The Cathars And Their Issue With The Eucharist

The Cathars are another famous sect in history that denied the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  The Cathars were dualists as they believed in one god who was evil, and another that was good.  The movement was essentially a revived type of Gnosticism as physical matter was also deemed evil.

Church, Cathar Church, Ruin, Pierre

Cathars And Gnostic Roots

They denied that Jesus ever had a human body, and as result they would deny that the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ.  They denied all sacraments because of the physical properties contained within them. The Cathars thrived in Southern France between the 12th and 14th centuries.

The church had to respond swiftly as Catharism was a growing movement.  The church used Aristotelian terms such as “substance” and “accidents” to describe the Eucharist.

The distinction between ‘substance’ and ‘accident’ gave the Church language to describe its belief that what looked like bread and wine were, in fact, the Body and Blood of Christ.  This language brought forth a term that we use still today.  The term “transubstantiation” was used against the Cathars at the fourth Lateran Council in 1215.

A Term For An Ancient Teaching

It was at this council that the teaching of the Cathars was formally condemned.  The terminology that was developed during the controversy with the Cathars changed the landscape of Catholic theology.  Transubstantiation may have been a new term to describe the miracle that happens on the altar, but it was by no means a new idea.

Transubstantiation was the term coined at the council, but not when the teaching started being taught.  The church has always taught that the Eucharist was the body and blood of the Lord.  Transubstantiation just gives the term to describe how it can be the body and blood of the lord and still look like bread and wine.

They were not Pseudo-Protestants as some make them out to be and are better known as Albigensians.

Basic Beliefs

The Cathars were dualists who believed in two gods.  One who created everything good and another who created everything evil.  Essentially they believed that the god of the Old Testament was Satan, and the New Testament was the God we know.

As they did with the Eucharist, they didn’t hold to the validity of any sacraments because the sacraments involve some kind of material.  In their view all material is bad.

The human body was an evil construct because in entrapped angels in human flesh.  Therefore anything to do with the human body was also deemed evil.  Even procreation.

Suicide was seen as a good way of escaping human bondage.

Yes, they were opposed to the Eucharist as the Gnostics of old were.  Their beliefs were dealt with by great saints such as St. Augustine and St. Irenaeus.  Again I emphasize that they were not protestants that were persecuted by the Catholic church, but believers in type of modified Gnostic heresy.


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