University Education of the Parochial Clergy in Medieval England: The Lincoln Diocese, C. 1300-C. 1350

By Reeves, Andrew | Canadian Journal of History, Spring-Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

University Education of the Parochial Clergy in Medieval England: The Lincoln Diocese, C. 1300-C. 1350


Reeves, Andrew, Canadian Journal of History


University Education of the Parochial Clergy in Medieval England: The Lincoln Diocese, c. 1300-c. 1350, by F. Donald Logan. Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2014. xiv, 197 pp. $80.00 Cdn (cloth).

Later medieval churchmen, reaching all the way to the top of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, recognized the need for an educated clergy. Over half a century ago, in an article in Mediaeval Studies (subsequently reprinted in the collection, Pastoral Care, Clerical Education, and Canon Law, London, 1981), Leonard Boyle showed how Pope Boniface VIII's 1298 apostolic constitution Cum ex eo allowed for a rector to be absent from his parish and use its revenues to study at university. How well was this apostolic constitution implemented? The question has received attention only from smaller pieces by Roy Martin Haines and R.N. Swanson. F. Donald Logan's little book thus fills an important lacuna in the scholarship. Logan employs the Lincoln Diocese as a case study--useful because of both its size and the efficiency of its bishops as record-keepers--to examine how the clergy took advantage of Cum ex eo. Starting just after the 1298 Cum ex eo and ending in the years around the Plague in the mid-fourteenth century, Logan shows that the apostolic constitution largely served its purpose, giving a broad range of parish priests access to a university education.

Logan opens with a description of the canonical requirements for clerical learning in both the western Catholic Church as a whole and the provinces of Canterbury and York, particularly the rather vague requirement that ordinands be examined on their learning. Logan explains that Pope Honorius Ill's 1219 Super specula already allowed promising candidates to be absent from their parishes for study before the 1298 Cum ex eo. Logan is admirably precise in distinguishing the difference between Super specula and Cum ex eo, with the former giving a license to an already ordained priest to study, and the latter a dispensation for a rector to study before his ordination. This distinction is particularly valuable for scholars working with bishops' registers: both Cum ex eo and Super specula operated through the fourteenth century, and so one needs to take care to note which sort of permission to study a particular rector received.

In subsequent chapters, Logan examines the registers of the bishops following Cum ex eo for the number of clergy dispensed and licensed to study. In his conclusion, he examines other questions raised by permissions to study: what and where a dispensee (or licensee) studied, how finances were arranged, whether rectors returned to their parishes, and the like. …

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