History of the christian church



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The confusion, which reigned among the Church authorities concerning the sectaries, and also the differences which existed among the sectaries themselves, appear from the many names by which they were known. The most elaborate list is given in the code of Frederick II. 1238, 961 and enumerates nineteen different sects, among which the most familiar are Cathari, Patarenes, Beguines, Arnoldists, and Waldenses. But the code did not regard this enumeration as exhaustive, and adds to the names "all heretics of both sexes, whatever be the term used to designate them." And in fact the list is not exhaustive, for it does not include the respectable group of Northern Italy known as the Humiliati, or the Ortlibenses of Strassburg, or the Apostolicals of Belgium. One document speaks of no less than seventy-two, and Salimbene of one hundred and thirty different sects.2 The council of Verona, 1183, condemned, "first of all the Cathari and Patarenes and those who falsely called themselves Humiliati or Poor Men of Lyons, also the Passagini, Josephini, and Arnoldists, whom we put under perpetual Anathema." The lack of compact organization explains in part the number of these names, some of which were taken from localities or towns and did not indicate any differences of belief or practice from other sectaries. The numbers of the heretics must be largely a matter of conjecture. A panic took hold of the Church authorities, and some of the statements, like those of Innocent III., must be regarded as exaggerations, as are often the rumors about a hostile army in a panic-stricken country, awaiting its arrival. Innocent pronounced the number of heretics in Southern France innumerable.3 According to the statement of Neumeister, a heretical bishop who was burnt, the number of Waldensian heretics in Austria about 1300 was eighty thousand. 964 The writer, usually designated "the Passau Anonymous," writing about 1315, said there was scarcely a land in which the Waldenses had not spread. The Cathari in Southern France mustered large armies and were massacred by the thousands. Of all these sects, the only one which has survived is the very honorable body, still known as the Waldenses.

The mediaeval dissenters have sometimes been classed with the Protestants. The classification is true only on the broad ground of their common refusal to be bound by the yoke of the Catholic hierarchy. Some of the tenets of the dissenters and some of their practices the Protestant Reformation repudiated, fully as much as did the established Church of the Middle Ages. Interesting as they are in themselves and by reason of the terrible ordeals they were forced to undergo, the sects were side currents compared with the great stream of the Catholic Church, to which, with all its abuses and persecuting enormities, the credit belongs of Christianizing the barbarians, developing learning, building cathedrals, cultivating art, furnishing hymns, constructing theological systems, and in other ways contributing to the progress of mankind. That which makes them most interesting to us is their revolt against the priesthood, in which they all agreed, and the emphasis they laid upon purity of speech and purity of life. Their history shows many good men, but no great personality. Peter Waldo is the most notable among their leaders.

A clear classification of the mediaeval heretics is made difficult if not impossible by the uncertainty concerning the opinions held by some of them and also by the apparent confusion of one sect with another by mediaeval writers.

The Cathari, or Manichaean heretics, form a class by themselves. The Waldenses, Humiliati, and probably the Arnoldists, represent the group of evangelical dissenters. The Amauricians and probably the Ortlibenses were pantheistic. he isolated leaders, Peter de Bruys, Henry of Lausanne, Eudo, and Tanchelm, were preachers and iconoclasts—using the term in a good sense—rather than founders of sects. The Beguines and Beghards represented a reform movement within the Church, one wing going off into paths of doctrinal heresy and lawlessness, and incurring thereby the anathemas of the ecclesiastical authorities.
§ 80. The Cathari.
The most widely distributed of the heretical sects were the Cathari. The term comes from the Greek katharos, meaning pure, and has given to the German its word for heretic, Ketzer. It was first used by the Cathari themselves. 965 A grotesque derivation, invented by their enemies, associated the sect with the cat, whose form it was the pleasure of the devil to assume. 966 From their dualistic tenets they were called New Manichaeans. From the quarter they inhabited in Milan, called Pataria, or the abode of the junk dealers, they received the name Patarenes. 967

In Southern France they were called Albigenses, from the town of Albi, one of the centres of their strength. From the territory in Eastern Europe, whence their theological tenets were drawn, they were known as Bulgari, Bugares, or Bugres.8 Other titles were given to them in France, such as Tessarants, Textores, from their strength among the weavers and industrial classes, or Publicani and Poplicani, a corruption of Paulicians. 969

It was the general belief of the age that the Cathari derived their doctrinal views from heretical sects of Eastern Europe and the Orient, such as the Paulicians and Bogomili. This was brought out in the testimony of members of the sect at their trials, and it has in its favor the official recognition which leaders from Eastern Europe, Bosnia, and Constantinople gave to the Western heretics. The Paulicians had existed since the fifth century in Asia Minor, and had pushed their way to Constantinople.0 The Bogomili, who were of later origin, had a position of some prominence in Constantinople in the early part of the twelfth century. 971 It is also possible that seeds of Manichaean and Arian heresy were left in Italy and Southern France after these systems were supposed to be stamped out in those regions.

