The Albigenses justified by a conference, whereof we have an account written by Bernard of Foncaud.


WHAT I have here represented in general might be sufficient to clear the Albigenses from the charge of Manicheism, which the Bishop of Meaux, after so many ages, hath improved against them, but that we have something more to say. This Bishop, who makes the Waldenses only schismatics from the Church of Rome, though he looks upon them as another sort of schismatics than Donatists, hath pretended to prove this business infallibly, by the conference, whereof Bernard, Abbot of Foncaud, hath given us the relation, and which was held in presence of Bernard, Archbishop of Narbon. He observes therefore, that it appears from the said conference, that those against whom the dispute was maintained differed from the Church of Rome only in the following articles.

“The dispute,” saith he, “chiefly concerned the obedience that is due to Pastors, which we find that the Waldenses denied, and that, notwithstanding all prohibitions to the contrary, they believed they had power to preach, both men and women; and since this their disobedience could not be grounded but upon the unworthiness of the Pastors, the Catholics, in proving obedience to be due unto them, prove it to be due even to those that are wicked; and that, whatsoever the channels be, believers do not fail of receiving grace through them. For the same reason, they shew, that this speaking against their pastors, whence the pretence of disobeying them was taken, is forbidden by the law of God.

Afterwards they confute the liberty that laymen took to themselves of preaching without leave of their Pastors, and indeed in opposition to their prohibitions; and they shew that this seditious kind of preaching tends to the subversion of the weak and ignorant. Above all, they prove from Scripture, that women, to whom silence only is recommended, must not undertake to teach. Lastly, they represent to the Waldenses, that they do ill in rejecting prayer for the dead, which hath so much foundation in Scripture, and so clear a succession in tradition. And as these heretics absented themselves from the churches, to pray amongst themselves in private in their houses, they tell them that they ought not to leave the house of prayer, the holiness whereof was so much recommended in Scripture, and even by the Son of God himself.”

Here we may see the Albigenses, in case they be the persons concerned, (though the Bishop pretends they are the Waldenses,) sufficiently cleared from all the accusations of Manicheism that can be formed against their faith. For according to these articles, if we believe the Bishop of Meaux, they cannot be charged with any thing of Arianism, much less of Manicheism.

I cannot perfectly agree to what the Bishop of Meaux concludes, from their examining only these pretended differences in the conference held before the Archbishop of Narbon, that there was no other difference betwixt the Church of Rome and those against whom the Papists disputed at this conference. There are solid reasons that hinder me from being of the Bishop’s opinion: but however it be, he cannot defend himself from having furnished his adversaries with the most compendious way in the world to overthrow without much inquiry all that he had done to prove that the Albigenses were guilty of Manicheism.

For in truth this dispute, whereof the Abbot of Foncaud gives us an account, was not maintained against the Vaudois, but against the Albigenses. For,

1. the Bishop might easily have discovered as much from the presence of the Archbishop of Narbon, the matter in question relating to the interest of his diocese.

2. Because the Abbot of Foncaud, who is the relater, was one of the principal actors, his abbey being in the diocese of Narbon.

3. Because this conference, with some others, served as a prologue to the cruelties exercised against the Albigenses; the Church of Rome and her Ministers having already made use of these ways of sweetness, before they came to the extremities of a croisade, which interrupted their other projects towards Greece and the Holy Land.

It follows clearly from hence, that, according to the acknowledgment of the Bishop, the Albigenses cannot be more justly accused of Manicheism than the Vaudois, concerning whom he pretends that the Abbot of Foncaud speaks.

I cannot imagine how the Bishop can answer the force of this argument, except only by denying that he is mistaken, and pretending that this conference was held with some of the Vaudois, who had fled into the diocese of Narbon, and had so considerably propagated their doctrine there, that a public dispute was judged necessary to stop the progress of it.

