Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of “the Canterbury Tales”, exploits the degeneration, immorality, and subversion of the church. The Roman Catholic Church ruled or dictated the entire Europe by the end of nineteenth century. Besides being popular, the church build its cathedrals (buildings) using expensive metals like gold while the clergy lived a flamboyant lifestyle.
Although catastrophes like diseases, lack of employment, and food shortage marked the nineteenth century eon, the church possessed immense wealth while the clergies and the nuns lived a sedentary life at the expense of the catholic faithful.
Geoffrey Chaucer figures out the immorality and corruption of the church by using the clergy and the Pardoner who seem to be on commercial tour and not a pilgrimage. For instance, the Pardoner works in church and receives donations on behalf of the church but sadly, he does not give the donations to charitable organizations as expected but rather keeps the money for his personal use.
Ironically, he has the audacity to preach against greed yet he not only steals the papal signature to access the church funds, but also sells leaflets, which contain religious quotes like forgiveness and carries the bones of pigs, which he sells claiming they will shield the faithful against the devil.
The narrator taints the ‘reputation’ of the Catholic Church when he describes the immoral behavior of the monk and the priest as greedy persons with little or no intentions to serve the church or God for that matter.
The Friar, an employee of the church as a priest, receives criticism from other people in the town due to his inability to obey celibacy; he has intimate relationships with attractive women or attracts rich men from the town and promotes corruption through acceptance of bribery.
On the other hand, the monk defies the rule of staying in the monastery by wandering aimlessly around and about, which shows his love for food; therefore, the two men reveal the degeneration of morals in the church especially in the priesthood.
Through the description of the contrasting characters of the Summoner and the Parson, the narrator is able to draw the picture of the Catholic Church during the nineteenth century. The Summoner is an illiterate, drunkard, and irritating man infected with leprosy, but the church has bestowed him the role to monitor the people who break the catholic rules.
On the other hand, the Parson is a poor man who preaches the word of God and ensures he lives according to the word, therefore, in him the reader sees the character expected from the priests, monks, friars, and other church leaders. Thus, due to extreme corruption in the church, the faithful believers like the Parson live in abject poverty but commit themselves to God, which is contrary to the other clericals or church employees like the Summoner.
In summary, the Catholic faith is one of the ancient believes in the world but due to corruption, unfaithfulness, and moral degradation amongst Catholic leaders, the faith is increasingly becoming unpopular.
The employees like the Summoner and the Pardoner live against the Catholic teachings while the priests, monks, and nuns live a rich lifestyle. Finally, the Catholic leaders live a sedentary, immoral, and rich lifestyle at the expense of their faithful like the Parson who live in extreme poverty.