Reverend Sir, in addition to the other points of discussion, the pope should be told about the pitiable state of this city. Once it was a happy city, both materially and spiritually, but now it is unhappy, both materially and spiritually. It is materially unhappy, because its secular leaders, who should be its defenders, have turned into its cruelest plunderers. That is why its buildings lie in ruins. That is why many of its churches have been completely deserted, in which are preserved the relics of the saints whose blessed bones shine with glorious miracles and whose souls have been crowned in God's kingdom on high. With their ceilings fallen in and their doors removed, the temples of these saints have been converted into latrines for men, dogs, and beasts. The city is spiritually unhappy, because many of the decrees issued in the church by holy popes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God and the salvation of souls have now been abolished. In their place, alas, many new abuses have been adopted under the inspiration of the evil spirit for the dishonor of God and the perdition of souls.
The Holy Church had decreed that the clerics who were to go on to holy orders should follow a blessed way of life, serving God with solid devotion, and presenting to others a way of life worthy of the heavenly homeland through their good works. Ecclesial proceeds used to be given to such as these. Against this custom of the church, however, a grave abuse has arisen. This is that the goods of the church are given to laymen who, because of their canonical title, do not get married but, instead, shamelessly keep concubines in their homes by day and in their beds at night, asserting boldly: ”We are not allowed to marry, because we are canons.”
Priests, deacons, and subdeacons, once upon a time, greatly abhorred the infamy of an impure life. Now, however, some of them are plainly delighted to see their whores walking about with swollen bellies in the midst of other women. They do not even blush when they are told by their friends: ”A daughter or son will soon be borne for you, sir.” Such men are more justly called the devil's pimps than ordained priests of the supreme God.
The holy fathers such as Benedict and others established monastic rules with the permission of the supreme pontiff. They built monasteries where the abbots used to live together with the friars, devoutly celebrating the night-hours and day-hours of the office and carefully forming the monks in a life of virtue. It was a pleasure, indeed, to visit monasteries then, when the chant of the monks used to give honor and glory to God by day and night, when people of evil living were set right by the very beauty of the monks' lives, when good people were strengthened by the godly teaching of prelates, and when the souls in purgatory obtained a blessed rest through their devout prayers. That monk was then held in highest honor who observed the rule most carefully, and he had the respect of God and men. A monk, however, who did not bother to keep the rule knew without a doubt that he would incur scandal and damnation. Moreover, everyone used to be able to see and recognize a monk by his habit.
However, contrary to that excellent arrangement, a detestable abuse has now sprung up in many places. Abbots dwell more frequently in their own castles or wherever they like, whether in the city or outside it. This is why it is now painful to visit monasteries. Very few monks show up in the choir at the time for the divine office, and sometimes none at all. There are few readings, and sometimes no chants, and many days masses are not even said. Good people are disturbed by the bad reputation of the monks, and bad people are made much worse by contact with them. Furthermore, it is to be feared that few souls receive any alleviation of their punishments from the prayers of such as these.
Many monks live in town. Some of these have their own homes, and when their friends come to visit, they pick up their own children with a joyful hug, saying: ”Here's my son!” A monk can scarcely be recognized nowadays in habit. The cloak that used to reach down to the feet now scarcely covers the knees. The long sleeves, which used to be decently wide, are now tight fitting and crimped. A sword hangs at their side instead of a stylus and writing tablets.
Hardly a single garment can be found on them to denote a monk, except for a scapular, which is often hidden from view as though it were some kind of scandal to be wearing a monkish garment. It does not even embarrass some of them to have a coat of mail and other weapons beneath their cloaks so that they can do what they like after their drinking-bouts.
There have been saints who gave up great wealth and started monastic orders based on poverty, who practiced contempt toward any kind of cupidity and, consequently, did not wish to have anything of their own. They abhorred all kinds of conceit and worldly pomp. They dressed in the poorest of clothes, utterly detesting the concupiscence of the flesh, and thus maintaining their purity of life. They and their followers are called mendicant friars, and the Roman pontiffs confirmed their rules with joy, seeing that they wanted to follow such a way of life for the glory of God and the benefit of souls. Yet it is a sorrow to behold even their rules now converted into detestable occasions of abuse and scarcely observed in the way that Augustine, Dominic, and Francis prescribed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, rules faithfully observed by many a wealthy nobleman for such a long time!