But first, it would be very strange that they should be able in so short a time to make themselves more considerable than the Petrobusians and the Henricians, with whom we know that the dioceses of Aquitain and Narbon were already filled, according to the testimony of their enemies.

Secondly, were it so, it would be necessary to suppose that Bernard, Archbishop of Narbon, who died the second of October, 1191, made it his business to stop the progress of some of Waldo’s disciples, who at that time could scarcely be known, (John de Beauxmains, Archbishop of Lyons, who condemned Peter Waldo, not having possessed his see above ten years, as far as we can judge, which he then quitted to retire to Clairvaux,) whilst in the mean time he took no notice of the Petrobusians and Henricians.

Thirdly, it is ridiculous to suppose, against the credit of all historians, that the Vaudois composed a distinct body from the Albigenses, who, as we shall shew hereafter, clearly suppose that there were no Vaudois that had churches, and that made a distinct body. Fourthly, neither do we find that the cruel Inquisition made any such like distinction about this matter, in using more or less cruelty, according to the degrees of schism and heresy, as it is pretended they ought to do, in case they would act justly.

But whatever answer the Bishop may invent to defend his opinion, we have a sure way to overthrow it without remedy, and it is the same which he himself hath furnished us with; for he owns that the conference of 1206, mentioned by the Monk of Vaux Cernay, was a conference with the Vaudois. Besides that which Bernard, Abbot of Foncaud, hath set down, we have another, saith he, in Peter of Vaux Cernay, about the year 1206, where the Vaudois were confounded: now all men know that the conference of 1206 was held with the Albigenses, as Peter of Vaux Cernay, who lived at that time, assures us in his History of the Albigenses. But why then, will the Bishop say, did not they dispute before the Bishop of Nismes and the Archbishop of Narbon, but only upon these four points? The question is easily answered: they disputed about many other articles; but either he who wrote the conference did not give us a relation of the whole, as not supposing it convenient to publish their objections against those other opinions and superstitions which the Albigenses opposed; or else they wanted time to examine the other articles of the Roman faith which they rejected.

What I say now is not a conjecture at random, produced only to stop the Bishop’s answer, but is matter of fact grounded upon the relation which we have of the conference of Montreal, as I shall shew hereafter.

All this will lead us to pass a true judgment on the condemnations which the Popes, King Alphonsus, and the Emperor Frederic II. issued out against the Albigenses in their bulls and edicts. They endeavoured in short to make them be looked upon as infamous Manichees, as a company of Arians, and as the most execrable heretics. The Popes prepossessed the kings and emperors with these notions by the reproachful names which they fastened upon them, after they had gotten the power to lead them by the nose as so many wild beasts: hence proceeds that heap of names which we find in the bulls and edicts of that time.

The reflection we ought to make on all these terms of obloquy is this, that excepting only the names of Publicans and Cathari, particularly given to the Manichees, it appears from these edicts, that the Albigenses and the Waldenses did both believe the same thing. But if what I have said is sufficient to shew the injustice of the Bishop of Meaux in making the Albigenses pass for Manichees, the matter may be still further cleared, if we turn over the books of Alanus Magnus, surnamed the Universal Doctor; for it appears clearly from his treatise against the heretics of his time, and above all against the Albigenses, which he dedicated to William, Prince of Montpellier, that it was the fashion at that time to treat the Albigenses as Manichees, and to confound them with those heretics, whereas their faith was very opposite to that of the Manichees; for in his refutation he huddles them all together without almost any distinction, though their principles were very different. It seems he made use of this way, that he might make use of his common places the better; or else he did it to avoid frequent repetitions. In the first place therefore Alanus refutes the Manichees, who asserted that there were two principles, whereof the one was good, the other evil, and maintained that the evil god had created the world; of whom also some affirmed that the souls of men were apostate angels, who should be saved after their abode in human bodies; and that the souls of the patriarchs had no share in the salvation of Jesus Christ. They held likewise that Jesus Christ did not take upon him a true body, and that he never eat or drunk. They believed that the body of man was the workmanship of the Devil, and that it should not rise again; and they seemed to think that souls perished with their bodies.

