The clergy form the Second Estate of medieval society’s Three Estates, as mentioned earlier. They are included here because they were so central to society in the period of the game as to be given the important role as one of the three estates, and also because as a Class they comprised a full 2% of the general population on their own, double the presence of the nobility. Indeed, the Second Estate is also a great landholder, nearly as much so as the First Estate. The princes of the Church owe feudal service in the same manner as any secular magnate. Holding so much land to support them and their works, the Church is a political power in the world. The king holds the right of primer seizin over all vacant bishoprics in the realm, as he does over all the rest of his feudal tenants. This diverts all revenues to the Crown until such time as a new bishop is nominated and appointed, and over which the king has the right of final approval.
This situation led to the feud between King John, younger brother and successor of Richard Lionheart, and Pope Innocent III. John kept the Archbishopric of Canterbury vacant for the want of a (politically) acceptable candidate until the Pope placed all of England under Interdict in retaliation, closing every church in the country except for the performance of baptisms and to hear the confessions of the dying. This was lenient, considering that Interdict normally prohibited even those two sacred offices. John was notorious for being greedy where his own interests were involved, and the Archbishopric channeled a great bounty into his Privy Purse.
Three years later Innocent Excommunicated John himself. John then began a four year campaign of appropriating Church revenues and properties. In the end, his relationship with the barons undermined by the Church and an invasion by Philip of France imminent, John gave in to Innocent and allowed the vacancy to be filled.
In addition, the Church dominates the institutions of education, with the right to issue licenses for those who would teach, practice medicine, or pursue a career at law. Being the primary source of education, particular the traditions of reading and writing, they are the secretaries of the government and the entire First Estate, their chroniclers and accountants, and their consciences, too, at times. Most clerkships in the government, especially in the Chancery, are viewed as the private preserve of the clergy. This gives them an even greater presence in government than their lands alone would.
In pursuing their various tasks and duties, the clergy occasionally clash with their benefactors, the nobles, particularly on the subject of jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the Church is in matters spiritual. In matters of faith and the holy sacraments, those on holy pilgrimage or crusade, matters involving vows or obligations sworn by holy oath, sacrilege or violations of Sanctuary, and heresy their right was never disputed, but the Church has a tendency to intrude on “worldly matters”, pushing their interests to include the worldly property of the Church and the clergy, and all legal cases involving the clergymen themselves (civil AND criminal). These two areas are great bones of contention between the Church and the nobles on a local level, but also between the Crown and the Church on a national level. Most often, however, the Crown and Church work well to keep the peace and champion the right rule of law. Under Church doctrine, authority and divine order stem from on high, and the law is a part of it’s expression. Thus, to defy the law is to defy the divine, making all who are convicted of breaking the law also guilty of an offense against the Light. Every crime therefore requires atonement and penance, though of course, the Church concentrates it’s efforts on crimes against canon law. such as vainglory and accidia (persistent worldly sorrow, constant depression), which have no corresponding offenses under the laws of men.
Clergymen were historically forbidden to marry. Membership and rank in the clergy, the positions and the lands awarded with them that provide their livings, are NOT heritable by blood, While it is true that a fair number of people entered the clergy to retire from public life, it was usually a practice followed late in life and after a beloved spouse had already passed.
The monsignors, bishops and archbishops under their prelate are the Church equivalents of the noble hierarchy under the king. Where the nobles’ power is located primarily in the rural countryside with their estates, the seats of Church power lie in cities of which they are the feudal lords. The word cathedral means bishop’s throne, There is always a bishop over a town that has a cathedral, indeed, the title of “city” is reserved for ecclesiastical towns under the rule of a bishop or archbishop. Monsignors, abbots, and priors may be found in either cities, towns, or ruling rural manored estates in the same manner as any baron, owing feudal duty.