The Church: Glossary

Any pope elected in opposition to the pope formally elected by the College of Cardinals.

Avignonese, or Babylonian Captivity
The period between 1305 and 1378 when the papal court resided in Avignon. The influence of the French monarchy on the papacy was resented by other nations and papal power declined throughout the rest of Europe during this time.

Council of Basel
Called by Pope Martin V in 1431, the council deteriorated when Martin's successor, Pope Eugenius IV, moved it to Ferrara in 1437. Radical conciliarists remained in Basel and their attempt to depose Eugenius and elect an anti-pope, Felix V, spelled the end of the conciliarist movement.

Brethren of the Common Life
A lay religious organization founded by Gerhard Groote in the Netherlands in the fourteenth century. Originally organized to remedy the lack of Scriptural writings in local languages, the Brethren set out to translate Greek and Latin sources, following the monastic rule of Saint Augustine of Hippo. They placed all their personal goods into a common holding and lived simple lives of everyday piety devoted to translation and teaching. Their ideas of individual spirituality and the sanctity of daily life were encompassed in the devotio moderna.

The Carmelites
A mendicant order founded as a hermit in the Holy Land c.1200, the unstable conditions of the thirteenth century forced them to migrate to Europe. After their arrival in Europe, the order grew rapidly over the next two centuries, especially after their austere rules were moderated late in the thirteenth century. Eventually, members were even permitted to hold individual property. The Carmelites received official papal recognition at the Council of Lyons (1274) as a mendicant order.

Catherine of Siena
Originally Caterina Benincasa, Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) was a Dominican tertiary and mystic who exerted significant influence on the religious affairs of her day. Experiencing visions from an early age, she was well known for her contemplative life and consideration for the poor. Catherine dictated letters on spiritual matters, at times while in mystical trances. She urged Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome from Avignon as well as pressing for peace in Italy and another Crusade to recover the Holy Land. Catherine died in 1378 while in Rome to rally support for the schismatic pope, Urban VI. Although many secular mystics of the time were condemned and declared heretics, Catherine received the support of the Dominican Order and helped to validate the idea of lay mysticism.

The Church
"The Church" referred to in this tutorial is the Christian Church based in Rome that is the forerunner of the Roman Catholic Church.

Divided into two classes, the clergy are the officials of the Church. The regular clergy are those members who have withdrawn from the world and live according to a recognized religious rule. This class includes monks and nuns. The secular clergy are those who, charged with the spiritual care of their parishioners, are in constant contact with the secular world. This class, which includes priests, bishops and archbishops, have taken the Sacrament of Holy Orders which allows them to administer the sacraments and to perform religious services.

College of Cardinals
Officially named the "Sacred College of Cardinals", it is composed of all the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church and is responsible for both electing and advising the pope.

Although not a new concept, the idea of an ecclesiastical council being the ultimate Church authority, instead of the pope, reached its zenith at the Councils of Constance and Basel. The successful resolution of the Great Schism at Constance encouraged many ecclesiastical and lay reformers to consider that the process should continue as a check on papal abuse of power. Pope Martin V, who had supported conciliarism as a cardinal, was nevertheless firmly against any intrusion into his authority once he had been elected pope. He quickly entered into treaties with secular rulers that effectively removed royal support from the conciliarists and the dissension between radical reformers and those desiring a more moderate approach signalled the failure of the Conciliar Movement. The attempt to depose Pope Eugenius IV (1431-1447) and elect a new anti-pope, Felix V (1439-1449) reeked of the Great Schism and the conciliarist cause was abandoned.

Devotional organizations formed by lay members as a response to the crises encountered in the late Middle Ages. The hardships caused by persistent warfare, plagues and famines were thought to be divine retribution for the sinfulness of mankind. There were two main types of confraternity although the many groups displayed characteristics of both. One type, the laudesi, sought to assuage the wrath of God by praise and worship through songs and hymns. The other type of confraternity, the disciplinati, was more dramatic, engaging in public and private demonstrations of penance such as flagellation in an endeavour to pay for the sins of all.

Council of Constance
Summoned in 1414 to end the Great Schism, the Council of Constance concluded in 1418, having selected a single pope and deposed the antipopes, confirmed conciliar supremacy, set the date for the next great Church council and condemned and burned Jan Hus as a heretic.

