This text is an extract from the apologetic work of Jean Guiraud, Histoire partiale, histoire vraie (Beauchesne editions, 1912). Jean Guiraud dismantles piece by piece the false arguments of anticlericalism. A chapter is devoted to the Crusade against the Albigensians. The first article summarized the arguments of the anticlericals and showed their contradictions. The second examines the doctrine of the Albigensians.
Hostility Toward Christianity
From their metaphysical and theological doctrines, the Albigensians practiced a morality in formal opposition to Christian morality, and Aulard and Debidour are grossly mistaken when they present them to us as simply wanting “to bring Christian morality back to perfect purity”; in reality, their moral ideal was the opposite of the Christian ideal, and no reconciliation was possible between the two.
Whatever the different ways in which Christians have tried to put their principles into practice, however, the theory which the Church presents to us of life, of its value, and of the goal towards which it should strive, can be summed up in a few sure propositions.
For the Church, the life of this world is but a test. Inclined towards evil by the bad instincts of his flawed nature, the seductions and weaknesses of the flesh, and the devil’s temptations, man is called to the good by divine law, the good tendencies that the original fall was not able to make entirely disappear in him, and especially by the divine assistance that he can have for the asking, which increases tenfold the strength of the human will without destroying its liberty and responsibility, and which we call grace.
Perfection consists in overcoming the bad instincts of the flesh, so that the body remains what it should be, the servant of the soul; to subordinate all the movements of the soul to charity, that is, to the love of God, in such a way that God is both the beginning and the end of man, of all his energies, of all his actions.
For this, we must accept the trials of life with resignation, traversing them with courage and making all the circumstances in the midst of which we find ourselves opportunities for sanctification and salvation. Who does not see consequently that for the Christian, life has an infinite value, since it provides him with the means of acquiring holiness and eternal beatitude which is the consequence of it? Who does not see that, for him, the most vulgar actions take on a supernatural nobility when, done for God, they appear as a reflection of eternity, “sub specie æternitatis”?
Its Theological and Metaphysical Doctrines
The idea of life that the Albigensian drew from his conception of God and the universe was quite different. Proceeding from the belief in good and evil through a double creation, man was a living contradiction: the soul and the body that composed him could never be reconciled.
To claim to want to bring them into harmony was as absurd as wanting to unite opposites: night and day, good and evil, God and Satan. In the body, the soul was but a captive and its torment was as great as that of those unfortunate people who were once tied to corpses. It could only find peace by taking back possession of its spiritual life, and it could only do so through separation from the body.
The divorce of these two irreconcilable elements, that is, death—death not only as endured but embraced as a deliverance,—was the first step towards happiness. Everything that preceded and delayed it was misery and tyranny. This world was but a prison and human actions were despicable because, exercised by a corrupt body, they carried with them the stigma of its corruption.
From then on, suicide became essential: it was the direct consequence of such principles, the only duty of life being to destroy it.
Among the Cathars, as Msgr. Douais tells us, suicide was, so to speak, the order of the day. “We saw some who had their veins cut open and died in a bath; others took poisonous potions, those who had beaten themselves.”
Endura appears to have been the most common mode of suicide among the Albigensians. It consisted in letting oneself die of hunger. Doellinger noted several cases of this in depositions made to the Inquisition in 1308 and contained in Latin manuscript 4,269 of the French National Library.
Without making this practice an absolute duty, the leaders of the sect encouraged it and presented it as a great mark of holiness. By putting the “consoled” in endura immediately after their initiation, the leaders guaranteed that by a prompt death, “ne perderent bonum quod receperant,” they would not lose the good that they had received through any attempt at apostasy and sin.
While all Albigensians did not kill themselves, they nevertheless believed in their duty to dry up in themselves as much as possible the sources and manifestations of life. They looked upon as their role models and saints those of them who had reached the depths of annihilation, nirvana. They were found in Languedoc.
Barbeguera, wife of Lobent, Lord of Puylaurens, went to see one of these Perfects out of curiosity. “It appeared to her,” she said, “as the strangest wonder. He had been sitting in his chair for a very long time, motionless like a tree trunk, indifferent to his surroundings.”
Negation of Marriage
The Albigensian theory of marriage was the logical consequence of their deeply pessimistic idea of life. If life was, as they taught, the greatest evil, one should not be content to destroy it in oneself through suicide or nirvana; it was also necessary to be careful not to communicate it to new beings who were made to participate in the common misfortune of humanity, by bringing them into existence.
Also, when the Cathars conferred the initiation of the Consolamentum, they made the initiate subscribe to a commitment to perpetual chastity. Albigensian ministers kept repeating that a man sinned with his wife as with any other, the contract and the sacrament of marriage being for them only the legalization and regularization of debauchery.
In the fierce intransigence of their chastity, the Pures of the thirteenth century found the formula adopted today by the supporters of free union and of the right to sexual pleasure: "Matrimonium est meretricium, marriage is legal concubinage.”