While some bishops made valiant efforts to care for their flock by countering the spread of false doctrines, others were much more lackadaisical. The response of some of the local bishops to the serious crisis cause by the rapid spread of Catharism and Waldensianism was something less than vigorous. Pope Alexander III in 1170 bluntly reprimanded the bishops for their culpable negligence. The parish priests were ill-prepared to meet the challenge. Aside from the usual horror stories repeated by modern authors – taking individual instances of clerical delinquencies and therefrom leaping to general condemnations – there are sufficient strictures in the letters of Pope Innocent III, the regional synods, and the General Councils. The ordinary native clergy were far from the centers of learning and even from the minimal instruction of the scholasticus in the cathedral Chapter. Consequently the education of the local clergy was left to living in the rectory with the current pastor and learning from him the rudiments of Catholic doctrine and instruction in the administration of the Sacraments. One is reminded of the training of lawyers in the offices of practicing attorneys down to the twentieth century offices in the United States, “reading the law”. On the other hand the monks and friars were much better trained in their monasteries and universities with their professors and libraries, and it would be to them, eventually, that the pope would have to go. But the universities were far from the countryside, and organized seminaries would have to wait till the reforms of the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. For all that, it appears that the local clergy led their flocks along a fruitful spiritual path, as is evidenced from the piety of the times seen in the flourishing popular devotions, shrines, pilgrimages.

Albert Shannon, The Medieval Inquisition (1991)


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