Langland and FitzRalph: Two Solutions to the Mendicant Problem.
WL’s reference to the fyndynge of friars in C.22.380-84, like his reference to the two Maystres of þe Menores of 10.8-9 and his references in general terms to friars, are most probably to the Franciscans. Of all the mendicant orders, only the Franciscans maintained the vow of absolute poverty as an imitation of the life of Christ; hence they were the only order to lack financial security. WL felt that this insistence on absolute poverty resulted in abuse of the sacrament of penance. Providing the Franciscans with a fyndynge would allow them to lead the attack on the sinfulness of society and revive its spiritual values. Richard FitzRalph, on the other hand, considered poverty an effect of sin and a practice nowhere enjoined by Christ. Since the Franciscans in his view had failed to live up to the injunctions of their Rule, they ought to be disbanded. But it is ironic that while WL wishes to liberate the order from the baleful effects of having to beg, he does not seem to realize that with a fyndynge the Franciscans would be destroyed as an order in the terms conceived by their founder.