Blog 179: 4.5.8 - 4.5.15

Calvin's broad-scale attack on the abuses of the Roman Church continues with his criticisms of monks, priests, deacons, and other clerics.

The Geneva Reformer had little time for monks who claimed to fulfill a priestly function. Whatever virtues monastic life may hold, it is not a pastoral ministry in the biblical sense; nor was it ever treated that way in the early church. Because monks generally did not preach, exercise church discipline, or administer the sacraments, Calvin did not regard their work as priestly ministry.

Calvin was equally impatient with most of the bishops of his day. Although he recognized the validity of their office, he rarely saw them fulfill it. Many failed to reside in the parishes they served. They did not preach or exercise pastoral care. In short, they "acted just as if the pastor's function were to do nothing." The only thing Calvin said they did well was to collect money from their parishioners. 

Calvin also criticized the priests and bishops for their low standard of morality. His long list of clerical vices included excess, effeminacy, fraud, lust, greed, cruelty, treason, and the like. As far as Calvin could see, scarcely one bishop in a hundred, "if his conduct were to be judged according to the ancient canons, would not be subject either to excommunication or at least to deposition from office" (IV.v.14).

Then there were the deacons, who were called to give alms to the poor, but usually viewed the diaconate as a good career move, a stepping-stone to the priesthood.

None of these men had any business serving in ministry. Whatever authority they were granted by the Roman Catholic Church, they failed to have the support of the apostles, the endorsement of the early church fathers, or the approval of Jesus Christ.