By Edwin D. Craun

The overdue medieval Church obliged all Christians to rebuke the sins of others, particularly those that had energy to self-discipline in Church and country: monks, confessors, bishops, judges, the Pope. this custom, during which the injured celebration needed to confront the wrong-doer without delay and privately, used to be referred to as fraternal correction. Edwin Craun examines how pastoral writing urged Christians to make this corrective approach potent by way of warding off slander, insult, and hypocrisy. He explores how John Wyclif and his fans increased this demonstrated perform to authorize their very own polemics opposed to mendicants and clerical wealth. eventually, he lines how significant English reformist writing - Piers Plowman, Mum and the Sothsegger, and The e-book of Margery Kempe - increased the perform to justify their protests, to guard themselves from repressive parts within the overdue Ricardian and Lancastrian Church and kingdom, and to induce their readers to mount powerful protests opposed to spiritual, social, and political abuses.

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The virtues which generate fraternal correction could be used even more broadly to reinforce basic social and political hierarchies. The many Middle English versions of the catechetical handbook Somme le roi expound “castiga,” a general term for reproof and correction, as an act of spiritual mercy within existing power relations, ecclesiastical and civil. In the words of the popular late-fourteenth-century Book of Vices and Virtues,  Universalizing correction as a moral practice the third branch of spiritual mercy is to “chastise and withtake [rebuke] the fooles and schrewen [sinners] and here [their] folies and this bilongeth specialliche to prelates of holy chirche and to princes and to grete lordes and othere riche men.

They certainly know the financial canons, he adds sarcastically, even if they do not know the penitential ones, as they are required to do. ” The Lateran Councils’ concern with clerical evils was not lost in pastoral materials and sermons. Nor was it lost in the pastoral practice of correcting sin. Most of the sinners whom Margery Kempe rebukes in York, either before or during her interrogation, are clerics. We can best think of the pastoral texts setting forth the practice of fraternal correction as making up a discourse.

Despite this idealized exemplum, John Bromyard recognizes that existing power relations can make correcting sin difficult, even for the clergy. When sinners have greater institutional power, he advocates that the reprover prudently use a pleasing exemplary narrative rather than direct admonishment. The rhetorical power of such exempla he illustrates with the most common biblical model for correction of sin, Nathan ( Samuel ): Quando voluit regem david de adulterio et homicidio corripere, caute proposuit exemplum de divite qui habebat oves plurimas et de paupere qui non habuit nisi unam, quam dives pro peregrino sibi adveniente occidit.

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