March 3rd, 2016

saxon cross

Minimal standards

I'm re-reading The Barbarian Conversion by Richard Fletcher. In discussing what it took to get through the aftermath of the Viking invasions -- keeping up with the challenges of pastoral care and instructing new converts, with much reduced resources -- he turns to the quality of clergy available for the task. The incoming reformers were pretty sniffy about these priests, because they were sloppy about following the Benedictine Rule; however, if they hadn't done what they could, there wouldn't have been much left for the reformers to reform.

Anyway, I love these lines from Fletcher's book:
We can learn something of their duties [the priests who went through the invasions and labored to put things right afterward] and of the expectations which authority held of them in a document known as the Northumbrian Priests' Law, a code of conduct probably drafted by Archbishop Wulfstan of York (1002-23). Wulfstan was a realist who did not ask the impossible of his clergy. They must shave regularly, must not bring their weapons to church, must try to keep out of fights and must not perform in taverns as 'ale minstrels'. It was expected that they would be married but separations and second unions were forbidden.
Friends on the Board of Ordained Ministry, take note.