The Catholic Church, which governed England, Ireland, and the entire Continent of Europe, had become extremely wealthy by the late fourteenth century. The cathedrals that grew up around shrines to saints relics were incredibly expensive to build. The amount of gold that went into decorating them surpassed the riches in the nobles chest. Moreover the boxes used to hold the relics were more jewel-encrusted than the kings crown. In a Century of disease, plague, and scarce labor, the sight of a Church ornamented with unused gold seemed unfair to the people.
Considering the Churches great display of material wealth, it suddenly seemed hypocritical for them to preach against greed. There is a two way process where the Church has an influence on the society and the society influences the Church. This is because it is the people from the society who make up the Church. Those same people became the characters the Geoffrey Chaucer used in The Canterbury Tales. In the general prologue, various pilgrims are introduced, a Nun, a Munk, and a Friar, all remarkable figures of the Church.
They represent distinct areas of Christianity, with some holding to strict worship of Christ and others clearly disobeying the laws (text 119). As the prologue continues, more characters are introduced, a Summoner and a Pardoner who represent the corruption of the Church. The Summoner is unlawful, unfaithful to the Church and engages in un-christian like behaviors, such as having sexual relations with prostitutes. While the Pardoner is a dishonest person who shows no doubts about passing off false items as the relics of saints.
Basically conning people of their money by making them believe that they have sinned and need to buy pardons. He openly admits to the tricks of his trade to the travelers but nevertheless attempts to use these various methods on these travelers who are aware of his schemes (text 133). We know that Chaucers Characters represent the Church. However his comments about the Church are expressed through his characters that were irreligious churchmen. Who accepted bribes and bribed others, while ignoring the poor peasants at their doors.