2007 Archive Edition - See the Archive Notice on the Project Homepage for more information.
Although the term Cathari (the pure) has been applied to many groups, it most commonly refers to a Medićeval sect found in Italy, France and Germany from the XI-XIII (or XIV) Centuries. The groups were originally scattered and had in common puritanical and anti-clerical tenets. A few were dualist, although the opposition of matter and spirit came to be widely accepted among the various Cathar communities. These groups had some contact with the Bogomils, a Manichćan sect that arose in Bulgaria, but the extent of the contact is not known. The dualistic beliefs of the Bogomils came to western Europe after the Second Crusade.
The beliefs of the Cathars are known primarily through those who opposed them, and those who argued against them say that Cathars believe that matter is inherently evil and only the spiritual is good. Salvation comes through conquering the needs of the body. The Cathars, then, abstained from marriage and from eating any animal products. They are said to have considered children to be the work of the devil.
They believed that Lucifer was Christ's older brother, who had rebelled against the Father. Satan was equally powerful and co-eternal. He could create anything except a soul. To get souls for the bodies which he had created, he introduced a woman into the all-male heaven, and as the angels recognized sexual differences, Satan was able to imprison them in bodies. Satan created the material world and was the god of the Old Testament. Some Cathars rejected the Old Testament altogether, while others revised it.
Because of Cathar views of the body, they denied the Incarnation of Christ, who was, they believed, an angel who came into the world through Mary's ear and lived as though he were human. He did not suffer on earth because a shield of angels protected him. The Cathars saw Christ and Satan as equal in creative power, and they thought that Christ had no power over evil, since the material and the spiritual are wholly separate.
Cathars rejected the sacraments of the established church and believed that the Church was so corrupted that it had lost Apostolic Succession. The only way to regain that was to live an Apostolic life of abstinence. The Cathars rejected the clergy and held that the power of the sacraments depends solely on the purity of the administrator. If the person who administered the Cathar sacrament consolamentum (a laying on of hands in lieu of baptism), fell, all he had consoled also fell. Any of the living could be reconsoled by a member of the Perfect. Many received this "sacrament" only on their deathbeds, as early Christians had once received baptism.
People who died before attaining perfection were reincarnated. Matter was also eternal in Cathar theology.
The only prayer which the Cathars prayed was the Lord's Prayer, and they saw the Trinity as an allegory.
The Cathari attracted many who wanted a simple church with spiritual theology, and converts came from the lesser nobility, artisans, and peasants. The Cathar population of France, the Albigenses, was largely rural, and the Cathars of Italy were concentrated in cities. The French group was suppressed by 1300, and the Italian group continued into the XIV Century.
Karen Rae Keck
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