The Peasants’ Revolt 1371 – Contemporary Records

The following is an extract from a contemporary record of events leading to the Peasants’ Revolt, as described in The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 edited by RB (Barrie) Dobson.

Then the bishop of Lincoln sent notice throughout his whole diocese giving general power to all priests, both regulars and seculars, to hear confessions and give absolution with full episcopal authority to all persons, except only in case of debt.

In such a case, the debtor was to pay the debt, if he were able, while he lived, or others were to be appointed to do so from his goods after his death.

In the same way the Pope gave plenary remission of all sins (once only) to all receiving absolution at the point of death, and granted that this power should last until Easter next following, and that every one might choose his own confessor at will. 

In the following autumn a reaper was not to be had for less than 8d, with his food, a mower for less than 12d, with food.

Therefore many crops rotted in the fields for lack of men to gather them. But in the year of the pestilence, as has been said above of other things, there was so great an abundance of all kinds of corn that virtually no one cared for it. 

My Thoughts On Reading The Above

What gets me is the reference to “give absolution with full episcopal authority to all persons, except only in case of debt”. What singles out debt that it cannot be absolved? And why the sticking point at the giving of absolution but “once only”. What is sacred about receiving one absolution only?

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