Concerning the Cathari spoken of by Evervinus and St. Bernard, and their distinction from the Patarines.
WE are obliged to Mabillon for having communicated to us the letter of Evervinus, Praepositus of Steinfield, in the diocese of Cologne. It is evident, that he has described the same heretics whereof Egbertus, Monk of Schonauge, makes mention in his sermons. Only he distinguishes them into two orders, the one whereof he sets forth to us as Manichees; the others, whom he does not accuse of any thing like what they were charged with. He makes so great a distinction between them, that it is very strange the Bishop of Meaux should confound them as he does, as if they had been but one and the same body of men.
Now, since it is very probable, according to the judgment of Mabillon, that this letter of Evervinus to St. Bernard furnished this famous Abbot with an occasion of handling those controversies, which he has touched upon in his sermons upon the Cantitles, it will be worth the while to set down the said letter of Evervinus, as to its principal points; and the rather, because it serves to set forth the sincerity of Petrus Cluniacensis in the manner he has taken to treat those controversies, following therein very exactly the notions of Evervinus, and carefully distinguishing those two sorts of opinions he opposeth; whereas St. Bernard seems to have much more confounded them.
Now what Evervinus writes to St. Bernard, a little before the year 1140, is this:
“There have been lately some heretics discovered: amongst us, near Cologne, whereof some with satisfaction returned again to the Church: two of these, viz. one that was a Bishop amongst them, and his companions, openly opposed us in the assembly of the Clergy and laity, the Lord Archbishop himself being present, with many of the nobility maintaining their heresy from the words of Christ and the Apostles. But when they saw they could go no further, they desired that a day might be appointed for them, upon which they might bring along with them men skillful in their belief, promising to return to. the Church, provided they should find their masters defective in answering what was opposed to them; but that otherwise they would rather die than depart from their judgment. Upon this their declaration, after that for three days together they had been admonished, and found unwilling to repent, they were seized by the people, being incited by overmuch zeal, and put into the fire, and burnt; and (what is most wonderful) they entered to the stake, and bare the torment of the fire, not only with patience, but with joy and gladness. In this case, O holy Father, were I present with you, I should be glad to have your answer, how these members of the Devil could with such courage and constancy persist in their heresy, as is scarcely to be found in the most religious in the faith of Christ.
“Their heresy is this: They say that the Church is only amongst them, because they alone follow the steps of Christ, and continue in the imitation of the true apostolic life, not seeking the things of this world, possessing neither house, lands, nor any thing in propriety, according as Christ did, who neither possessed any himself, nor gave leave to his disciples to possess any thing.
Whereas ye (say they to us) join house to house, and field to field, seeking the things of this world; so that even they also, who are looked upon as most perfect amongst you, such as are your Monks and Regular Canous, though they do not possess these things as proper, but as common, yet do they possess all these things. And of themselves they say, We the poor of Christ, who have no certain abode, fleeing from one city to another, like sheep in the midst of wolves, do endure persecution with the Apostles and Martyrs: notwithstanding that we lead an holy and strict life in fasting and abstinence, persevering day and night in prayers and labors, and seeking only from thence what is necessary to support our lives, we maintain ourselves thereby because we are not of the world. But as for you lovers of the world, ye have peace with the world, because ye are of the world. False Apostles, who adulterate the word of Christ, seeking their own, have misled you and your forefathers; whereas we and our fathers, being born Apostles, have continued in the grace of Christ, and, shall continue so to the end of the world. To distinguish us from one another, Christ saith, By their fruits ye shall know them: our fruits are the footsteps of Christ. In their diet they forbid all manner of milk, and whatsoever is made of it, and all that is procreated by copulation. This is that which they oppose to us concerning their conversation. As to the Sacraments, they conceal themselves; yet did they openly confess to us, that daily at their tables, when they take their meals, they, according to the form of Christ and his Apostles, do consecrate their meat and drink into the body and blood of Christ, by the Lord’s Prayer, to nourish themselves therewith, as being the members and body of Christ. But as for us, they say we hold not the truth in the Sacraments, but only a kind of shadow, and tradition of men. They also openly confess, that besides water, they baptized also with fire and the Holy Ghost, and had been so baptized themselves; alleging to this purpose the testimony of St. John the Baptist baptizing with water, and saying concerning Christ, He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: and in another place, I indeed baptize you with water, but there stands one in the midst of you, whom you know not, who shall baptize you with another baptism besides that of water. And that this other baptism was to be performed by the imposition of hands, they endeavored to make out by the testimony of St. Luke, who, in the Acts of the Apostles, describing Paul’s baptism, which he received from Ananias at the command of Christ, makes no mention of water, but only of the laying on of hands; and whatsoever else we find, whether in the Acts of the Apostles or in St. Paul’s Epistles, they apply to this baptism; and they say, that every elect (for so they call all those that are baptized amongst them) hath power to baptize others whom they find worthy, and to consecrate the body and blood of Christ at their meals. For first, by their laying on of hands they receive some of their auditors into the number of believers, and then they have leave to be present at their prayers, until that, after having had sufficient trial of them, they make them elect. They contemn our baptism, condemn marriage; but the reason why, I could not get out of them, either because they durst not own it, or rather because they knew none.”
