In common with all enlightened opinion, he complained bitterly of the excessive multiplication of exemptions, of the exaggerated extension of appeals to Rome, of the luxury of the Roman court, of the venality of the cardinals, and of the injury done to the traditional hierarchy by the very extent of the papal power, which was calculated to turn the strongest head.
As for Barras, his venality and vices outweighed even his capacity for successful intrigue.
When the conspiring forces of clerical venality and political prostitution had placed a putative Bonaparte in power attained by perjury after perjury, and supported by massacre after massacre, Victor Hugo, in common with all honourable men who had ever taken part in political or public life under the government superseded by force of treason and murder, was driven from his country into an exile of well-nigh twenty years.
The venality of the electors became notorious.
On her departure the pope, whose venality and nepotism had made him very unpopular with the citizens, died of fever before the arrival of Otto III., who elevated his own kinsman Bruno to the papal dignity under the name of Gregory V.
Impoverished by these different causes, as well as by prodigal extravagance in interior expenditure, by shameless venality among the ruling classes, and by continual wars, of which the cost, whether they were successful or not, was enormous, the public treasury was frequently empty.
Apart from the rigorous restrictions imposed by his successors upon trade, the sympathies of the natives were estranged by the harshness and venality of Portuguese administration, by such barbarities as the wholesale mutilation of non-combatants in war-time, and by religious persecution.
Neither the immense fortunes amassed by these men, nor the venality and robust vitality which made their families veritable races of ministers, altered the fact that De Lionne, Le Tellier, Louvois and Colbert were in themselves of no account, even though the parts they played were much more important than Louis XIV.
Further, he not only created a style of his own, but, instead of taking the substance of his writings from Greek poetry, or from a remote past, he treated of the familiar matters of daily life, of the politics, the wars, the administration of justice, the eating and drinking, the money-making and money-spending, the scandals and vices, which made up the public and private life of Rome in the last quarter of the and century B.C. This he did in a singularly frank, independent and courageous spirit, with no private ambition to serve, or party cause to advance, but with an honest desire to expose the iniquity or incompetence of the governing body, the sordid aims of the middle class, and the corruption and venality of the city mob.
The treatises of Gerhoh of Reichersberg (1093-1169) abound in trenchant attacks upon the greed and venality of the Curia, the arrogance and extortion of the legates, the abuse of exemptions and appeals, and the German policy of Adrian IV.