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The Church exercised enormous power in the Middle Ages. By refusing to administer the Sacraments to a person, the church could make that person a virtual outcast from the society. This measure was taken rarely and it was called the excommunication. The Church had also taken education, health care and the care of the poor to be its province. But the accumulation of wealth and power led the church to corruption, as we find Chaucer and Langland very critical of the clergy in the middle ages. 

One of the most important developments within the Roman Catholic Church was the growth of Monasticism from the sixth century onwards. Monasticism is a way of life in which the person who feels that he or she has the vocation for monastic life enters a monastery or nunnery for life. Monks and nuns take vows to lead lives of chastity, poverty and obedience to God. They have to devote their lives to the service of humanity and God; they cannot leave their monasteries at all. These orders are usually the meditative orders and their members spend most of their time in prayer or performing divine office. The great monasteries that grew up all across Europe during the Middle Ages became the centres of learning, culture, art charity, and even agriculture. But their very importance and wealth made it difficult for the monks to render much service to the ordinary people. Widespread corruptions entered the church. 

This widespread corruption of the Church and its criticism gave rise to the reforming movement.


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