Birth and family
Pierre Roger (also spelled Rogier and Rosiers) was born in the château of Maumont, today part of the commune of Rosiers-d'Égletons, Corrèze, in Limousin, France, the son of the lord of Maumont-Rosiers-d'Égletons. He had an elder brother, Guillaume, who married three times and had thirteen children; and a younger brother, Hugues, who became Cardinal Priest of S. Lorenzo in Damaso and who could have become pope in 1362. Pierre also had two sisters: Delphine, who married Jacques de Besse; and Alienor, who married Jacques de la Jugie. His brother Guillaume became Seigneur de Chambon, thanks to his wife's dowry, and, with the benefit of his papal brother's influence on King Philip VI, became Vicomte de Beaufort.
Monk and scholar
Roger entered the Benedictine order as a boy in 1301, at the Abbey of La Chaise-Dieu in the diocese of Clermont in the Auvergne. After six years there, he was directed to higher studies by the Bishop of Le Puy, Jean de Cumenis, and his own abbot, Hugues d'Arc. In 1307 he took up studies in Paris at the College de Sorbonne, where he entered the Collège de Narbonne. To support him, beyond what was supplied by his bishop and his abbot, he was granted the post of Prior of St. Pantaléon in the diocese of Limoges. In the summer of 1323, after Pierre had been studying both theology and canon law in Paris for sixteen years, the Chancellor of Paris was ordered by Pope John XXII, on the recommendation of King Charles IV, to confer on him the doctorate in Theology, a chair, and a license to teach. Pierre was in his thirty-first year. He lectured publicly on the Sententiae of Peter Lombard, and defended and promoted the works of Thomas Aquinas. He was appalled by the Defensor Pacis of Marsilius of Padua, and wrote a treatise in 1325 condemning its principles and defending Pope John XXII.
He was granted the priory of St. Baudil, a dependency of the Abbey of La Chaise-Dieu, on 24 April 1324, at the personal order of Pope John XXII; and then, on 23 June 1326, he was named Abbot of Fécamp, a royal abbey and one of the most important monasteries in France. He held the position until 1329.
Pierre Roger was called to Avignon through the influence of his friend and protector, Cardinal Pierre de Mortemart (who was named a cardinal on 18 December 1327), both of whom were close to King Charles IV. Unfortunately, King Charles IV died on 1 February 1328, the last Capetian king of France in the direct line.
As Abbot of Fécamp, and therefore a feudal subject of Edward III, Pierre was assigned the task in 1328 of summoning Edward III of England to pay homage to Philip VI of France for the duchy of Aquitaine. He received no reply, however, from King Edward, and was forced to return to France, his mission unaccomplished.