The Paulicians rejected the Old Testament and taught a strict dualism. The Bogomili held to the Sabellian Trinity, rejected the eucharist, and substituted for baptism with water a ritual of prayer and the imposition of hands. Marriage they pronounced an unclean relationship. The worship of images and the use of the cross were discarded.

It was in the early years of the eleventh century, that the first reports of the appearance of heresy were bruited about here and there in Italy and Southern France. About the year 1000 a certain Leuthard, claiming to be inspired, appeared in the diocese of Châlons, destroying crosses and denouncing tithes. In 1012 Manichaean separatists appeared for the first time in Germany, at Mainz, 972and in 1022 at Orleans, where King Robert and his consort Constance were present at their trial. Fifteen were tried, and thirteen remained steadfast and perished in the flames. Constance is said to have struck one of them, her former confessor, with a staff and to have put out one of his eyes. 973 Heretics appeared at Liège in 1025. About the same time a group was discovered in Treves who denied transubstantiation and rejected infant baptism. 974 The castle of Monteforte near Turin became a stronghold for them, and in 1034 Heribert, archbishop of Milan, seized some of their number, including their leader Gerard. They all accepted death in the flames rather than adore a cross. In 1052 they appeared at Goslar, where the guilty were discerned by their refusal to kill a chicken. With these notices, and a few more like them, the rumor of heresy is exhausted for nearly a century.

About the middle of the twelfth century, heresy suddenly appeared again at Liége, and prosecutions were begun. In 1145 eight men and three women were burnt at Cologne. The firmness of the victims was exemplified in the case of a young woman, who was held back for a time with the promise of marriage, but, on seeing her coreligionists burnt, broke from her keepers and, hiding her face in her dress, threw herself into the flames. And so, Caesar of Heisterbach goes on to say, she descended with her fellow-heretics to hell. 975 At Rheims, 1157, and again at Cologne in 1163 we hear of trials and burnings, but thereafter the Cathari are no more heard of in Germany.

Their only appearance in England was at Oxford, 1161, when more than thirty illiterate Germans, men and women, strove to propagate their errors. They were reported as "detesting" marriage, the eucharist, baptism, and the Catholic Church, and as having quoted Matt. 5:10, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." A council of bishops ordered them branded on the forehead and flogged. 976 Henry II. would not allow heretics to be burnt to death, though offences in his reign against the forest laws were punished with blinding and castration. 977

In France the Cathari were strong enough in 1167 to hold a council at St. Felix de Caraman near Toulouse. It was attended by Nicetas of Constantinople, to whom the title of pope was given. He was accompanied by a Catharan bishop, Marcus of Lombardy.8 Contemporary reports represent the number of heretics as very large. They were compared by William of Newburgh to the sand of the sea, and were said by Walter Map to be infinite in number in Aquitaine and Burgundy.9 By the end of the twelfth century they were reported to have followers in nearly 1000 cities.0 The Dominican Rainerius gave 4,000,000 as a safe estimate of their number and declared this was according to a census made by the Cathari themselves.1 Joachim of Flore stated that they were sending out their emissaries like locusts. 982 Such statements are not to be taken too seriously, but they indicate a widespread religious unrest. Men did not know whereunto heresy might grow. In Southern France the priests were the objects of ridicule. In that region, as well as in many of the cities of Lombardy, the Cathari had schools for girls and boys.

Agreed as the Cathari were in opposing many customs and doctrines of the established Church, they were divided among themselves and broken up into sects,—seventy-two, according to one document. 983 Chief among them were the Albanenses and Concorrezzi, deriving their names from two Lombard towns, Alba and Concorreggio, near Monza. 984 A position intermediate between them was occupied by the Bagnolenses, so called from the Italian town of Bagnolo, near Lodi. This third party had a bishop whose authority was acknowledged by the Cathari in Mantua, Brescia, and Bergamo. 985

The differences between the Albanenses and Concorrezzi were of a theological character and concerned the nature of God and the origin of matter. The Albanenses were strict dualists. Matter is eternal and the product of the evil god. Paul speaks of the things, which are seen, as dung. The Concorrezzi seem to have rejected dualism and to have regarded evil as the creation of Lucifer, the highest of the angels.

In matters of ritual and practical conduct, and in antagonism to the Church establishment, all groups of the Cathari were agreed. Since Schmidt wrote his History of the Cathari, it has been common to represent Catharism as a philosophical system,6but it is difficult to understand the movement from this standpoint. How could an unlettered folk, as they were, be concerned primarily or chiefly with a metaphysical construction? Theirs was not a philosophy, but a daily faith and practice. This view alone makes it possible to understand how the movement gained such rapid and widespread acceptance in the well-ordered and prosperous territory of Southern France, a territory in which Cluny had exercised its influence and was located.

