Were Catholics during the Middle Ages more pious than today?


Our general Catholic society today has a reputation of being irreligious (Catholcis believe in abortion, contraceptives, gay marriage, vote for politicians who support these things, don’t go to mass, etc.)

People tend to look at the Middle Ages as a time of piety. How different was it back then?

Also, I remember reading a story about St. Bernard, who lived in the Middle ages. He saw a vision of hell, and out of 33,000 people. Only him and 4 others were saved in that bunch.

If the Middle Ages was considered a time of piety, than why are only 5 out of 33,000 people being saved during it??


I don’t have the expertise to say they were more pious. The lives of the people of that time were dominated by the church from birth til death. I’m not saying that in a pejorative manner; that was their focus.

The road to salvation is narrow. Maybe it is now 5 out of 330 million.


Who knows how many people actually were pious and how many just did what society at the time expected of them. We just know that their are sinners in every era.


Piety often increases with persecution, generally speaking. But, no reason you cannot be very pious right now. We are called to be out of our love of God.

Ultimately, we are either saints, or despairing in hell.

Easy choice, huh?

Choose wisely.


Remember, we should not use private revelations as an absolute authority- that is not what they’re meant for.

Also, we like to idealize the past. In reality, great sinners can be found in any age. St. Francis de Sales’s spiritual classic Introduction to the Devout Life was written in the early 17th century and was all about pursuing holiness in a world full of sin. Things weren’t always so much better as we’d like to think.


I would say so. This was before radio, newspapers, most folks couldn’t read. If someone lived within a short distance of a church, they probably attended frequently. Of course Mass was conducted behind a screen back in those days, so the people really didn’t see or hear as much.

But as far as the intensity of their belief, I’d say it was more as well. Pope Urban II had no problem recruiting soldiers for the Crusades based upon promises of indulgences. I don’t think a modern pope could get people to make that kind of sacrifice for a spiritual gain. Its a long march from France to Jerusalem, makes me tired thinking about it.


I think it was easier to be a Catholic then than now, because society made being devout profitable. Still, most people weren’t religious even back then, and while I’m inclined to say that a few more people might have become Catholic who otherwise wouldn’t have, I am reminded that God will supernaturally save everyone who can be saved, and make them faithful, regardless of circumstance.

It’s also worth mentioning that the non-religious back then wouldn’t (for the most part) have been as hostile to the Church as the ones today, and would have had more similar values to us than their modern equivalent.


Back in the day, in the Middle Ages, it was Catholic religious orders that ran the hospitals and other charitable concerns.

Even if someone wasn’t religious, the work of the church was a lot more visible, lots of monasteries and other religious communities. Although I think a lot of those in religious communities weren’t as religious as we would think today. Glenn Beck was telling a story about a convent of nuns who started to all meow like cats back in the day. The middle ages were a lot different than today in many ways.


I’ve heard that too. There’s probably a good reason why so many holy people became hermits and didn’t want any followers. I’ve heard stories of monks poisoning their abbots, visiting brothels and selling prayer time. At least today we don’t have to deal with that as much.


Speaking as a historian: No.
People didn´t lived more pious. The only difference is maybe that openly promoting atheism or agnosticism are rather modern ideas.


It wasn’t “more pious” in terms of people not committing sins.

It was “more pious” in the sense that the Church was a huge force in people’s lives, as it was one of the few forces actually keeping a social order over a broad area and providing some sort of explanation or context for the horrible things that befell people on a daily basis - natural disasters, violent conflicts, epidemics, death in general.


It seemed like in those days, there were a huge variety of reasons why people would enter a religious community that didn’t necessarily have to do with spirituality or with helping others. I got the impression a lot of unmarried women were in there simply because they didn’t have any place else to go. Some of the religious communities sound more like secular boardinghouses than anything to do with religion. It also seemed that these orders were constantly in need of “reform” because of the bad behavior of the members, and that when reformers would come along they were routinely not only criticized, but physically beaten up, thrown out, attempts made on their lives etc.


The vision of St Bernard does not surprise me. At any point in time, only a few are truly faithful, only a few prevent the world from being destroyed by God.


Probably a superficial piety.


I think life in general was just more intense in the Middle Ages. The average person did not have the buffers and distractions we have today. We have radio, television, advanced methods of transportation, modern medicine, air conditioning, central heating…the list is endless. We think of all these things as conveniences, but really what they do, to a greater or lesser extent, is shield us from the ‘nitty gritty’ of daily life. I think it is the same with piety. It is a subtle temptation nowadays to be a ‘Sunday’ Catholic, and compartmentalise our faith life away from the rest of our ‘real’ life. We may not even realise we are doing it. Medieval persons didn’t have that luxury. The Church was involved in just about every aspect of a person’s life, from birth to death, and as others here have indicated, was really the fulcrum around which society revolved. In that sense, while we can never truly know the extent of the inner piety of a medieval person, his outer, visible piety cannot really be in doubt, and thus was necessarily greater than it is today by default, precisely because of the central position of the Church in that era.


Don’t take private revelations at face value. They’re meant for that individual and may have been intended to make a point specifically to him. I wouldn’t assume it’s an actual proportion of people who went to heaven/hell.


They didn’t have to contend with world wars, nuclear holocaust, concentration camps, mass genocide, abortion, widespread homosexuality and transgenderism. We live in the most evil time ever. It takes real heroism to be even slightly holy nowadays.


The Middle Ages had their own problems. From outside threats like the Golden Horde, Vikings and Saracens, to the Black Death and other plagues. They had heretics like the Cathars to deal with, as well as bad leaders, out of control knights and other crises.

The duties of the lords of the manor were to protect the serfs, they definitely needed protection


Yeah, let’s put that on the same level with “nuclear holocaust, concentration camps, mass genocide”. SMH.

By the way, in the Middle Ages people committed homosexual acts, to say nothing of probably bestiality with the farm animals, and women did abort babies too.

Men also raped women and killed each other pretty much with abandon, since the way you got ahead economically was to run over to the kingdom next door, kill everybody, carry off the women and take all their land. This went on for hundreds of years.

Most poor people in society had zero means of defending themselves unless the lord they worked for was powerful and inclined to exert himself on their behalf, which he would usually do because they were necessary resources to perform work for him, not because he cared about them.

Seriously, lose the rose colored glasses about the past. Every age is evil in its own special way.


That’s certainly true. That among the accusations against the Knights Templar when they were suppressed in the early 14th Century.

Whether or not the accusation against DeMolay et al were true, the fact that the accusations were made and considered believable shows that people in that age were familiar with it.

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