Page:Historical Works of Venerable Bede vol. 2.djvu/220

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Lay monasteries and convents. secular authorities. And thus, having gained possession of farms and villages, they free themselves from every bond, both human and Divine, and in the character of superiors over monks, though they are but laymen, they do nothing therein but gratify their desires. Nay, it is not monks that are there assembled, but all such as they can pick up, outcasts from other monasteries for disobedience, or men whom they can allure away from other monasteries, or, in short, such of their own followers as they can persuade to receive the tonsure, and promise monastic obedience to themselves. With such ill-sorted societies do they fill the cells which they have built, whilst they present a disgraceful spectacle, never before heard of: for at one time they are occupied with their wives and the care of raising children, and at another time they rise from their beds to occupy themselves with the internal concerns of the monastery. Furthermore they display the same folly in procuring land for their wives, as they say, to erect convents, and these, equally foolish, though also laics, suffer themselves to become the superiors over Christ's handmaidens. Well suited to them is the proverb that wasps, though they can make combs, yet store them with poison instead of honey.

§ 13. Thus for about thirty years, ever since King Aldfrid was removed from this life, our province has been involved in such folly and error, that there has not been a single præfect since that time, who has not furnished himself during his præfecture with a monastery of this kind, and involved his wife also in the guilt of such wicked traffic; and thus this wicked custom has prevailed, and the king's ministers and servants have bestirred themselves to do the like. So that numbers of men have been found, who call themselves abbots and prsefects, or ministers or servants of the king, who, although as laymen, they may have learnt a little of the monastic life, not by experience, but by hearsay, yet are utterly without share of that character and profession