He refutes some, who, though they believed the flesh of Jesus Christ, yet denied him to be the Son of God: others, who maintained that Jesus Christ had taken a celestial body; that the Virgin had been created in heaven, and had neither father nor mother. He takes up the first thirty-four chapters of his first book in confuting these opinions.

Afterwards, in his 35th chapter, he refutes the opinion of those who pretended that the Law of Moses was published by the Devil, and that the Fathers of the Old Testament were all damned.

As to the sacraments, whereof he treats from the 39th chapter, he owns that some of those heretics, whom he opposeth in general, absolutely rejected baptism; these were Manichees: that others denied the efficacy of it to infants, denying original sin: that others again believed it unprofitable to children, and only useful for those of riper years: and he disputes against every one of these opinions.

In chapter 45 he disputes against those who denied baptism to be useful without the imposition of hands. Afterwards he confutes those that maintained that we ought not, after having obtained the pardon of our sins in baptism, hope to obtain the same grace a second time by repentance, which in obliged them to excommunicate those who relapsed into their sins after baptism, which they proved from the 6th and 10th chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and because penance was no more to be reiterated than baptism or orders. It seems that these Albigenses had a discipline like that which prevailed in the Church before the Council of Carthage in Tertullian’s time, where they never admitted to the Communion those who had committed any great crimes after their baptism.

In the 50th chapter he attacks other heretics, who asserted that penance did not procure remission of sins, because it is God alone that can pardon sins. One sees plainly enough what they meant, especially because he adds, that they believed it was sufficient to confess their sins to God, which they proved by the authorities of St. Ambrose, St. Maximus, and St. Chrysostom.

He says that these heretics denied transubstantiation. It is worth observing to see with what force and subtilty they disputed against this doctrine: I shall produce the arguments themselves of the Albigenses, which Alanus endeavors to confute. Et hoc sic probare conantur: Si singulis diebus panis in corpus Christi mutaretur, illud in infinitum augeretur. Quaerunt etiam utrum ille panis desinat esse: si desinit esse, adnihilatur, et ita etiam corrumpitur. Item, quaerunt quomodo corpus tantae quantitatis intrat per os hominis? Item, si corpus Christi comeditur, dentibus atteritur, et ita in partes dividitur, item, panis fit corpus Christi, ergo erit corpus Christi, et ita aliud quam sit. Item, panis fiet corpus, ergo de pane fiet corpus Christi, et sic de pane erit materia corporis Christi. Item, post transubstantiationem remanent accidentia; ergo in alio subjecto, vel in aere; sed si in aere, aliqua pars aeris est rotunda, sapida, et secundum quod illa forma defertur per diversa loca, mutant accidentia subjectum. Item, in eadem parte aeris manent illa accidentia, et illa soliditas est in aere, cum illa sint solida, et sic aer solidus est: Ex his videtur, quod accidentia illa non sint in aere, sed nec in corpore Christi sunt: nec est assignare aliquid corpus in quo sint, ergo non videntur remanere accidentia. Item, cum forma illa sub qua latet corpus Christi dividatur in partes, sub illa forma desinit corpus Christi: quomodo ergo sub singulis portionibus illius Hostiae datur corpus Christi? Item, si corpus Christi latet sub illa exigua forma, ubi est Christi caput vel pes? Et ita indistincta sunt membra illius. Item, Christus dedit suum corpus discipulis ante passionem: sed dedit eis mortale vel immortale: si immortale dedit, sed tunc erat mortalis; ergo quando erat mortalis immortalis erat, quod est impossibile. Item, ponatur quod aliquis celebraverit divina tempore passionis Christi, corpus existens Romae, passum fuisset Romae, quia ubicunque erat, patiebatur tempore passionis, et sic non patiebatur tantum in Hierusalem, sed in multis aliis locis. Item, ponatur quod mus accedat ad pyxidem, in qua est Christi corpus; mus aliquid comedit, ergo aera, vel accidens, vel corpus: sed quod comedat aera, vel accidens, absurdum est, et magis absurdum quod comedat corpus Christi. Item, cum sanguis Christi glorificatus sit, nec faciat localem distantiam, videtur quod calice repleto sanguine, alius liquor possit infundi. Item, Christus ait in Evangelio, Omne quod in os intrat in seressum emittitur. Ergo Christi corpus non intrat, quando ad manducandum datur, nec in secessum emittitur.

