Thursday, March 11, 2010

What price salvation now, mate?

I was doing a quiet browse around the Wonderland yesterday lunchtime and followed a couple of threads which arose from a story I had come across about 6 months back. It was a story of, not by, Geoffery Chaucer - the man best known for "The Canterbury Tales" and "The Parliament of Fowles". Among the early links thrown up by google was this - to a discussion of the "The Pardoner's Tale".
Having so much wealth to distribute among the faithful, the Church used to insure its repartition through means of certain people who went about, authorized by official letters, offering to good Christians some particle of the heavenly wealth placed at the disposal of the successors of St. Peter. They expected in return some part of the much more worldly riches their hearers might be possessed of, and which could be applied to more tangible uses than the "treasury." The men entrusted with this mission were called sometimes quæstors, on account of what they asked, and sometimes pardoners, on account of what they gave.

Does not the name of these strange beings, whose character is peculiar to the Middle Ages much more than that of the friars, or any of those whom we have just studied, recall the sparkling laugh of Chaucer, and bring back his amusing portrait to the memory? His pardoner describes himself:

"Lordyngs, quod he, in chirches whan I preche,
I peyne me to have an hauteyn speche,
And ryng it out, as lowd as doth a belle,
For I can al by rote which that I telle.
My teeme is alway oon, and ever was;
Radix omnium malorum est cupiditas."

In the pulpit he leans to the right, to the left, he gesticulates, he babbles; his arms move as much as his tongue; it is a wonder to see and hear him.

"I stonde lik a clerk in my pulpit,
And whan the lewed people is doun i-set,
I preche so as ye have herd before,
And telle hem an hondred japes more.
Than peyne I me to strecche forth my necke
And est and west upon the poeple I bekke,
As doth a dowfe, syttyng on a berne;
Myn hondes and my tonge goon so yerne,
That it is joye to se my businesse.

* * * * *

I preche no thyng but of coveityse.
Therfor my teem is yit, and ever was,
Radix omnium malorum est cupiditas."

and again -
These quæstores, or quæstiarii as they were officially called, were, so says Boniface IX., speaking at the very time that the poet wrote his tales, sometimes secular priests and sometimes friars, but extremely impudent. They dispensed with all ecclesiastic licence, and went from hamlet to hamlet delivering speeches, showing their relics and selling their pardons. It was a lucrative trade, and the competition was great; the success of the authorized pardoners had caused a crowd of interested pardoners to issue from the schools or the priory, or from mere nothingness, greedy, with glittering eyes, as in the "Canterbury Tales": "suche glaryng eyghen hadde he as an hare;" true vagabonds, infesters of the highroads, who having nothing to care for, boldly carried on their impostor's traffic. They imposed it, spoke loud, and without scruple unbound upon earth all that might be bound in heaven. Much profit arose from this; Chaucer's pardoner gained a hundred marks a year, which might easily be, since, having asked no authority from any one he gave no one any accounts, and kept all the gains to himself. In his measured language the Pope tells us as much as the poet, and it seems as though he would recommence, feature for feature, the portrait drawn by the old storyteller. First, says the pontifical letter, these pardoners swear that they were sent by the Court of Rome: "Certain religious, who even belong to different mendicant orders, and some secular clerks, occasionally advanced in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, affirm that they are sent by us or by the legates or the nuncios of the apostolic see, and that they have received the mission to treat of certain affairs, ... to receive money for us and the Roman Church, and they go about the country under these pretexts." We find in the same manner that it is Rome whence Chaucer's personage comes, and he is always speaking against avarice:

"a gentil pardoner

* * * * *

That streyt was comen from the court of Rome

* * * * *

His walet lay byforn him in his lappe,
Bret-ful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot."

* * * * *

"What! trowe ye, whiles that I may preche
And wynne gold and silver for I teche,
That I wil lyve in povert wilfully?

* * * * *

For I wol preche and begge in sondry londes,
I wil not do no labour with myn hondes,

* * * * *

I wol noon of thapostles counterfete
I wol have money, wolle, chese, and whete."

OK, so let us Tardis forward about 600 years...

Over the past few weeks there has been an increasing raruraru in the media here following the walkout of Pastor and a good part of his congregation from the Brisbane (QLD) branch of the Destiny Church.

Since then it seems everyone and their grandmother's dog has been on the bandwagon, culminating in this gem -
Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki says his $1 million-plus home and $75,000 car are "not much" of a reward for decades of clean and righteous living and taking his message to the masses.

In an interview with broadcaster Willie Jackson on Radio Live yesterday, Bishop Tamaki, who was accompanied by church spokesman Richard Lewis, said his expensive car and $1.25 million home at Maraetai in Manukau City were just reward for living right and working hard.

He said he had never been on a benefit, nor had it been in his mind that ministering to the church, which has a membership of 7000, was a vocation people took to make money.

"My wife and I have lived right, we don't drink, smoke, we haven't wasted our money, we have got some wisdom behind us," he said. "Shouldn't we have a house and a car by now?"

Asked if his approach was too extravagant and lavish and if his dress style was too brazen, Bishop Tamaki said: "I kinda like me.

"I figured really early in life I'd better get to like me first or it would be an ugly situation," Bishop Tamaki said.

"But that's not pride. I'm confident. At the same time, I'm honoured and I'm humbled to be used of God in this measure."

But a former high-ranking Destiny member told the Weekend Herald he and others left because people were hearing less about Jesus Christ and hearing more about the church's leader.

The man, who has since joined another church in Auckland, had a close association with Bishop Tamaki but left after the two clashed over their theological differences.

"You want people to focus on the content of what you're saying, so when the finance, the glitz and the lifestyle take precedence over what you are saying, all people are seeing is the bling," he said.

"What they didn't hear much about was about being good, caring Christians and sure, the pastor shouldn't be riding a Raleigh 20 bike, but there's a fine line and if you want to reach more people you have to tone things down.'

The man said he could understand his former colleague Pastor Andrew Stock's reasons for walking out of Brisbane's Destiny Church this week allegedly because of concerns over the church's covenant.

This whole story has at its base the practice of tithing members.

Nothing has changed in 600 years?

Now I must, must, must go read "The Parliament of Fowles".

1 comment:

T. F. Stern said...

Missed reading new stuff, thought maybe you'd gone on another vacation.

I can remember having to recite the first several lines from memory, Juan, the mexican in Canterbury Tales, Juan dot april with da sure a

LDS uses lay ministry and there is no pay involved, no collection plates to pass; we do it as a service to our fellow brothers and sisters.