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Chaucer's Criticism of the Medieval Catholic Church

            Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (MacKaye) introduces readers to a diverse group of travelers making the annual pilgrimage to Canterbury, seeking blessings from St Thomas á Becket. This group of pilgrims represented every social station of a still class-divided England. Among them are an intelligent Merchant, a meager Clerk, a dignified Knight, a crude Wife, and several respected members of the clergy. Through the characterization of the pilgrims, Chaucer points out weaknesses of the Medieval Catholic Church. Ironically, the clergy members, who should be a shining illustration of Christian morality and compassion, serve as glowing examples of the decadence and corruption of the Medieval Church. Through character insights and descriptions, Chaucer makes known his opinion of hypocrisy, disobedience, and greed motivated dishonesty running rampant through the Medieval Catholic Church.
             Chaucer's Medieval Clergy easily and often find fault with commoners, yet seem to be oblivious to the dalliances and sins they themselves commit. The vilest hypocrite Chaucer reveals is the Pardoner. While preaching against the sin of avarice, the Pardoner quotes Timothy 1:6 "radix malorum est cupiditas-, or "love of money is the root of all evil."" However, he readily admits to his traveling companions that his "purpose is naught but gain, and not a whit correction of sin."" Sadly, the Pardoner knowingly admits to his hypocritical nature, but he does not care enough to change. The Friar is also guilty of hypocrisy. His position in the Church is to collect money for and minister to the sick and the downtrodden, yet he says "it is not seemly, it doth not profit, to deal with such poor rubbish-. This man of God, who uses the misfortune of others to raise funds for the Church, feels he is too good to socialize or even minister to those he is called to serve. Additionally, the Summoner is guilty of a multitude of sins against the church, including drunkenness and bribery.

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