A Church That Completely Missed The Boat

Photo by David Tapia

In the 14th century, during the Babylonian Captivity, King Philip IV captured the pope (the French, Clement V) and moved the papacy to Avignon, France. For 70 years there were no popes in Rome. (1305-1377)

Exile only increased the greed of the Roman Catholic Church because money was harder to come by. Pope John XXII, the predecessor of Clement V, tried everything he could to make a lot of cash. Fees were charged not only for weddings and funerals, but also for baptisms. The sin of greed began to take over in such perverse ways that they began to perform abominable acts such as cutting dead people in half and burying them in two graves, thus charging a bigger fee. Every newly elected bishop was required to turn over his 1st year’s salary to the pope. If a bishopric became vacant, instead of choosing someone new, such as a priest, the pope would fill the vacancy with another bishop which made a new vacancy and on and on it would go, shuffling bishops around, while the pope received the 1st year’s salary from every one of them.

Another way to accumulate wealth was through the sale of indulgences. An indulgence was a payment to the Catholic Church that purchased an exemption from punishment (penance) for some types of sins. You could not get an indulgence to excuse a murder, but you could get one for lesser sins, such as thinking lustful thoughts or telling a lie. Catholics fear that if one of their sins are not confessed, they will spend extra time suffering in purgatory before reaching heaven. In later years, the sale of indulgences included forgiveness for the sins of people who had died. The belief is that the pope possesses a ‘treasury of merits’ of the saints who had proved themselves worthy via their many good deeds and obedience; thus they were able to get out of purgatory all by themselves and had extra credits left over. The pope could then use these credits on behalf of someone else. But first, a living relative had to give him money.

When Franciscan monks, who had made a vow of poverty, called pope John XXII a heretic, the pope became so enraged that he turned some of them over to the Inquisition to be burned to death.

In 1377, the papacy finally left France to return to Rome. Churchmen became very elegant. Money was spent on beautiful churches and expensive robes for the hierarchy. The laity, mostly Bible illiterate and poor, were spectators of a repeat performance of magic every Sunday. The Eucharist being the most amazing feat to watch as the robed man at the altar, speaking in Latin, would literally call Christ down from heaven so that He (Christ) could transform His own body into the bread (wafer). The ‘Virgin’ Mary also became a miracle worker, rescuing people at their beck and call. The wonders of a simple priest with the ability to absolve even the worst sinners and grant salvation to infants by the mere sprinkling of water upon their foreheads. Anyone who was on their deathbed with mere hours to live, could be given “last rites” to help prepare their soul for its final destiny. This is also called anointing of the sick or extreme unction. It gives the very sick a final chance to confess all sins and receive the Eucharist.

Where is salvation by grace? Where do we see the blood of Christ paying our sin debt in full in Roman Catholicism? This church completely missed the boat.

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