About the cross and crucifixion
Once again, the quote allows us to understand how far apart were the concepts of both churches, but above all, it lets us see, in a subtle way, that the Cathars did not understand the crucifixion of Christ in any way in the literal sense imposed by the Roman church, but as a work of inner purification, of dying to the desires and appetites of the world, a renunciation of egocentrism.
The Cathars considered that the sufferings of Christ on Golgotha were far superior to those that a human body could endure, for “he suffered in spirit“; and “he had the tortures of the soul, the agony of Gethsemane. But he did not die: a God cannot die“.
This is undoubtedly one of the most antagonistic aspects of both churches. While the Roman church bases redemption on the historical fact that happened only once in the Golgotha, for the Cathars, the death of Christ is above all a symbolic event that must happen daily in the candidate. Every man who aspires to salvation must die to the world, its vanities and its desires. For only by the death of earthly ties is “resurrection” possible, not the resurrection, of course, of the historical Christ, but of the inner Christ, of the personal God.
The Cathars, on the other hand, believed in reincarnation, as is clear from the deposition of Sibylle Péire before the Inquisition, where referring to the Roman clerics, he says:
“That they were blind and deaf, since they neither saw nor heard the voice of God for the time being. But in the end, though with difficulty, they would come to the understanding and knowledge of their Church, within other bodies in which they would recognize the truth[i].”
The term “within other bodies” clearly alludes to the necessity of numerous reincarnations before being able to find true understanding. Thus, the message of the Cathars, although at first glance it may seem joyless, was a message full of hope. It rejected outright the punishments of an eternal hell invented by the Church of Rome, and advocated the salvation of all men, after an inevitable process of pilgrimage and purification of the soul, carried out in various material bodies.
After what has been exposed, we can clearly understand the animosity of the Church of Rome towards the Church of Love, of the Holy Spirit, the Cathar Church.
The church that flees and forgives and the church that possesses and kills
In one of the many testimonies narrated before the inquisitors, one of the witnesses quotes the words he remembers from the preaching of Pierre and Jacques Authié, two of the last Occitan Cathars. In the document we read how the Good Man says:
“There are two churches: one flees and forgives. The other possesses and kills, the one that flees and forgives is the one that follows the straight path of the apostles: it neither lies nor deceives. And this Church that possesses and kills is the Roman Church”.
The heretic then asked me which of the two Churches I considered better. I answered that it was wrong to possess and kill. Then the heretic said: “We are the ones who follow the way of truth, who flee and forgive”. I replied, “If you truly bear the way of truth of the apostles, why do you not preach, as the priests do, in the churches?”
And the heretic replied to this: “If we were to do that, the Roman Church, which hates us, would burn us at once”.
I then said to him, “But why does the Roman Church hate you so much?”
And the heretic replied, “For if we could go about preaching freely, the said Roman church would no longer be appreciated; indeed, people would prefer to choose our faith and not theirs, because we say and preach nothing but the truth, whereas the Roman Church tells great lies.”
We have tried to highlight the most significant aspects of the Cathar religion, the religion of the Paraclete, the religion of Love.
[i] Deposition of Sibylle Péire, quote from “Cathar Women”, p. 388.