From the Archives: Five Bulls of Pope Gregory XI Against Wycliffe
On May 22, 1377, Pope Gregory XI issued five bulls condemning the work of John Wycliffe. Three of the bulls were sent jointly to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, who held the ecclesiastical power in England, and to the Bishop of London, William Courtenay, who was eager to carry out the Pope’s wishes. Needing political support, the Pope issued a similar bull to King Edward III, who died before he received it. Wishing to put pressure on Oxford, Gregory sent the final bull to the university’s chancellor. The following is the bull sent to the chancellor:
“Gregory the Bishop, the Servant of God’s Servants, to his well-beloved Sons, the Chancellor and University of Oxford, in the Diocese of Lincoln, Greeting and Apostolical Benediction.
“We are constrained both to marvel and lament, that you, who—considering the favours and privileges granted to your university of Oxford by the apostolic see, and your knowledge of the Scriptures, the wide ocean whereof (through the favour of the Lord) you so successfully explore—ought to be champions and defenders of the orthodox faith (without which there is no salvation of souls), through negligence and sloth on your part allow cockle to spring among the pure wheat in the field of your glorious university aforesaid, and (what is worse) to grow up; and take no means (as we were lately informed) for rooting out of the same; to the great blemishing of your fair name, the peril of your souls, the contempt of the Roman church, and the decay of the orthodox faith. And (what grieveth us still more bitterly) the increase of the said cockle is perceived and felt in Rome before it is in England, where (however) the means of extirpating it ought to be applied. It hath, in truth, been intimated ...