“And this they endeavor to prove thus: If the bread every day should be changed into the body of Christ, it would be infinitely increased. They inquire also, whether the bread cease to be: if it ceaseth to be, then is it annihilated, and so it is spoiled. Also they ask, How a body of so great a bulk can enter into the mouth of a man? Whether the body of Christ be eaten, chewed with teeth, and consequently divided into parts? Whether the bread becomes the body of Christ, because then it will be the body of Christ, that is to say, something else than it is? Whether the bread becomes the body; and if so, then bread is the body of Christ, and so bread will be the matter of Christ’s body? Also after transubstantiation the accidents do remain; if so, they must be in another subject, in the air, for instance; but if there, then some part of the air must be round, savoury, and white; and as this form is carried through divers places, so the accidents change their subject. Again, these accidents abide in the same part of the air, and thus solidity will be in the air, because they are solid, and consequently the air will be solid. Hence it appears that these accidents are not in the air; neither are they in the body of Christ; neither can any other body be assigned, in which they are, so that the accidents do not seem to remain. Again, when the form or figure, in which the body of Christ lieth hid, is divided into parts, the body of Christ continues no longer in that figure which it had before: how therefore can the body of Christ be in every part of that Host? Again, if the body of Christ be hid in that little form, where is the head or foot? and consequently his members must be indistinguished. Again, Christ gave his body to his disciples before his passion: now he gave it them either mortal or immortal; if he gave it immortal, yet it is certain that then it was mortal; and consequently whilst it was mortal, it was immortal, which is impossible. Again, suppose we that some one or other had celebrated the Communion at the time that Christ suffered; the body that was (suppose) at Rome would have suffered there, because, wheresoever it was, it suffered at the time of the passion; and so Christ would have suffered not only at Jerusalem, but in many other places. Again, suppose that a mouse should come to the pix, in which the body of Christ is, and eat some part of it, the mouse would eat either air, or accidents, or the body of Christ; but it is absurd to say that the mouse should eat either air or accidents; and much more absurd it is to say that it eats the body of Christ. Again, seeing that the blood of Christ is glorified, and does not fill a place, it seems to follow, that when the cup is full of blood, some other liquor may be poured into it. Again, Christ saith in the Gospel, Whatsoever enters in at the mouth is cast forth into the draught; whence it will follow, that the body of Christ doth not go in at the mouth when it is given to be eaten, or if it does, it must be cast forth into the draught.”

In the 59th chapter he relates this objection of the Albigenses concerning the same matter: Quaerunt etiam haeretici, utrum sit articulus fidei Christianae panem transubstantiari in corpus Christi, cum de hoc non fiat mentio in aliquo Symbolo: non enim in Symbolo Apostolico, scilicet, Credo in Deum; vel in Nicaeno, Credo in unum, etc. vel in Symbolo Athanasii, Quieunque vult, etc. Cum in his Symbolis de omnibus articulis Christianae fidei fiat mentio, cur non fiat mentio de illo ineffabili sacramento, cui magis videtur obviare humana ratio?

