pope, who returned to Avignon. The Great Western Schism. Nations lined up on both sides, at one point they tried to compromise and elected a third pope, thereby making the situation even worse. The Council of Constance (1418) ended it by accepting the resignation of the contending popes and electing Martin V. But the prestige of the Papacy was greatly tarnished.

Increasing attacks on the Papacy in general. Perhaps the most notable: Marsilius of Padua. Widely read. Such attacks fairly unheard of until the late middle ages.