We are looking here at the Cathars and the Roman Catholics in the Middle Ages. The Cathars were deemed "heretics" and killed off, so they say, from the Languedoc area of France by the 14th Century. We look into what they believed, and whether their collective extinguishing was justified. Is killing unbelievers ever justified? Who says?
1. The life cycle of a religion.
Must it include a period of time, about a thousand years after a founding, where a) its immune system turns on itself and b) the religious with most power lash out against all nonconforming uses. This looks like zoning from hell. The ultimate cancer. Who are we to criticize Sunni vs. Shi'a and others. Revisit the Languedoc, and the 13-14th Century purge/slaughter of the Cathars, the Albigensians, as "heretics." The Pope(s) sent Crusaders to kill Evildoers in the Holy Land. Then, Upgrades on Ideas, or Heretical Ideas, depending on your viewpoint, returned with the Crusaders; then when the Ideas took root in many parts of Europe (Balkans, France especially), the adherents were hunted and killed as Evildoers. Inquisitions thrived.
We are interested in this group because the concept of "heresy" itself is interesting. Who defines, and for what purposes.
2. The wording of the search matters.
See what different persuasion approaches result from the slant of the search.
Try "Cathar heresy" or "Albigensian heresy" and you get dogma, how evil and in error they were, how foreboding their concepts. Those are attached to sites with a religious bent. Read them, and it is hard to see why anyone could ever question the Church's efforts to wipe them out. And those efforts largely succeeded. The sites against them seem almost to have to justify what happened. Why else use such tilted words, focusing on the conclusion that Cathars were Evil personified and we are better off without anyone who so disagrees with Established Truth.
Then try "Cathar beliefs" or "Albigensian beliefs" and up pops neutral, or, at least, some counterarguments to the dogma presented before.
Go here first, for the neutral presentation, and for the perspective of counter-arguments: "The Cathars: Cathar Beliefs" at ://www.cathar.info/1201_beliefs.htm/. The drive against them was completed in the 14th Century, in the Languedoc area of France, but as with the Bogomils in the Balkans (see home page here, photograph of Bogomil graveyard in Bosnia), the ideas lived on in other forms, as people blended in with other cultural groups more tolerant.
3. Cathar Beliefs:
So far, we have found these. These are points to check out further, and represent the beliefs as were alleged by the Cathars; or as viewed today by pro-Cathar people, see the cathar.info site.
Why kill these people? They were a threat to authority, and had stayed closer to original precepts than the Roman Catholics in power. Is that so?
Overall, our understanding is that the Cathars followed the model of living of the Founder. For Catharism today, see this group called "Assembly of Good Christians" or the "General Conference Cathar Church". Start at ://www.cathar.net/20904_aboutus.html/ and navigate about, especially to ://www.cathar.net/cathar_distinctives.html#home/ and other topics listed there. As we find sites with additional or different information, we will report and revise.
This is a checklist for checking further, not an adoption of all it says - we are not experts, just interested in these ideas.
4. Tracking original precepts:
Which was more "Christian" - the Cathars, or the Roman Catholics. Note, however, that there is disagreement on exactly what the Albigensians or Cathars believed, because the site says they did not leave many writings, and records were purged, leaving opponents to frame many issues. We think so far that the Cathars and the Albigensians are the same. See ://www.medievalchurch.org.uk/h_cath_alb.php/ They were also known as Poblicantes, or Publicani, perhaps from Paulician, and reflected ideas brought back by the Crusades to the Holy Land.
- No priesthood. Had no formal priesthood, as was the case also in the earliest Christian churches. See ://www.cathar.info/12011411_priesthood.htm/ The Cathars did have a lesser hierarchy idea, however, of those with a secret knowledge, and those without such knowledge; like the gnostics. A "priesthood" indeed developed later with the Roman Catholics.