Officially named the "Curia Romana", it is the entire body of offices and commissions that assist the pope with the administration and government of the Church.

devotio moderna
The style of everyday piety, charity and scriptural study practised by the Brethren of the Common Life.

The Dominicans
Founded by St. Dominic in 1216, with Pope Innocent III's approval, the order was particularly dedicated to the fight against heresy and also to the conversion of Jews and Moslems. The Dominicans hoped to achieve this goal by preaching and public debate. Since this called for extensive knowledge of theology and philosophy, the friars had to be carefully educated. Many members of the order gained teaching position in European universities. When preaching failed to convert stubborn heretics, the Dominicans resorted to legal remedies, and thus became a leading administrators of the medieval inquisition.

Meister Eckhart
A Dominican friar whose full name was Johannes Eckhart, Eckhart (1260?-1328?) was a German mystic and theologian who wrote a large number works dealing with man's inner spirituality and the ability of the individual to develop this spirituality. These ideas diminished the importance of the clergy and the sacraments of the Church. In 1327, Pope John XXII summoned Eckhart to defend himself against charges of heresy which he did by recanting many of his propositions. Although his teachings were declared heretical, Eckhart's ideas had far-reaching influence and many consider them to be the precursors of Protestantism.

Born in the Netherlands, Erasmus was taught by the Brethren of Common Life. He became an Augustinian monk and studied at the University of Paris. He was a scholar, involved in study and writing, whose main interests were in the writingss of the Latin Church Fathers and Scripture. He was also concerned about the spiritual condition of the Church. As a humanist, he objected to the low level of education and essentially anti-intellectual stance of much of the lower clergy. He was repelled by the apparent decadence of the higher clergy and the Church as a whole. He argued for reform in the work In Praise and Folly. He supported Luther's Reformation initially, but then became its vocal opponent when Luther broke away from the Church because he wanted reform within a united Church.

The Franciscans
This mendicant order grew out of the movement inspired by the life and preaching of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). The Rule of St. Francis, which was based on Matthew 19:21, 16:24 and Luke 9:3 prescribed poverty, itinerant preaching and manual labour. Francis sought papal approval for his brotherhood but did not seek to found a formal order. In 1223, however, the Regula Secunda (Second Rule) received papal approval and marked the foundation of the order. The simplicity of life Francis sought in his rule did not long characterize the entire order. Even in his lifetime, tensions arose between two movements within the order, the Spirituals and the Conventuals. The Spirituals insisted on retaining Francis' original ideal, while the Conventuals were prepared to abandon the rule of absolute poverty. The Conventuals believed that monks could hold property in common but not individually. In the fourteenth century, the Spiritual Franciscans were frequently prosecurted, partly because some accepted the teachings of Joachim of Flora and were declared heretical. The conflict continued for generations. After the effective suppression of the Spirituals, the Observant branch of the order continued to oppose the Conventuals and frequently urged reform of the order.

heresy; heretical; heretic
Heresy is the denial or doubt of the defined doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Hus, Jan
Jan Hus (1369-1415), a Bohemian preacher who called for Church reforms, based his ideas on the teachings of John Wyclif. Declared a heretic by the Church, Hus was summoned to the Council of Constance and burned at the stake in 1415.

The followers of Jan Hus who were persecuted by the Church when their leader's teachings were declared heretical.

During the Middle Ages, forgiveness for sin could be purchased from the Church as indulgences, removing the burden of penance for the commission of sins. A lucrative source of income for the Church, the practice was condemned by most reformers.

The appointment of bishops and archbishops within the Catholic Church.

Kempis, Thomas á
Originally named Thomas Hemerken, Thomas á Kempis (c.1379-1471) was a German Augustinian monk. Ordained in 1413, Kempis spent the rest of his life at the monastery of Mount St. Agnes at Zwolle. His works exemplified the ideas of the devotio moderna and stressed the example of the Christ in seeking a spiritual lifestyle. He probably compiled the books of the Imitatio Christi in his middle age, although there is some doubt whether he actually wrote them all himself.

