Therefore the hierarchy has lost its main power. It cannot decide any more about the salvation of the individual. And it can be criticized if it acts against the law of Christ, which is the law of poverty, the law of spiritual rule, From this follows, further, that dogmatically speaking there is no necessity to have a pope. This was also in the line of Joachim di Fiore. You remember that he speaks of the papa angelico, of the angelic pope, the pope who is really a spiritual principle. Wyclif also says we don’t need a pope who dominates; if we have an angelic or spiritual principle, it is all right, but it is not necessary.
All this is in the line of the sectarian protest against the rich and powerful Church.
But it remains mostly within the line of the official doctrine. It is not yet Reformation because it is still a matter of law. It is another law than the law of the Church, but it is a law which is still law and not Gospel.
But the basis of this attack was the law of Christ as given in the Bible. So he developed the authority of Scripture against that of tradition and against the symbolic interpretation of the Bible. He even comes to the point, also on Biblical grounds, that the predicatio verbi , the preaching of the word, is more important than all the ecclesiastical sacraments. Here another development was important which we find already in the Middle Ages by the transition from realism to nominalism, namely the predominance of the ear against the eye. In the early centuries of the Christian Church, in the development of religious art, in the development of the sacraments, the eye, the visual function of man, was predominant. Since the 13th century, since Duns Scotus, and then even more since Ockham, the ear, the hearing of the word, becomes important; – not the seeing of the embodied reality of sacramental character, and therefore the seeing in terms of religious is the most important thing. All this is very slow and overlapping; the emphasis; there develops the emphasis on something quite different: the word.
This is much older than the Reformation. It develops already in the 13th century, but comes to the foreground in nominalism. Why? Because realism sees the essences of things. “Idea” comes from idein seeing. Eidos, “idea,” means the picture, the essence, of a thing, which we can see in every individual thing. Of course this is an intuitive spiritual seeing, but it is still seeing, and it is expressed in the great art.
The great art shows the essences of things, visible to the eye. In nominalism we have individuals. How can they communicate? By words. It is the only way in which this can be done. Therefore if God has become the most individual being, as we have seen in Ockham (ens singularissimum), then we can get from Him not by a kind of intuition of His Divine essence, as expressed in all His creations, but by His word which He speaks to us. So the word becomes decisive against the visual function.
Now the importance of the word against the sacraments appears already in Wyclif.