Thus the Roman curia was a terror to all who were brought in contact with it. Ilildebert of le Mans pictures its officials as selling justice, delaying decisions on every pretext, and, finally, oblivious when bribes were exhausted. They were stone as to under- standing, wood as to rendering judgment, fire as to wrath, iron as to forgiveness, foxes in deceit, bulls in pride, and minotaurs in consuming everything. In the next century Robert Grosseteste boldly told Innocent IV. and his cardinals that the curia was the source of all the vileness which rendered the priesthood a hissing and a reproach to Christianity, and, after another century and a half, those who knew it best described it as unaltered.
When such was the example set by the head of the Church, it would have been a marvel had not too many bishops used all their abundant opportunities for the fleecing of their flocks. Peter Cantor, an unexceptionable witness, describes them as fishers for money and not for souls, with a thousand frauds to empty the pockets of the poor. They have, he says, three hooks with which to catch their prey in the depths — the confessor, to whom is committed the hearing of confessions and the cure of souls ; the dean, archdeacon, and other officials, who advance the interest of the prelate by fair means or foul ; and the rural provost, who is chosen solely with regard to his skill in squeezing the pockets of the poor and carrying the spoil to his master. These places were frequently farmed out, and the right to torture and despoil the people was sold to the highest bidder. The general detestation in which these gentry were held is illustrated by the story of an ecclesiastic who, having by an unlucky run of the dice lost all his money but five sols, exclaimed in blasphemous madness that he would give them to any one who would teach him how most greatly to offend God, and a bystander was adjudged to have won the money when he said, "If you wish to offend God beyond all other sinners, become an episcopal official or collector." Formerly, continues Peter Cantor, there was some decent concealment in absorbing the property of rich and poor, but now it is publicly and boldly seized through infinite devices and frauds and novelties of extortion. The officials of the prelates are not only their leeches, who suck and are squeezed, but
- Fascic. Rerum Expetendarum et Fugiendarum II. 7, 254-255 (Ed. 1690).