The Cathari agreed—to use the expression of their opponents—in vituperating the established Church and in calling its adherents Romanists. There are two Churches, they held,—one of the wicked and one of the righteous. They themselves constituted the Church of the righteous, outside of which there is no salvation, 987having received the imposition of hands and done penance according to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles. Its fruits proved that the established Church was not the true Church. The true Church endures persecution, does not prescribe it. The Roman Church sits in the place of rule and is clothed in purple and fine linen. The true Church teaches first. The Roman Church baptizes first. The true Church has no dignitaries, prelates, cardinals, archdeacons, or monks. The Roman Church is the woman of the Apocalypse, a harlot, and the pope anti-Christ.

The depositions at their trials indicate that the Cathari made much use of the Scriptures. The treatises of Bonacursus, Ermengaudus, and other writers in refutation of Catharan teachings abound in quotations of Scripture, a fact indicating the regard the heretics had for them. They put spiritual interpretations upon the miracles and freely allegorized parables. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the man who fell among the thieves was Adam, whose spirit, at God’s command, descended from heaven to earth and fell among thieves in this lower world. 988 The priest and the Levite were Melchizedek and Aaron, who went the "same way," that is, could not help him. The Old Testament they discredited, pronouncing it the work of the devil. Its God is an evil god. 989

The Catharan doctrine seems to have highly exalted Christ, though it denied the full reality of his human nature. He was created in heaven and was not born on the earth, but passed through Mary as through a pipe. He neither ate material food nor drank material drink. As for John the Baptist, he was one of the major demons and was damned for doubting when he sent to Christ the question, "Art thou he that should come or do we look for another?"0

A strange account of the fall of the angels was current in Southern France. Satan ascended to heaven and waited in vain thirty-two years for admittance. He was then noticed and admitted by the porter. Hidden from the Father, he remained among the angels a year before he began to use his art to deceive. He asked them whether they had no other glory or pleasure besides what he saw. When they replied they had not, he asked whether they would not like to descend to his world and kingdom, promising to give them gifts, fields, vineyards, springs, meadows, fruits, gold, silver, and women. Then he began to praise woman and the pleasures of the flesh. When they inquired more particularly about the women, the devil said he would descend and bring one back with him. This he did. The woman was decked in jewels and gold and beautiful of form. The angels were inflamed with passion, and Satan seeing this, took her and left heaven. The angels followed. The exodus continued for nine days and nights, when God closed up the fissure which had been made.1

The Cathari divided themselves into two classes, the Perfecti and the Credentes, or Believers. The Perfect were those who had received the rite of the consolamentum , and were also called bons hommes,2 good men, or good Christians, or the Girded, vestiti , 993 from the fact that after receiving the consolamentum they bound themselves with a cord. The number of the Good Men, Rainerius, about 1250, gave as four thousand. The Credentes corresponded, in a general way, to the catechumens of the early Church, and placed all their hope in the consolamentum, which they looked forward to receiving. By a contract, called the convenenza , the Catharan officials pledged themselves to administer the consolamentum to the Credentes in their last hours.

The consolamentum took the place of baptism and meant more. Its administration was treated by the Catholic authorities as equivalent to an initiation into heresy — haereticatio, as it was called. The usual form in which the court stated the charge of heresy was, "He has submitted to heretication."4 The rite, which women also were allowed to administer, was performed with the laying on of hands and the use of the Gospel of John, which was imposed upon the head or placed at the candidate’s breast. 995 The candidate made a confession of all his sins of thought, word, work, and vision, and placed his faith and hope in God and the consolamentum which he was about to receive. The kiss of peace followed. 996

The Perfect had a monopoly of salvation. Those not receiving the consolamentum were considered lost or passed at death into another body and returned to the earth. The rite involved not only the absolution of all previous sins but of sins that might be committed thereafter. However, relapse was possible and sometimes occurred.7 At death, the spirit was reunited with the soul, which had been left behind in heaven. There is no resurrection of the body. The administration of the consolamentum seems to have been confined to adults until the fourteenth century, when it was administered to sick children. Those who submitted to it were said to have, made a good ending." 998

The consolamentum involved the renunciation of the seven sacraments. Baptism with water was pronounced a material and corruptible thing, the work of the evil god. Even little children were not saved who received absolution and imposition of bands.9 The baptism of the established Church was the baptism of John the Baptist, and John’s baptism was an invention of the devil. 1000 Christ made a clear distinction between baptism with water and the baptism of power, Acts 1:5. The latter he promised to the Church.

