Homework; Does the criticism directed at the church in the 1520’s prove that the church was in a very weak and unpopular state?
The state of the church within the sixteenth century was that of a debatable one. In general, it appeared that due to its large nature and high influence on the king and government, the church had widespread support within the country. Whilst there was accounts of criticism and corruption (and this is what is mainly written about in history, due to the rare nature of these circumstances), it appeared that most of the country was supportive of both the clerical and doctrinal aspects of the church, leading it to be in a popular and strong state.
The main suggestion that the church in England was still particularly strong an popular in the 1520’s is the fact that up until the very eve of the reformation, people from all walks of life were leaving donations to the church, monasteries and nunneries in their wills. The fact that most of the population in the 16th century were leaving their entire earthly possessions and wealth to a singular institution suggests that it was still popular and the criticism it faced were not drawing from this strength. However, it could be said that the amount of wealth the church got through wills could simply be explained by the fact that majority of the population could not read and write, therefore wills were written by the church and therefore it is obvious that the church would get the wealth from this, as the people they were writing the wills for, could not check that the Church were doing what they were saying, therefore the system was open to corruption. Source A backs up the idea of criticism questioning corruption within the church, describing priests as ‘dishonest’ and suggesting that priests would fake miracles to ‘encourage pilgrimages to their parish.’, ultimately to get more money through tithes. Criticism like this made the Church unpopular, and suggested in a way that it was weak as priests felt the need to be corrupt in order to gain support. Source A was written by a humanist in 1528, so is likely to be of this opinion due to the critical stance of the church taken by humanists. On the other hand, It is likely that humanists such as Thomas More in source A would have chosen to write about various aspects of corruption due to its rarity; issues like this are much less likely to be picked up on if they are common. It could also be argued that the amount of people leaving money was so large and so widespread across the country, that it would have included a large amount of people who could read and write, therefore it would be unlikely to be due to corruption within the church causing large sums of money to be left to them in peoples wills.
Another key factor which highlights that the criticism directed at the church in the 1520’s does not prove that the church was weak and unpopular was the extremely high and regular attendance to masses, right up until the eve of the reformation. This indicates that majority of the attendants are doing so willingly. This is backed up by source B, which refers to the church ‘nourished local pride as well as piety’, showing that the church had support as well as gave support to locals on a religious level. However, it could be said that people only went to church because of pressure from their imposed ideologies- the fear of going to hell or a lengthened purgatory time if they did not go to church. This doctrinal criticism of the church effectively made it stronger and more popular, as people would rather support an institute which was widely around at the time, than risk a bad afterlife, as in a time of disease, ill education and low life expectancy, the afterlife was considered a prize for enduring life.
Criticism directed towards the church in the 1520s couldn’t prove that it was weak and unpopular, as whilst these criticisms were being thrown around, large and extensive amounts of building work was