Pastors and the Care of Souls in Medieval England

By Heath, Peter | The Catholic Historical Review, July 1999 | Go to article overview

Pastors and the Care of Souls in Medieval England


Heath, Peter, The Catholic Historical Review


Pastors and the Care of Souls in Medieval England. Edited by John Shinners and William J. Dohar. [Notre Dame Texts in Medieval Culture, Volume 4.] (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 1998. Pp. xx, 327. $40.00 clothbound; $25.00 paperback.)

This wide-ranging and well-organized anthology of texts about the parish clergy in medieval England vividly illustrates the expectations and circumstances under which they exercised the pastoral role and their fitness for the task. All the texts are rendered in modern English. Each of the seven chapters (or themes) into which the book is divided has a brief introduction, more concerned with the subject of the clergy than the technicalities of the texts, and among these prefatory remarks the student will find a particularly helpful discussion of the medieval meaning of the word 'literate' and a succinct guide through the canonical and confessional material which was addressed to the priest. The flavor of the selection and the variety of sources raided is evident from the first chapter, which embraces excerpts from the sixth-century Cura Pastoralis of Gregory the Great to the late-medieval play, Everyman; between them are passages from Aquinas, Thomas of Chobham, Wyclif, Langland, Lyndwood, and a little-known poem, Many are the Presbyters. However, the bulk of the material in the book comes from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries: the Gregorian item is the only one pre-Conquest, there are no Anglo-Saxon laws, charters, wills, or sermons cited, and no reference to the clergy in Domesday Book; while a few of the entries derive from the sixteenth century, the visitations of Canterbury diocese by Wareham in 1511, unusual for preserving the consequent injunctions, are passed over. …

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