“The heretics also demand, whether it be an article of the Christian faith, that the bread is transubstantiated into the body of Christ, seeing there is no mention made of it in any Creed: for we do not meet with it in the Apostles’ Creed, that is, Credo in Deum; nor in the Nicene, that is, Credo in unum; nor in the Athanasian, Quicunque vult: and since in these Creeds are contained all the articles of the Christian faith, why is there no mention of this ineffable sacrament, which of all things seems most contrary to reason?”

I have set down these arguments in order, first, Because it is visible to any one that will take the pains to examine them, that they are the same that were urged by Berengarius, as appears by the extracts of his book, which Lanfrank has preserved, and afterwards by those, who in the twelfth century endeavored to qualify and defend the absurdities of the confession which they made Berengarius sign. Secondly, Because it plainly appears that those who admitted the three Creeds, the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian, did not reject the use of matrimony, which yet he lays to their charge, there being nothing more remote from Manicheism. Neither doth he impute it, save only to some of these heretics; which makes it manifest, that he hath confounded all these people together, and that he only pursued his matter, and his common places, without giving us particularly the opinions of every one of these heretics.

We find, that he charges them with rejecting the sacrament of confirmation, because there is no mention made of it, neither in the Gospel nor in the other books of the New Testament, as an institution of Christ. They rejected also the sacrament of orders, as it was believed in the Church of Rome. See what Alanus saith of it: Dicunt etiam fidei Catholicae inimici, ordinem, ut Diaconatum vel Sacerdotium, non esse sacramentum, quod sic probare conantur: Non legitur in aliqua canonica Scriptura Apostolos ordinatos fuisse in Sacerdotes, cur ergo eorum vicarios sic ordinari oportet? Item, Apostoli qui majores Sacerdotes dicti sunt, non leguntur uncti fuisse chrismate; cur ergo unguntur eorum vicarii? Praeterita merita faciunt et suffragantur ut quis sit dignus aliquo officio, quid ergo confert ordo?

“Besides, the adversaries of the Catholic faith affirm, that the order of Deacons or Priests is not a sacrament, which they endeavor to prove thus: We do not read in any part of canonical Scripture that the Apostles were ordained Priests; and therefore what necessity is there that: their vicars should be so? Again, the Apostles, who are said to be the higher Priests, were never anointed; and why then are their vicars anointed? It is forepast merit and true worth that makes one fit for any function; what need therefore is there of orders?”

Concerning extreme unction, they believe after this manner: Dicunt etiam extremam olei unctionem, quae, datur infirmis, nec esse sacramentum, nec aliquem habere effectum, quia hoc sacramentum unctionis infirmorum ab Apostolis institutum non legitur:

“They say, that extreme unction, which is conferred upon sick persons, is neither a sacrament, nor otherwise of any efficacy, because this sacrament of anointing the sick is not found to be of apostolical institution.”

As to churches, we find that they followed the opinions of Henry, the disciple of Peter de Bruis: Non desunt qui dicant locum materialem non esse Ecclesiam, sed conventum fidelium sanctum: quia, ut aiunt, locus ad orationem non pertinet; sicut enim ubique est Deus, sic ubique adorari vel orari potest. Hoc autem probare nituntur authoritate Christi, dicentis Samaritanae, Mulier, crede mihi, venit hora, quando nec in monte hoc, nec in Hierosolymis, adorabitis Patrem: sed venit hora et nunc est, quando veri adoratores adorabunt in spiritu et veritate. Item, si locus facit ad orationem, cur heremitae antiquitus in locis abditis habitantes, ecclesias non habebant? Cur etiam sacramenta effectum suum habent, etsi non celebrantur in loco qui dicitur ecclesia? Item, quid operantur parietes ad supplicandum ei qui ubique est, cum in uno loco non magis sit quam in alio? Christum etiam in montibus et locis desertis legimus orasse, non in locis orationi dedicatis. Item, estne fructuosior oratio quae fit in templo, quam illa quae fit in agro, si par fuerit devotio?