We have here a very exact and circumstantiate description of a sect of Manichees, if we please to compare it with the account that has already been given concerning them. And though we find these persons somewhat different in their opinions from the Cathari, yet, notwithstanding that, they have put their name upon them, as if they also had been Manichees. But Evervinus goes on further in these words:
“There are also some other heretics in our country, who are altogether different from these, by whose mutual discord and contests they were both of them discovered to us. These deny that the body of Christ is made on the altar, because all the Priests of the Church are not consecrated. For the apostolical dignity, say they, is corrupted, by engaging itself in secular affairs, and the sitting in the chair of Peter; yet because it does not wage God’s warfare as Peter did, it has deprived itself of the power of consecrating, which was so great in Peter; and what it has not itself, the Archbishops and Bishops, who live like men of the world, cannot receive from it, viz. the power of consecrating others: to this purpose alleging these words of Christ, The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’s chair; what therefore they bid you do, that do. As if such as these had only the power of preaching and commanding, but nothing more. Thus they make void the Priesthood of the Church, and condemn the Sacraments besides Baptism only; and this only in those who are come to age, who, they say, are baptized by Christ himself, whosoever be the Minister of the Sacraments. They do not believe infant baptism; alleging that place of the Gospel, Whosoever shall believe, and be baptized, shall be saved. All marriage they call fornication, besides that which is between two virgins, male and female; quoting for this the words of our Savior, wherewith he answers the Pharisees, What God hath joined let no man separate; as if God did only join such together, as he did our first parents: as likewise those words of our Savior, which he speaks to the Jews, in answer to what they objected to him about the bill of divorce, From the beginning it was not so; and the following words, whosoever marrieth her that is divorced, commits adultery; and that of the Apostle, Let marriage be honorable to all, and the bed underled.
“They put no confidence in the intercession of the saints; they maintain that fasting, and other afflictions which are undertaken for sin, are not necessary to the just, nor to sinners; because at what time soever the sinner repents of his sin, they are all forgiven to him; and all other things observed in the Church, which have not been established by Christ himself or his Apostles, they call superstitions. They do not admit of any purgatory fire after death; but that the souls, as soon as they depart out of the bodies, do enter into rest or punishment; proving it from that place of Solomon, Which way soever the tree falls, whether to the south or to the north, there it lies: by which means they make void all the prayers and oblations of believers for the deceased.
“We therefore desire you, holy Father, to employ your care and watchfulness against these manifold mischiefs, and that you would be pleased to direct your pen against these wild beasts of the reeds; not thinking it sufficient to answer us, that the tower of David, to which we may take our refuge, is sufficiently fortified with bulwarks, that a thousand bucklers hang on the walls of it, all shields of mighty men. For we desire, Father, that for the sake of us simple ones, and that are slow of understanding, you would be pleased by your study to gather all these arms in one place, that they may be the more ready to be found, and more powerful to resist these monsters. I let you know also, that those of them who have returned to our Church, told us, that they had great numbers of their persuasion scattered almost every where and that amongst them were many of our Clergy and Monks. And as for those who were burnt, they, in the defense they made for themselves, told us, that this their heresy had been concealed from the time of the martyrs until these times; and that it had been preserved in Greece, and some other countries. These are those heretics who call themselves Apostles, having a Pope of their own; whereas the other despise our Pope, and yet own themselves to have no other besides him. These Apostles of Satan have amongst them continent women, (as they call them,) widows, virgins, their wives, some of which are amongst the number of their elect, others of their believers; as in imitation of the Apostles, who had power to lead about women with them. Farewell in the Lord.”
This is the letter of Evervinus, whence St. Bernard took occasion to refute these heretics in his 65th and 66th sermons upon the Song of Solomon. And indeed we find that the beginning of his 65th sermon contains a manifest allusion to the beginning of this letter of Evervinus. St. Bernard chargeth them in that sermon, that though they believed the Gospel, yet did forbid swearing altogether; and that notwithstanding this prohibition, yet they suffered their disciples to forswear themselves, to preserve the secret of their religion, p. 759.
2. He supposeth that their endeavor to hide their religion was a sufficient token of its impurity with respect to manners.
3. He accuseth them for rejecting the authority of the Old Testament; though he seem to express himself doubtfully on that point, ibid. 1.
4. He accuseth them of rejecting St. Paul; though he confesseth that this was not the judgment of them all, but only of some of them: K. Anforte nec Paulurn recipitis? De quibusdam ita audivi; non enim inter vos omnes per omnia concordatis, etsi a nobis omnes dissentiatis: “Probably you reject Paul also: for so I have heard of some of you; for neither do you all agree amongst yourselves, though you all differ from us.”
