The Friars Essay, Research Paper
Lawrence s works details how the mendicant orders arose before and during the thirteenth century. Europe supported the establishment of the church, implemented change and reform leading to heresy and separation. Lawrence regards the revolutionary situation (page 225), as one resulting partly by the growth of towns and the general population. Due to social changes within medieval Europe itself it sought control and threatened the stability of the Church and of the religious beliefs of the people.
In a way, the rise of the mendicant orders at this time is an answer to the problems in this situation. Mendicant orders are seen by Lawrence as a revolutionary answer to a potentially revolutionary situation (page 225) because of the long-term effect to help preserve the church hierarchy. This sometimes was in conflict and even become partly incorporated into that hierarchy themselves. Although, to some extent the mendicant orders were innovative, they cannot be seen as itself revolutionary. In order to be considered revolutionary, they would have had to overthrow the previous church order and perhaps replacing it with a new one. But mendicant order did nothing of the sort. The establishment of monasteries and schools allowed them to later become part of the Catholic Church, government system.
The Friars were well trained in theology and pastoral skills which is why they were chosen by the papacy to completely destroy the religious beliefs that opposed the orthodox views (page 188). At this time religion in the West was a relatively new concept. The friars are noted to have had some importance in the Inquisition: suppressing the heresy (Webster s New World Dictionary, 249). Developing out of measures to combat the dualist heresies rampant in France and in northern and central Italy by the middle of the twelfth century. (Page 189). Here the Church used its various means to combat the Cathars and others who opposes the belief of Dogma [that body of theological doctrines authoritatively affirmed (Webster s New World Dictionary, 146)] in that area. The Dominicans played a major role in the Albigensian Crusade directed against the Cathars to wipe them out.
Dominicans also played a part in the development of the Inquisition. The Frascisians were drawn into enterprise, though at first on a more limited scale. (Page 190) although it wasn t until Pope Innocent IV, that the Fransciscans began to play an important role in the Inquisition (page 191).
Nevertheless, judging from just this it can be seen that the role of the Friars could hardly be considered revolutionary. Instead of overturning the established order, the friars supporting it, and even encouraged the use of violence against those who threatened the heretics. Their presence resulted in reforms in learning and in the organization of the Church that accommodated as a part of the clergy. The friar s role counteracted the threats made to the Church by enabling it to adapt new ideas. What the friars did do, then, was to serve as an important force for reform.
The Dark Ages were over, and the practices that works in earlier times were less likely to work for the purpose of the Church as time went on. Medieval towns were becoming cities with the rise of commercial class. Better education that before, they were in a better position to criticize corruption within the clergy itself.
Thus, the power of the clergy and the church was also in question. It was only a question of time before the secular nobility would become more and more independent of the church. We can see that even at the time of Albigensian Crusade, political and military leaders such as the Count of Toulose were not hesitant to openly oppose church policies.
In intellectual, economic and social uproar, the cities were productive areas for heresy. The literate a laity, who formed the upper strata of the new urban society aware of the educational and moral shortcomings of secular clergy, were a natural forcing ground both for orthodox criticism of the Church and for radical dissent. (Page 3). For this reason, the Church was faced with a potentially revolutionary situation. The situation developed to an extent not again until the Reformation. So the Cathars in southern France were able, to field their own clerical hierarchy, and eventually oppose to that of the Catholic Church.
One means of coping with this situation was provided in the rise of the Friars. Whether Dominicans. Franscisians or of other orders, these mendicants attempted to revive the spiritual roots of the Church, of Christianity in general.
1. Guralnik, David B. Catastrophe . Websters New
World Dictionary of the American Language. 1976.