Judgment on the Ministers of God—Gregory the Great (c. 540 – 604)

Gregory the Great is widely acknowledged as one of the worthiest Popes. A Doctor[1] of the Catholic Church, he is remembered both for his theological understanding and his concern for Christian holiness. In his sermons on the gospels, he warns Christian leaders not to allow greed to motivate their ministry. He sets out the consequences clearly because one day the Lord will return in judgment, a sober word for those who would market the gospel today.

Weeping, I speak to you priests because I know that some of you perform ordinations for profit, that you sell a spiritual gift, and you pile up temporal wealth from other evil acts which incur the punishment of sin … Why do you not call before your mind’s eye that our Redeemer entering the temple overturned the dove-sellers’ seats and spilled the moneylenders’ coins? Now, who are they in God’s temple today who sell doves if not those in the church who accept a material reward for the laying-on of hands? … that day will certainly come, nor is it far distant, when the Shepherd of shepherds will appear and bring the deeds of everyone into public view … he will certainly come as judge, and before him no one can conceal himself by keeping silent; nor can anyone deceive him by protests or denial.[2]


[1] “Certain ecclesiastical writers have received this title on account of the great advantage the whole Church has derived from their doctrine. In the Western church four eminent Fathers of the Church attained this honour in the early Middle Ages: St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome. The ‘four Doctors’ became a commonplace among the Scholastics . . . To these great names others have subsequently been added. The requisite conditions are enumerated as three . . . eminent learning, a high degree of sanctity, and proclamation by the Church.” “Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914 ed., s.v. ‘Doctors of the Church,’” New Advent Website, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05075a.htm.

[2] Quoted in John Wyclif, On Simony (New York: Fordham University Press, 1992), 32-33.