5. He accuseth them for falsely boasting themselves of their chastity, as having wives with whom they lived in the same house, without being married with them, ibid. M. and without being either their wives, daughters, sisters, or otherwise of kin to them. St. Bernard, who sets them forth as a sort of people who were unblameable in their carriage and behavior, yet triumphs over them in this point; accusing them of giving offense to their neighbour, p. 761.
That which is very singular in this refutation of St. Bernard is,
1. That at the end of his first sermon he gives a description of them from p. 762. B. in these terms: File nempe hoc genus et rusticanum, ac sine literis, et prorsus irabelle; he relates their different opinions as not 157 certainly known; and after that, he undertakes to refute them, as if they deserved to be refuted.
2. That he asserts they were divided; and yet owns that he knew nothing about them, but from the answers they had given to some Catholics, or what he had learnt from those who were entered again into the Church. In all his first sermon therefore he insists on these two points: the first is, that they concealed their opinions, which was contrary to the behavior of the Apostles. The other, that their dwelling with women not married was a proof of their impurity. The good Father, whilst he discoursed thus, did not consider the rigour of the persecution they were under; and he had forgot that Robertus of Arbrissel had practiced the like continence with women.
In his second sermon he lays down some part of their opinions; and this he does like a declamator; his first sermon having been spent in invectives against them.
1. He chargeth them with condemning marriage.
2. He sets them forth as idiots, and an ignorant sort of people, but withal dangerous, as introducing again the heresies condemned by St. Paul, 1 Timothy 4.
3. He sets upon their title of Apostolical, as pretending that they had no authors; and he only suspects them of Manicheism, though he seems to have freed them from that imputation before, when he says, Quare cum illius sectae authorem neminem dabunt: “Wherefore since they can produce no author of their sect.”
4. He saith, that some amongst them allowed marriage only where both the parties were virgins.
5. He chargeth them with abstaining from meats: Horrent lac, et quicguid ex eo conficitur; postremo, quicquid ex coitu generafur: “They abhor milk, and all that is made of it; and last of all, whatsoever is generated by copulation.” In which point he suspects them of Manicheism.
6. He accuseth them of consecrating the body and blood of Jesus Christ at their common tables: Ad nutriendum se in corpus Christi et membra, to feed themselves into the body of Christ and members.
7. He accuseth them of looking upon themselves as the only successors of the Apostles.
8. He accuseth them of mocking at infant baptism, prayer for the dead, and the invocation of saints.
9. He accuseth them of detracting and slandering ecclesiastical Orders, of rejecting Church ordinances, contemning the Sacraments, and disobeying her commands, under pretense that the Popes, the Archbishops, the Bishops, and Priests were sinners incapable of administering or receiving the Sacraments.
10. Here he stops, as asserting that nobody knows all their opinions, and that there is no way of convincing them, because they will not admit the authorities which they do not understand.
11. He confesseth that they had been examined by water, and found guilty. Quaesitifidem (N. B.) cum de quibus suspecti videbantur, omnia prorsus suo more negarent, examinati aquos judicio, mendaces inventi sunt: cumque jam negare non possent, quippe deprehensi, aqua eos non recipiente.
“When as they, after their manner, denied all things whereof they were suspected, being examined by the judgment of water, they were found liars: and being no longer able to deny it, because they were found guilty, by the water not admitting of them, they confessed their crimes, offered themselves to defend them to the death, and were knocked on the head by the people;” which St. Bernard finds fault with, as desiring rather that the magistrate might have put them to death by law.
12. He removes the scandal which their constancy occasioned, they dying like true martyrs.
13. He pretends that the means of convincing them, is to oblige them to quit the women they have with them, or else to leave the Church.
14. But for all this he observes, that they were supported by Princes, Bishops, and others, propter qutestum, for their interest sake, and who alleged it as reason, that they could not condemn persons that were neither convict, nor confess their crimes.
We may make these following reflections on what St. Bernard saith concerning them.
1. That he speaks of the same of whom Evervinus doth.
2. That he confounds them together, whereas Evervinus distinguishes them.
3. That the reason of their being reduced to dissemble their true opinions, was for fear of torments, and of being torn to pieces by the people.
4. That the judgment of water having been employed against them, they had very just cause of fear.
5. That their distinction is evident enough from what St. Bernard himself saith of them, and that he confounded them by malice or by mistake.
6. That their confessions did not satisfy the Princes, nor the Bishops themselves.
7. That the Manicheism, which he objected to them all, was not a true imputation to all of them, since it is true the Manichees drank not wine.
8. That at last St. Bernard reduceth all to this, that he would have them punish by excommunication, in case they did not renounce the company of the women they had with them. Petrus Cluniacensis has handled five questions against the Petrobusians, which bear a great resemblance with the belief of the Cathari of Italy: but since the disciples of Peter de Bruis were seated in the country of the Albigenses, we should confound matters by treating of them here.