“There be some who affirm, that the Church is not a material place, but an holy assembly of believers; for, say they, place is not of any concern to prayer, because as God is every where, so he may every where be worshipped and prayed to. This they endeavor to prove by the authority of Christ, saying to the Samaritan woman; Woman, believe me, the hour comes when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, worship the Father; but the hour comes and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Again, if the place be any furtherance to prayer, why had not the hermits of old, who lived in desert places, their churches to pray in? Or how can the sacraments be of any efficacy, when they are not celebrated in a place called a church. Again, what do walls help us to pray to him who is every where, and not more in one place than he is in another? We read also, that Christ went aside to mountains and desert places to pray, and not to places appointed for prayer. Again, is the prayer that is performed in the church of more efficacy than that which is offered up in the fields, supposing the devotion of both to be alike?”

Against the prayers that are made to saints, they objected as follows: Dicunt etiam heretici quidam, orationes sanctorum non prodesse vivis, nec vivorum orationes mortuis: probare etiam videntur, quod sancti non orant pro vivis, qui sciunt qui sint salvandi vel damnandi; pro illis autem quos sciunt salvandos non orant, quia superflua esset oratio, quia sive orent, sive non, salvabuntur: si vero orarent pro damnatis, non assequerentur quod petunt, et ita beati non essent; beatus enim est, cui omnia optata succedunt. Item, quilibet.judicabitur secundum opera sua, et non aliena merita, nec pro alienis meritis reddetur ei: et ideo orationes sanctorum non prosunt; vel quantum ad meritum, vel quantum ad praemium; quia non augent merita vel praemia. Item, sancti non sunt in loco merendi, sed recipiendi; ergo orationibus nec aliis bonis merentur sibi vel aliis. Item, in Evangelio Lucae legitur, quod Abraham dixit animae divitis quae erat in inferno, Magnum chaos firmatum est inter nos et vos; ubi chaos nihil aliud vocavit, nisi dissimilitudinem bonorum et malorum tantam, ut etiam sancti damnatis non compatiantur. Si vero non compatiantur, nec orant pro eis.

“Some heretics also assert, that the prayers of saints are of no use to the living, nor those of the living to the dead. That the saints do not pray for the living, they prove thus: Because the saints, knowing who shall be saved and who damned, they cannot pray for those they know shall be saved, since their prayers would be superfluous, seeing whether they pray or no, they will be saved; but should they pray for those that shall be damned, they would not obtain what they pray for, and so would not be happy; for he is only happy, who has all his desires. Again, every one shall be judged according to his works, and not according to the merits of another, neither shall any man receive according to the merits of other men; and therefore the prayers of the saints profit nothing, neither in regard of merit or reward, because they cannot increase either a man’s merit or reward. Again, the saints are not in a place where they can merit, but only where they receive; and therefore by their prayers or other good works can neither merit any good for themselves or for others. Again, we read in the Gospel of St. Luke, that Abraham said to the soul of the rich man that was in hell, There is a great gulf fixed between us and you; where by gulf he means nothing else but the disagreement there is between the good and the wicked, which is so great, that the saints are neither sensible, nor have any compassion for the damned; now if so, neither can we suppose that they pray for them.”

At last, he attributes to some of them the belief that it is unlawful to eat flesh, upon very ridiculous grounds, but such as have nothing common with the doctrine of the Manichees.

It seems to me to be evident from this book of Alanus, first, That he owned there were several sorts of heretics in the country of the Albigenses, Manichees, or Cathari, who rejected the principal articles of the Christian religion. Secondly, Another sort of people, who renounced all the chief doctrines of the Romish religion, which the protestants rejected afterwards. And since he quotes no author in particular, it is obvious to judge, that he made but small distinction of the nature of the several objections which he pretends to refute, and which he had frequently assigned to the Albigenses in general; which, without doubt, ought not to be attributed but to some of them, and which possibly, and very probably too, was only taken up from the mouths of the common people amongst them, by those who had a design to expose them.


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