Well, folks, bloggers get some strange comments on their blogs but this latest one really is a cracker.
I have a post from a gentleman called Bertran de la Farge who actually thinks that the Cathars, that most bizarre of medieval weirdos, were true Christians.
Bertran thinks that because the Cathars used an Occitan translation of the Vulgate that they must therefore have been good Christians.
They called themselves “Good Christians”, too. So they must have been good, mustn’t they? No? Come on, Bertran!
He says the Inquisition was founded in 1233. It wasn’t. The Medieval Inquisition – the first such – was founded in 1184 by the papal Bull Ad Abolendam.
He says that the Cathars had nothing to do with Mani and they were not di-theists.
Well, here is what a typical pro-Cathar website, says about them:
“Cathars believed in two principles, a good creator god and his evil adversary… Cathars maintained a Church hierarchy and practiced a range of ceremonies, but rejected any idea of priesthood or the use of church buildings. They divided into ordinary believers who led ordinary medieval lives and an inner 'elect' of parfaits (men) and parfaits (women)… Cathars believed in re-incarnation and refused to eat meat or other animal products…
Basic Cathar tenets led to some surprising logical implications. For example they largely regarded men and women as equals, and had no doctrinal objection to contraception, euthanasia or suicide. In some respects the Cathar and Catholic Churches were polar opposites. For example the Cathar Church taught that all non-procreative sex was better than any procreative sex. The Catholic Church taught - and still teaches - exactly the opposite….Following their principles, Cathars could deduce that sexual intercourse between man and wife was more culpable than homosexual sex.”
Not quite the same as what Bertran says.
St Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) to preach the true Faith to the Cathars
Here is what Reynaldus, a Cistercian monk, wrote of the Cathars of his time whom he knew well:
“First it is to be known that the heretics held that there are two Creators; viz. one of invisible things, whom they called the benevolent God, and another of visible things, whom they named the malevolent God.
The New Testament they attributed to the benevolent God; but the Old Testament to the malevolent God, and rejected it altogether, except certain authorities which are inserted in the New Testament from the Old; which, out of reverence to the New Testament, they esteemed worthy of reception.
They charged the author of the Old Testament with falsehood, because the Creator said, ‘In the day that ye eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ye shall die’; nor (as they say) after eating did they die; when, in fact, after eating the forbidden fruit they were subjected to the misery of death. They also call this God a homicide, as well because he burned up Sodom and Gomorrah, and destroyed the world by the waters of the deluge, as because he overwhelmed Pharaoh, and the Egyptians, in the sea.
They affirmed also, that all the fathers of the Old Testament were damned; that John the Baptist was one of the greater demons.
They said also, in their secret doctrine (in secreto suo), that that Christ who was born in the visible, and terrestrial Bethlehem, and crucified in Jerusalem, was a bad man, and that Mary Magdalene was his concubine; and that she was the woman taken in adultery, of whom we read in the gospel.
For the good Christ, they said, never ate, nor drank, nor took upon him true flesh, nor ever was in this world, except spiritually in the body of Paul....
They said that almost all the Church of Rome was a den of thieves; and that it was the harlot of which we read in the Apocalypse [NB: This is where extreme Protestants got the idea from].
They so far annulled the sacraments of the Church, as publicly to teach that the water of holy Baptism was just the same as river water, and that the Host of the Most Holy Body of Christ did not differ from common bread, instilling into the ears of the simple this blasphemy, that the Body of Christ, even though it had been as great as the Alps, would have been long ago consumed, and annihilated by those who had eaten of it.
Confirmation and Confession, they considered as altogether vain and frivolous. They preached that Holy Matrimony was meretricious, and that none could be saved in it, if they should beget children.
Denying also the Resurrection of the flesh, they invented some unheard of notions, saying, that our souls are those of angelic spirits who, being cast down from heaven by the apostasy of pride, left their glorified bodies in the air; and that these souls themselves, after successively inhabiting seven terrestrial bodies, of one sort or another, having at length fulfilled their penance, return to those deserted bodies.
It is also to be known that some among the heretics were called ‘perfect’ or ‘good men’, others just ‘believers’.
Those who were called ‘perfect’, wore a black dress, falsely pretended to chastity, abhorred the eating of flesh, eggs and cheese, and wished to appear not liars, when they were continually telling lies, chiefly respecting God. They said also that they ought not on any account to swear oaths…
Those who were called ‘believers’ were given to usury, rapine, homicide, lust, perjury and every vice; and they, in fact, sinned with more security, and less restraint, because they believed that without restitution, without confession and penance, they should be saved, if only, when on the point of death, they could say a Paternoster, and received imposition of hands from their teachers.”
Unlike Bertran, Reynaldus was a contemporary of the Cathars and knew them.
The Cathars believed in the old Eastern pagan idea of Reincarnation. They believed that humans and other mammals were hybrid creatures belonging to two realms: a good, potentially immortal, spirit, trapped inside a bad and corruptible body. This was one reason why Cathars refused to kill animals.
In some ways, the idea reflected certain Buddhist beliefs. A person who led a relatively good life might be re-incarnated with a better and easier life the next time round. One who lived a bad life would be reincarnated further down the scale, possibly as an animal. By their beliefs even animals could live good or bad lives, because it was possible for an animal to be reincarnated as a human being. A popular Cathar story tells of a man who is overcome with emotion on recognising in the grass an iron shoe he had thrown in his previous life as a horse.
Those who eventually managed to lead a good enough life would be released from the cycle of rebirth. On their death the Bad God would lose his power over the angel trapped within. Released from their imprisonment, such angels would return to heaven, the realm of light to join the other angels there. The Cathars believed that they are there in the night sky for all to see i.e. as stars.
Whilst there were differences between Manichaeism and Catharism, there were far more similarities, the greatest of which was their mutual belief in Dualism and refusal to accept that there was an omnipotent, good God. For them, the Devil was equally powerful.
Others will have noticed that Betran speaks of a “125 years” Crusade against the Occitan Cathars “exactly between 1209 and 1231”. This is 22 years not 125 years, Bertran. Your maths is somewhat awry, Bertran.
Bertran thinks that these utterly bizarre beliefs of the Cathars are Christian and follow the commandment of Christ to love one another. Yes, really!
The Cathars were at first tolerated but when missionaries and legates sent to them were murdered, steps began to be taken to require them to hand over the wrong-doers. This they resisted with more murders of Catholics and they committed persistent acts of terrorism and destruction which eventually provoked a counter-terrorist war against them.
Pope Innocent III declared a Crusade but there were not enough volunteers to fight and only a small crusading army could be raised against the massive forces of the Cathars. However, this little force, supported by the prayers of St Dominic and his new Order of Preachers (Dominicans), had a near-miraculous success at the Battle of Muret on 12 September 1213 under Count Simon de Montfort (father of the founder of the English Parliament).
Well, folks. You make up your own mind.
Were the Cathars really Christians?
Or were they a crazy sect whose bizarre ideas are making something of a come-back in our troubled and confused times?
The Holy Dominican Rosary, used by St Dominic and the Dominicans to defeat the power of the Cathars, is still one of the greatest spiritual weapons against the Enemy of human nature, Satan.