As for the eucharist, the Cathari held that God would not appoint the consecrated host as a medium of grace, nor can God be in the host, for it passes through the belly, and the vilest part of the body. 1001 For the mass was substituted consecrated bread before the common meal. This bread was often kept for months. There was also, in some quarters, a more solemn celebration twelve times a year, called the apparellamentum, and the charge was very frequently made that the accused had attended this feast. 1002 Some deposed that they were eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood while they were listening to the words of Scripture. Among the requirements made of those who received the consolamentum were that they should not touch women, eat animal food, kill animals, take oaths, or favor war and capital punishment.

The marriage bed was renounced as contrary to God’s law, and some went so far as to say openly that the human body was made by the devil. The love of husband and wife should be like the love of Christ for the Church, without carnal desire. The command to avoid looking on a woman, Matt. 5:27, 28, was taken literally, and the command to leave husband and wife was interpreted to mean the renunciation of sexual cohabitation. Witnesses condemned marriage absolutely, 1003and no man or woman living in sexual relations could be saved. The opinion prevailed, at least among some Catharan groups, that the eating of the forbidden fruit in Eden meant carnal cohabitation. 1004

As for animal nourishment, not only were all meats forbidden, but also eggs and cheese. The reason given was that these were the product of carnal intercourse.5 The words of Peter on the housetop, Acts 10:14, were also quoted. The Cathari, however, allowed themselves fish, in view of Christ’s example in feeding the multitude and his example after his resurrection, when he gave fish to his disciples. The killing of animals, birds, and insects, except frogs and serpents, was also forbidden. 1006 The ultimate ground for this refusal to kill animal life was stated by one of the Inquisitorial manuals to be a belief in metempsychosis, the return of the souls of the dead in the bodies of animals.

The condemnation of capital punishment was based on such passages as: "Give place unto wrath, vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord," Rom. 12:19; and the judicial execution of heretics and criminals was pronounced homicide, a survival from the Old Testament and the influence of its evil god. The Cathari quoted Christ’s words, "Ye have heard how it hath been said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." 1007 One of the charges made against the established Church was that it countenanced war and marshalled armies.

The interdiction of oaths was in obedience to the words of Christ, and was in the interest of strict integrity of speech. 1008

The Cathari also renounced priestly vestments, altars, and crosses as idolatrous. They called the cross the mark of the beast, and declared it had no more virtue than a ribbon for binding the hair. It was the instrument of Christ’s shame and death, and therefore not to be used.9 Thorns or a spear would be as appropriate for religious symbols as the cross.

They also rejected, as might have been expected, the doctrines of purgatory and indulgences. 1010

In addition to the consolamentum, the Cathari practised two rites called the melioramentum and the endura.1 The melioramentum, which is adduced again and again in the judicial sentences, was a veneration of the officials administering the consolamentum, and consisted of a threefold salutation. The Catholics regarded it as a travesty of the adoration of the host. 1012

The endura, which has been called the most cruel practice the history of asceticism has to show, was a voluntary starvation unto death by those who had received the consolamentum. Sometimes these rigorous religionists waited for thirteen days for the end to come,3and parents are said even to have left their sick children without food, and mothers to have withdrawn the breast from nursing infants in executing the rite. The reports of such voluntary suicide are quite numerous.

Our knowledge of the form of Church government practised by the Cathari is scant. Some of the groups of Italy and Languedoc had bishops. The bishop had as assistants a "major" and a "minor" son and a deacon, the two former taking the bishop’s place in his absence. 1014 Assemblies were held, as in 1241, on the banks of the Larneta, under the presidency of the heretical bishop of Albi, Aymeri de Collet. A more compact organization would probably have been adopted but for the measures of repression everywhere put in force against the sect.

The steadfast endurance of the Catharan dissenters before hostile tribunals and in the face of death belong to the annals of heroism and must call forth our admiration as it called forth the wonder of contemporaries like Bernard. 1015 We live, said Everwin of Steinfeld, 1016


"A hard and wandering life. We flee from city to city like sheep in the midst of wolves. We suffer persecution like the Apostles and the martyrs because our life to holy and austere. It is passed amidst prayers, abstinence, and labors, but everything is easy for us because we are not of this world."
Dr. Lea, the eminent authority on the Inquisition, has said (I. 104) that no religion can show a more unbroken roll of victims who unshrinkingly and joyfully sought death in its most abhorrent form in preference to apostasy than the Cathari. Serious as some of the errors were which they held, nevertheless their effort to cultivate piety by other methods than the Church was offering calls for sympathy. Their rupture with the established organization can be to a Protestant no reason for condemnation; and their dependence upon the Scriptures and their moral tendencies must awaken within him a feeling of kinship. He cannot follow them in their rejection of baptism and the eucharist. In the repudiation of judicial oaths and war, they anticipated some of the later Christian bodies, such as the Quakers and Mennonites.
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