- Dualism *, docetism - the nature of God, good and evil, nature of Matter, and spirit, see://www.medievalchurch.org.uk/h_cath_alb.php/
- Apostolic Succession. Originated the idea of an apostolic succession, see ://www.cathar.info/12011402_succession.htmas other gnostics, see http://www.cathar.info/12011414_gnosis.htm/ also did, and this was adopted by the Roman Catholics later. Even translations of early texts changed in form for the Roman Catholic version, see ://www.cathar.info/12011406_forgeries.htm
- Ascetic. Followed an ascetic lifestyle, as did Jesus; and the Roman Catholic church itself did not (monks and nuns did so, depending on their Orders); poverty - and here we start on the injunctions section at ://www.cathar.info/12011412_injunctions.htm
- Shared authority. Shared power, as in the earliest Christian Churches and
- Included women. Women were teachers, as well as men, also true of the early Church
- No killing. But you could starve yourself to death (that form of suicide acceptable) and kill fish; compare to all the killing allowed in the Catholic church, see this injunctions section of the cathar beliefs site at ://www.cathar.info/12011412_injunctions.htm
- No swearing of oaths. None. This later was reason for killing someone as a heretic, if they refused to take an oath, see ://www.cathar.info/12011412_injunctions.htm
- No judging others
- Baptism of the spirit. Not water. This follows the earliest church and according to Jesus' teaching, see ://www.cathar.info/12011403_practices.htm/, not with water (what church today does not use water in some way?), see ://www.cathar.info/12011404_baptism.htm; their baptism of the spirit, or consolamentum (also given to the dying) see://www.cathar.info/12011001_consolamentum.htm/, was also closer to the early Church practice. It required preparation, instruction, not just doing it to babies as the Roman Catholic church did. See the chart there, at that site, with more comparisons. The extreme unction of the Roman Catholic church came in the middle ages, and is modeled on the Cathar consolamentum. See://www.cathar.info/12011405_sacrements.htm
- Sacraments. They disagreed on what the sacraments were supposed to be - but the Roman Catholic Church also had no agreement on what the "seven" were, as late as 1167 AD, see http://www.cathar.info/12011405_sacrements.htm/ (the misspelling of sacrements in the URL is corrected in the text there)
- Confession. As to the Cathar sacraments, their confession, the apareilementum, was closer to the early Church than the later Roman Catholic one, see ://www.cathar.info/12011003_apareilementum.htm;
- No marriage. Marriage was not instituted by God and Jesus did not sanctify it, just went to a wedding and made wine, so is not required, see http://www.cathar.info/12011405_sacrements.htm/ See also Created from What An exploration of the no marriage idea.
- Agape. No transubstantiation or eucharist (the Roman Catholic Church only initiated those interpretations in 1215 AD), but a blessing of bread at meals, agape, as in the earliest Churches. These agape meals were discontinued in early Church groups after 2-3 centuries, because apparently they degenerated behaviorally (agape - love? more research!) ://www.cathar.info/12011405_sacrements.htm/
- Lord's Prayer: The Cathars had it right as to thine-is-the-power-and-the-glory etc. - and now our Prayer includes it. The Cathars translated the word we still don't know what is, but use "daily" as in give us our daily bread, in a more sensible meaning of "supplemental" - give us this day our supplemental bread. See ://www.cathar.info/12011413_prayers.htm/
5. So, are these conclusions, suggested from the cathar.info site, true:
- The Cathars predated Roman Catholicism
- Many of the Roman Catholic beliefs at the time themselves were "erroneous". Here is the vindication page at the cathar.info site: ://www.cathar.info/120114_truth.htm
- Many of the Cathar beliefs at the time were "correct" (in terms of later development of dogma)
- The Cathars were accused not only of faulty theology, but abominable practices -- that led directly to their persecution in the Inquisition and Crusades against them (what were those? were any true? which? is this the usual use of propaganda, or is it fact-based? did they eat babies, for example)
Supplemental sites as found: language and presentation are not neutral here, in that they lead to a conclusion of "heresy oh my", instead of simple description, but read anyway, ://www.mystae.com/restricted/streams/gnosis/cathar.html/
* Dualism. See the modern philosophical idea at://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/dualism.htm