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Spiritual Franciscans


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Before St Francis's death two groups of Franciscans could be distinguished: (1) those who wanted to mitigate the rule of poverty and remodel the Order, and (2) those later known as ‘Zealots’ or ‘Spirituals’, who wished to maintain the original way of life. The latter group became more apparent as the Franciscan rule was progressively modified. A compromise, based on St Bonaventure's contention that property left to the friars belonged to the Church and that the friars could use what was necessary for their life and work, was embodied in a decretal of Pope Nicholas III in 1279. It proved unacceptable to the Spirituals but was reaffirmed in 1312. In the face of continued intransigence, John XXII enjoined them to obey authority on pain of excommunication and burnt four of them as heretics (1318). Soon afterwards the Franciscan Order was threatened with schism over what was originally a separate issue, the theoretical question of the poverty of Christ and the Apostles, which John declared to be heretical in 1323. In the face of persecution the number of Spirituals declined, but the movement gave an impetus to the rise of more rigorous groups in the Franciscan Order, first the Friars of the Strict Observance (Observantines) and later the Capuchins.

(1) those who wanted to mitigate the rule of poverty and remodel the Order, and (2) those later known as ‘Zealots’ or ‘Spirituals’, who wished to maintain the original way of life.

Subjects: Religion


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