To be sure, as rumor now has it, there are many men called wealthy who, as far as valuables and money are concerned, are poorer than those who have taken a vow of poverty. Thus, most of them have their own possessions, which their rule forbids, and find greater joy in their accursed property than in holy and glorious poverty. They pride themselves, moreover, on having as expensive and precious material in their habits as found in the vestments of wealthy bishops.
Furthermore, blessed Gregory and other saints had convents built in which women could live in such seclusion that they were hardly to be seen even in daytime. Now, however, there is so much abuse in the convents that their doors are kept open for clerics and laymen alike, whomever it pleases the sisters to let in, even at night. Accordingly, such places are more like brothels than holy cloisters.
It also used to be the church's rule that no one was to receive money for hearing confessions, although, as was only just, penitentiaries were allowed to accept money from persons in need of testimonial letters. A contrary abuse has now arisen according to which rich persons offer however much they like, once they have made their confession, while poor people, before their confession is heard, are forced by the penitentiary to come to an agreement. Indeed, when penitentiaries give oral absolution, they are not ashamed to take money in their hands and put it in their pockets.
It was likewise established in the church? That at least once a year every person should confess his or her sins and receive the body of Christ. This applied to lay people, because clerics and religious did this more often during the year. Second, it was established that people unable to practice continence should live in matrimony. A third rule was that, with the exception of those who were seriously ill or in great difficulties, all Christians were to fast during Lent and on ember days and the vigils of other feast days, which are still well enough known to almost everybody. The fourth rule was that everyone was to abstain from any kind of worldly labor on feast days. The fifth was that no Christian should make financial or any other kind of profit through usury.
Contrary to these five excellent statutes, there have arisen five immoral and seriously harmful abuses. The first is that for every one person who goes to confession and receives the body of Christ, not counting priests, religious, and certain women, there are one hundred who come of age and die here in Rome without ever having gone to confession or received the body of Christ any more often than genuine idolaters. The second abuse is that many men take legally wedded wives, but, if they have a disagreement with them, they abandon them for as long as they like, without the requisite authorization from the church, and take mistresses in their wives' place, loving them and holding them in honor. Some of them do not even shrink from keeping a mistress in the same house as their wife, but rather rejoice to hear them both giving birth at the same time.
The third abuse is that many people in good health eat meat during Lent and very few are content with one meal a day. Some, too, are found who do abstain from meat and eat Lenten fare during the day but indulge themselves with meat at night in secret taverns.
Indeed, sometimes clerics do this together with laymen. They are just like the Saracens who fast by day and indulge themselves with meat at night. The fourth abuse is that, while some laborers do abstain from work on feast days, there are wealthy men who do not leave off sending their hired hands to work in the vineyards, plow the fields, cut down trees in the woods, and carry the wood home on feast days. In this way, poor people enjoy no more quiet rest on feast days than on workdays. The fifth abuse is that Christians practice usury just' like the Jews, and, in fact, Christian usurers are greedier than Jewish ones.
Further, it was the custom of the church to bring such people as described above into line by means of anathema, but, contrary to this, the following abuse has now arisen. There are, namely, a great number of people who are no more afraid of being condemned than they are of being commended. Even if they know that they have been publicly excommunicated, they do not even bother to avoid entering the church or other dealings and conversations with people. In fact, few priests forbid excommunicates from going into a church. Few as well shun dealings and conversations with excommunicates, if they are bound to them by any kind of friendship. Nor is sacred burial denied to excommunicated people, if they are rich.
Accordingly, Reverend Sir, do not be surprised if I have described the city of Rome as unhappy due to such abuses and many others opposed to ecclesiastical statutes. Hence, it is to be feared that the Catholic faith will soon perish, unless some such man arrives who, with a real and not a counterfeit faith, loves God above all things and his neighbor as himself and abolishes all these abuses. Have compassion, then, on the church and on those of her clergy who love God wholeheartedly and abhor all these wicked customs. They have been like orphans due to the pope's absence, but they have defended the see of their father like sons and have wisely opposed the traitors, persevering in the midst of much hardship.
The bride's vision about various punishments being prepared for a certain soul as yet alive in body, and about how all these kinds of punishments, if his soul should be converted before death, would be converted into the greatest honor and glory.