Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/52

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Henry VIII. and the English Monasteries

while there were "plenty of learned men in the universities "[1] for whom no preferment could be found. Cardinal Wolsey himself set the example. He held not only a plurality of livings, but was bishop of more than one see, whilst he farmed others. He also obtained the abbey of St. Albans in commendam. Although the Parliament of 1529 especially legislated against this abuse, the exceptions were so numerous as to make the Act ridiculous and nugatory. At this time also benefices were bestowed upon youths of good family, who had sufficient influence to secure these preferments. Thus, for example, Reginald Pole, the future cardinal, when only seventeen was nominated to the prebendal stall of Roscombe, and two years later to Gatcombe Secunda, both in the Salisbury diocese. At eighteen he received the deanery of Wimborne Minster.[2]

The non-residence of bishops in their dioceses was a fruitful source of evil. The episcopal functions were very generally relegated to suffragans, who, instead of being assistants, became practically substitutes for their principals in all the spiritual work of a diocese. Not unfrequently these suffragans were bishops of Irish sees, who resided in England to the neglect of their own cure, and undertook the supervision of more than one diocese. Upon such auxiliaries rectories or other ecclesiastical preferments were bestowed in lieu of payment for their services, and these in turn were left to the care of ill-paid curates.

The occupation of the bishops in affairs of state, besides its disastrous effect on the clergy, had another result. By it a jealous opposition to ecclesiastics was created in the minds of the new nobility. The lay lords and hungry officials not unnaturally looked with dislike upon this employment of ecclesiastics in secular concerns. The occupation of clerics in all the intrigues of party politics, and in the wiles of foreign and domestic diplomacy, conduced to keep them out of coveted preferment. Hence when occasion offered they did not need much inducement to turn against the clergy and enable Henry to carry out his coercive legislation against the Church.

This state of affairs was doubtlessly reflected in the mon-

  1. Complaints against Clergy in Parl, 1529, No. 6.
  2. Calendar, ii. No. 3943.—Starkey's Dialogue between Pole and Lupset, E. Eng. Text Soc, Preface cxiii.—21 Hen. VIII., c. 13.