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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Oh those cuddly Cathars

A novelist, one Kate Mosse, was talking on Start the Week about the Cathars. She asserted that the Cathars were Christians - I suppose they were Christian heretics, since they claimed to be Christians, but objectively it's pushing it: believing in two gods and not really believing in the Incarnation would seem to be somewhat problematic. And she lauded the Cathars for their wonderful tolerance, absence of hierarchy and general modernity. (Verbatim: 'very contemporary people.' Insert rant about the impossibility of not being, in some sense or other, contemporary with something....) How can people still spout this stuff? How can the small matters of hating all flesh and starving oneself to death escape their attention? And behold Miss Mosse's sympathetic and balanced treatment of St Dominic; and equally balanced treatment of the 'bons hommes.'

I'm sorry; I should be less scathing, I expect. But the destructive nature of Catharism is now so clear to see - we are not peasants with no opportunity to hear the Faith preached, or bamboozled by the corruption of the local hierarchy as compared to the apparent purity of the perfecti. Why do people still look to Catharism as an answer? And moreover, I didn't get the impression that Miss Mosse thought Catharism was actually true - although she wasn't speaking for very long, so I could be wrong - nor that most modern apologists for the Cathars think so. So why prefer the Cathars over the Catholics in an account of the period? If the Cathars were still around today, I don't think the Guardianistas would be their biggest fans, do you? They'd be trying to encourage a liberal, secular Cathar identity that didn't involve condemning the pleasures, and indeed the existence, of the flesh, and that didn't tempt their children away into zealous self-destruction...

Rargh!

Compare an interesting review, by someone eminently respectable, of some recent books on the Crusades.