The Courage of the Lollards

Sir John Oldcastle being burnt for insurrectio...Image via Wikipedia
It's difficult when reading the Twelve Conclusions of the Lollards not to be moved and impressed by their courage.

Although the document, which was presented to the English Parliament in the 1390's, is less comprehensive doctrinally than some of the later outpouring of the Reformation era, these radical medieval church reformers certainly possessed fortitude when confronting the abuses they saw in the church of their day.

When the death penalty was normative for "heresy", the cry of these third stream believers is hugely impressive. The image is of Sir John Oldcastle being executed in 1417 for "Lollard heresy and insurrection."

Consider some of the language used:

On the priesthood:

Our usual priesthood, the which began in Rome feigned of a power higher than angels, is not the priesthood the which Christ ordained to his Apostles.

In a thoroughly modern-sounding criticism of clerical celibacy:

That the law of continence annexed to priesthood, that in prejudice of women was first ordained, induces sodomy in Holy Church

On transubstantiation:

The service of Corpus Christi made by Friar Thomas is untrue and painted full of false miracles, and that is no wonder, for Friar Thomas that same time, holding with the Pope, would have made a miracle of a hen's egg

On pilgrimages

the pilgrimage, prayers, and offerings made to blind roods and deaf images of tree and stone be near kin to idolatry and far from alms deeds

In the era of carefully nuanced news-speak, the directness of the Lollard "Conclusions" hits the post -modern mind like a hurricane.

The full text of the twelve Conclusions can be read here.

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1 comment:

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