The majority of men think that the friars, as they say mass, and preach and pray so much, are necessary to the holy mother church. Therefore, pray tell me wherein they are contrary to the law of Christ, because they are then doubtless heretics, and ought especially to be stoned by the clergy.
It is evident that they do all these works merely for outward show; and because of the hidden malice within their hearts, they not only hurt themselves to a considerable extent, but also other people. Yet I do not deny, on the contrary I suppose, that there are some good men among them. As for the mass, it is evident, that if they are heretics in regard to first principles, in denying that the bread is the real body of Christ, and only an accident above their comprehension, then they sacrifice unto idols. It is further certain, that their saying mass is a sin unto them, even more than the sacrifices of the priests of Baal, and those of the worst kind among the idolatrous nations. And with regard to their preaching, the result shows its tendency to deteriorate the church, for they give all their attention to ritual, flattery, detraction, and falsehood, rejecting Scripture, and neglecting to rebuke sin.
Who can doubt that their frivolous mode of preaching is pernicious to the church, or that the same remark applies to their hypocritical prayers? For according to Gregory, when the man who is sent forth to intercede, is a person on his own account unacceptable, the anger of the offended party is only more provoked. But I shall now proceed to speak of the twelve abuses among the friars.
The first, is that blasphemous heresy among them, whereby they deceive the church in the sacrament of the altar, so that, as they have deviated from the faith of the Scriptures, there are now more than four heretical schisms among the four orders. And the fact that they hold opinions so diversified, is a manifest proof that their doctrines are erroneous. If, therefore, the knight-templars were dissolved on account of some erroneousness in their belief which is unknown to us, how much more should it be thus with these orders, on the ground of their well-known heresy! For they send annually many living souls into hell, to their master and patron the devil. I pass by the fact that they really kill many of their brethren. If we take, therefore, their whole occupation into consideration, it is evident that they are useless persons in the church; for the introduction of their heresy, as wanting in the authority of Scripture, can be of no value, except we concede to it importance ironically, as made up of subtle conclusions, by means of which they disturb the peace of the church. For they imagine that they devour daily the entire body of Christ in its very substance, and that they swallow it through their mouth in the same quantity in which it exists in heaven, because, as they say, the body of Christ is naturally entire as regards every particle of the accident which they so consecrate. Thus the friars, disseminating their falsehood, walk with a froward mouth; for they lie not only against those whom they hate, or those who do them a service, but concerning themselves and the Lord Jesus Christ. The truth of this is manifest in the history of many believers, who suffer with much humility under their falsehood, when they so blaspheme the Lord of lords. If therefore the retainer of a secular lord would be offended by the promulgation of a falsehood respecting that lord, much more ought every believer to testify his displeasure, when a blasphemy is circulated concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.
Such a friar, then, beyond doubt, winks with covetous eyes, full of many vices, and tramples down many seeds of virtues which would otherwise grow up in the church militant. Such an apostate has a mind stored to the full with lies, and contrives evil in his depraved heart to the damage of the church. And since nothing can be more to the occasion of strife in the church than the dissemination of such falsehood, it is plain that they constantly sow strife in the church, since they are thus wrapped up in lies, body and soul.
A second abuse of the friars is the crime of blasphemy, because they impute to Christ that he publicly begged of men, as the friars beg of the poor. The third abuse consists in the blasphemy of the letters of fraternity. The fourth abuse consists in their damnable assumptions of superiority over Christ, since Christ, who is the best and most powerful Master, had only twelve apostles, whom he sent into the world to preach the Gospel, after he had perfectly instructed them in the faith; while these gather themselves together, and steal many thousands of our youth into their convents, and preach a doctrine which is the sign of their father, by which, as above stated, they are bound for ever to the cloister. The fifth abuse is, the false pretence of the friars to be most like Christ in his poverty, and in the possession of temporalities, houses, incomes, and whatever of such things belong to them.
But certain it is, that herein they are guilty of a blasphemous falsehood against Christ; for Christ in his humanity never built any such a mansion, nay, it was repugnant to his state of innocence thus to heap together books, and money, and such things. The sixth abuse is their simoniacal accumulation of things temporal, by virtue of their office, as false preachers; for Christ taught his disciples, in the tenth of Matthew, since they had freely received from above the teaching which enabled them to preach the Gospel, and the power also of working miracles, that they should freely extend the benefit of such endowments to all who might be benefited by them, just as God and good angels bestow their gifts most freely. Thus these sealed commodities of the friars involve them in many ways in the guilt of simony and heresy.