Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/51

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The Dawn of difficulties

of revolution, to calm the restless spirit of the age, or resist the rising tide of novelties. Their very character was in itself out of joint with the times. In the days when might was right, and force of arms the ruling power of the world, the occupation of peace, to which the clergy were bound by their sacred calling, naturally roused hostile and violent opposition from the party rising into power. The bishops were, with some honourable exceptions, mere court officials pensioned out of ecclesiastical revenues. Holding their high offices by royal favour rather than on account of special aptitude to look after the spiritual welfare of their dioceses, they appear, perhaps not unnaturally, to have had little heart in their work.

Too often, also, the bishop of an important see would be occupied in the management of the secular affairs of state. Perhaps, even, he was paid for these services by the emoluments of his ecclesiastical office. To the king all looked for hope of reward, and to royalty all clung as long as there remained any prospect of success. The Church had few favours to give except at the wish and by the hands of the king. "Even cardinal's hats were bestowed only on royal recommendation." [1]The episcopal see was, moreover, not infrequently looked upon as a property conferred for political services and out of which the most, in a temporal point of view, was to be made.

The practice followed in more than one instance of rewarding foreigners by nominating them to vacant sees and benefices in return for services rendered, or as an inducement to help on some royal scheme, was also most obviously detrimental to the well-being of the Church. At one time the three bishoprics of Salisbury, Worcester, and Llandaff were all held in this way, by those whose only interest in the dioceses appears to have been the fees they obtained out of them. The bishop of Worcester lived and died in Rome, and his predecessor and successor in the see were also foreigners.

No less detrimental to the well-being of the Church in England at this time was the crying abuse and scandal of pluralities. Some priests were proved to have as many as ten or twelve benefices, and very possibly resident on none,

  1. Friedmann, i. p. 137.