Differences between Roman and Cathar baptism
In the records of the Inquisition, we find the words of the Cathar Pierre Authié, who, while preaching in the house of the Péire family in Arques, explained the differences between Roman and Cathar baptism in the following words:
The baptism of the Roman Church is worthless,” he said, “since it is done in water matter and because in the course of this baptism great lies are told; they actually ask the child: do you want to be baptized? And they answer instead that they do want, which is not true, while he, on the contrary, cries. Then, they also ask him if he believes this or that and they answer for him that he does believe and, however, he does not believe in anything, since he does not have the use of reason. They ask him if he renounces the devil and his pomps, and they answer for him that he does, and yet he does not renounce anything, since he begins to grow, to tell lies and to commit various works of the devil…. On the other hand, our baptism is good, since it is of the Holy Spirit and not of water, and because we are older and endowed with reason when we receive it, and by this baptism, we become Sons of God [i].…
Sibelly Péire, in his interrogation before the Inquisition, quotes the words uttered by the same good man regarding the esteem in which he held the Roman Catholic churches.
(…) are the houses of idols, they explained, calling the statues of the saints in the churches idols. And those who worship these idols are fools, since it is they themselves who have made these statues, with an axe and other iron tools! [ii]
Thus we see that the Cathars, whose initiation was carried out in the strictest austerity and very often in caves, rejected the images of saints, virgins, and of Jesus himself, considered sacred, when they were nothing but the works of man himself.
For the Cathars, the true Church was not an external space, consecrated to prayer, but was to be sought in the innermost part of the human being. In the deposition of Arnaud Sicre before the inquisitor Jacques Fournier, a peasant affiliated with the Cathar cause is quoted as saying:
The heart of man is the true Church of God, not the material church [iii].
The quotation allows us to understand that the Cathars were well aware that the man who seeks his God should not seek outside himself, but in the depths of his heart. On the other hand, the Cathars did not admit that Christ had a human body, which was equivalent to saying that Jesus was not Christ. Such a conception is very clear in the words of Raymonde Bézarza, burned in 1270, who says:
Christ did not have a human body, nor real human flesh. The Virgin Mary was not truly the mother of Christ, nor even a real woman. The Cathar Church is the true virgin Mary: true penitence, chaste and virgin, who brings into the world the children of God [iv].
The grand inquisitor at the Sabarthez, Bernard Gui, in his Practica inquisitionis, p. 238, recalling his many interrogations of Cathars, writes:
As for the incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of the blessed Mary, ever virgin, they deny it. They claim that the Christ did not have a true human body, nor true human flesh, like all other men. They deny that the Virgin Mary was truly the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and even a real woman. They say that it is their own sect that is the Virgin Mary, that is to say the true penance, chaste and virgin, who brings into the world the Sons of God.
To understand the Cathar conception of the body of Christ, one must keep in mind that the Cathars differentiated very clearly between the entity Jesus and Christ.
For them, Christ, as a macrocosmic entity, never had, nor could he ever have, a human body. Christ, however, could manifest himself in the personality of Jesus and act through it, but in no case did they confuse the body of Jesus with Christ himself. Similarly, the Cathars clearly differentiated between the Virgin Mary, as mother of Jesus, and the Virgin Mary as Church, i.e. as pure electromagnetic body where the birth of the inner Christ could take place.
It is evident, according to their conceptions, that the Virgin Mary, woman, although she could have been the mother of Jesus, could not and could never be the mother of the macrocosmic Christ. In Hebrew, the names of Mary are: Miriam or Mariah. The first means the death that begets and the life that causes to die; the second means: death and resurrection in God. Mary therefore alludes to the Original Mother, the feminine side of the Word made flesh, the new pure ethers that manifested themselves within the Cathar Church and through whose intervention, the good men, after a long process of purification, could give birth to the inner Christ.
The deposition of Pierre de Gaillac before the inquisitor Geoffrey de Ablis, allows us to understand the concept that the Cathars had of communion and of the Roman Catholic communion:
They said that the bread placed on the altar, and blessed with the same words that Christ himself used on the day of the supper with his apostles, was not the true body of Christ and that, on the contrary, it is a scandal and a superchery to affirm it, since that bread is a bread of corruption, produced and coming from the root of corruption; while the bread of which Christ said in the Gospel “Take and eat of it, etcetera” is the Word of God…. From all this, they concluded that the word of God was the bread spoken of in the Gospel and, therefore, that the Word was the body of Christ [v].
The text makes clear the differences that separated the two churches. The Cathars categorically rejected the miracle of transubstantiation, that is, the total conversion of the bread into the body of Christ during the Eucharist.
The Cathars practiced only two sacraments, the “blessing of the bread” and the “Consolamnetum”. The blessing of the bread was not celebrated in the temple, but in the houses, at every meal. For the Cathars, the “bread”, the true holy food, was the word of God, the Word, or explained in more modern terms, the pure radiations coming from the divine world, because only such spiritual radiations are able to transmute the natural man and awaken in those who receive them the inner Christ.
In the same deposition we are told the opinion of the Cathars regarding the action of the crusaders, pointing out that their work had no value and did not redeem in any way the sins of man, to then point out that the cross that the crusaders carry overseas should not be that of visible and corruptible objects, but
the cross that is of good works, and of true penance, and of good observance of the Word of God, for such is the Cross of Christ, and he who so works truly follows Christ, and forgets himself, and bears his own cross, which is not a cross of corruption [vi].
[i] Deposition of Sibylle Péire, quote from “Cathar Women”, p. 373 and 374
[ii] Deposition of Sibylle Péire, quote from “Cathar Women”, p. 373 and 374.
[iii] Arnaud Sicre’s statement to Jacques Fournier, quote from “The Women Cathars”, p. 384.
[iv] (Collection, Dota, 15, p.57) Quote from “The heritage of the Cathars. Druidism”, p.6
[v] Deposition of Pierre de Gaillac to Geoffroy d’Ablis, quote from “The Women Cathars”, p. 381 and 382.
[vi] Deposition of Pierre de Gaillac to Geoffroy d’Ablis, quoted from “The Women Cathars”, p. 381 and 382.