Eli and His Sons
The allusion to Hophni and Phineas made by Conscience in the C Prologue as a reproach to bishops who profit by the common people’s worship of saints is parallelled in a particular discourse regarding pastoral duties in which Eli and his sons held the status of a commonplace moral example against pastoral negligence. Visitation sermons made particular use of the example, as did Bishop Fitzralph in an All Saints’ Day sermon in 1356, decrying the worship of images of saints. In the sermon literature, Eli and his sons are invoked as representatives of two priestly faults: greed and incontinence, and failure to correct people under one’s care with sufficient vigor. L adopts the moral of both Scripture and contemporary preachers, while the polemic against clerical profit-taking anticipates Wycliffite condemnation of the same practices.
YLS 13 (1999): 137-52.