The Cathar 'Heresy'

Cathars (Greek Katharos - pure), literally means "Puritans". It is doubtful that they owe their origin to the Manichans via the Bogomili. Their Central belief was dualism, personified in a good and an evil principle but this varied in emphasis among its sects.

The most widespread sect was that of the Albigensians of the 12th-13th Century, centred on Toulouse, taking its name from Albi. Its spread was assisted by:

Good created spirit; evil created the physical. The soul, deceived by evil out of the "Kingdom of light" was punished on earth, effectively hell, trapped in the body; but this punishment is not eternal as all souls must ultimately be liberated through Jesus who was perfect but whose body was celestial: He only appeared to be born of Mary and to suffer.

The sect (it is often thought of as an extra Catholic religion rather than a heresy), was divided between Puritani, who had been initiated through the Consolamentum- a combination of baptism, penance and orders similar to that administered to the Catacumenate - and Credentes who agreed to undergo initiation before death.

Man is therefore a living contradiction: suicide was encouraged through Endura, fasting; perpetual chastity was incumbent on Puritani and concubinage, being less permanent, was superior to marriage and divorce was sanctioned; matrimonial intercourse was unlawful; disgust at procreation led to vegetarianism; paradoxically, however, the sect was against war and capital punishment.

Although Cathar sects were widespread, the Albigensian form was first noted in Orleans in 1022. 100 years of moderate Councils did not check its spread and in the following 50 years Councils became more sever up to the Third Lateran of 1179. Count Raymond VI of Toulouse (1194-1222) supported the sect and Pope Innocent III, elected in 1198, turned up the heat. There were four factors in favour of the Pope in 1205-06:

Innocent III, on the assassination of his Legate, Peter of Castelnau (1208), attributed to Raymond called on the European powers, principally the King of France as Suzerain, to use force. Raymond, still excommunicated, changed sides again and fought with the Catholics. Carcasonne fell in and Simon de Montfort took over the campaign (1209). Raymond was again excommunicated, prevaricated but, failing to settle with Rome, re-joined the sect, and Valaur fell to great slaughter (1211). The war then degenerated into a territorial dispute out of Innocent III's control. The only winner was the King of France and the sect disappeared by the end of the 14th Century.

Not surprisingly, the puritanism of the sect was widely - and perhaps deliberately - misunderstood with focus on the concubinage rather than the chastity. By Medieval standards the suppression was not harsh in view of the fundamental challenge to the central doctrines of the nature of Jesus, good and evil, the meaning of life and the preservation of order.

The principal question for us is the persistence of dualism almost from the foundation of Christianity to our own day.