Members of the religious sect of fourteenth and fifteenth century England based on the teachings of John Wyclif. Considering the Bible to be the only rule of faith, Lollards urged a return to the simple life of the early Church and opposed many doctrines of the Church. The Lollards were fairly numerous in the late fourteenth century but their relentless condemnation of high-ranking members of the clergy and the aristocracy decreased their popularity and they became the targets of merciless persecution. Although greatly reduced in number, the Lollards still existed in the time of Henry VIII. Members of the religious sect of fourteenth and fifteenth century England based on the teachings of John Wyclif. Considering the Bible to be the only rule of faith, Lollards urged a return to the simple life of the early Church and opposed many doctrines of the Church. The Lollards were fairly numerous in the late fourteenth century but their relentless condemnation of high-ranking members of the clergy and the aristocracy decreased their popularity and they became the targets of merciless persecution. Although greatly reduced in number, the Lollards still existed in the time of Henry VIII.

Luther, Martin
A German theologian and religious reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546), initiated the Protestant Reformation. Luther received his early education from the Brethren of the Common Life and entered an Augustinian monastery against the wishes of his father. Following ordination as a priest, Luther undertook further theological studies. Although distressed by the lack of spirituality seen in the papal court, he continued to preach and teach the doctrines of the Church. In preparing his lectures, Luther became convinced that Christians were saved by the grace of God alone. The actions of the individual or the clergy were inconsequential to salvation.

On October 31, 1517, Luther published his Ninety-Five Theses which opposed the Church practice of granting indulgences. Called to recant these propositions, Luther refused and, despite his well-argued and vigorous defense, his writings were declared heretical and he was excommunicated in 1521. Attacks against Luther were renewed in 1524-1526 when peasants justified their revolts with arguments drawn from his work although his insistence on the independence of secular rulers from ecclesiastical influence gathered support from the nobility.

Luther's arguments were not necessarily original, drawing as they did on the ideas developed by earlier reformers and theologians. However, Luther was extremely convincing in his writing and preaching and his determined opposition to the Church allows him to be credited as the father of Protestant Reformation.

Religious orders that arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that took vows of personal and corporate poverty and, depending on charity for survival, preached to the urban populations.

Regular members of the clergy, such as monks and nuns, who undertake vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and withdraw from the world into the seclusion of monasteries and convents.

The pursuit of individual union with God. While the Church supported many mystics that were in Holy Orders, the quest for this union by the laity refuted the need for Church intermediaries and led to charges of heresy against secular proponents.

seat of St. Peter
The Petrine Doctrine is based upon the supremacy of St. Peter amongst the apostles. St. Peter was the first bishop of Rome and thus the first pope. Subsequent popes claimed their authority from their succession to St. Peter's bishopric, or seat, arguing that as St. Peter was the chief apostle so the pope was the head of the apostolic Church. This led to problems during the Avignonese Captivity as people questioned the source of the pope's authority if he did not hold the bishopric of St. Peter in Rome.

committee of the priors
The committee of priors was composed of six to eight members elected by sortition from amongst leading guild members. Many measures were instituted that were intended to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of any single person or family. The shory two-month terms of the members was designed to ensure that all legislation was in the best interests of the commune since the next committee could quickly void any unacceptable decisions. Additionally, members were isolated during the terms of their office to shield the committee from the influence of special interest groups.

A divinely institued outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual graces given to Christians. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Mass (Eucharist), Confession, Holy Orders (for clergy), Matrimony (for laity), and Extreme Unction.

Great Schism
The period between 1378 and 1417 during which there were multiple claimants to the papal office.

Matters not regarded as religious, spiritual or sacred. The secular world exists outside Church orders.

The purchase of ecclesiastical appointments.

The material and non-spiritual world subject to the passage of time.

The branch of religious orders composed of lay men and women living in the community. Often living under rules similar to those of regular monastics, tertiaries did not take vows of Holy Orders.

Wycklif, John
An English theologian and Church reformer, John Wyclif (c.1325-1384) stressed the importance of Scripture over tradition as the source of religious authority and attacked Church wealth as a cause of clerical corruption. Spread by his followers, the Lollards, Wyclif's ideas achieved considerable popularity amongst the middle and lower classes throughout England and the Continent. Although his views were declared heretical, Wyclif's personal popularity and influence with English aristocracy protected him from punishment during his lifetime even though his followers were subjected to persecution.

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The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
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