The medieval Cathars were accused of being the “Great Heretics” of Languedoc in southern France. But they were Christians of spiritual dissent seeking perfection. They didn’t care if you had intercourse outside marriage. They were tolerant of Jews and Muslims.
In sharp contrast, the Roman Catholic Church, popes, bishops and the entire hierarchy were the unchristian heretics. They sponsored “abattoir Christianity.” They ostracized Jews. Pope Innocent III called the Cathars “foxes in the vineyards of the Lord.” To use a modern term, they imposed a police state.
The Cathars were called heretics for their radical beliefs in that primitive religious era ruled by the Catholic church.
Some of those beliefs: Hell was a sham; they rejected all sacraments, including marriage; all things worldly were corrupt; the Cathars were pacifists, embracing tolerance and saint-like self-poverty. They lived in utmost simplicity.
And, most revolutionary of all, they gave women equal status. Women could be leaders–not just breeders. (For centuries in Western Europe and the United States women’s sole role was housekeeping while keeping silent about religious and political matters.)
The Cathars flourished from the 12th to 14th centuries. They were destroyed by French kings in alliance with the barons.
The remnants of the Cathars wound up in the village of Montaillou in the Pyrenees.
Among the fear and terror suffered by the Cathars were:
• “Kill them all. God will know his own.” That was the notorious slogan of the crusaders and inquisitors. The Cathars meeting places were “synagogue of Satan.”
• They suffered mass burning, blinding, hanging, secret trials, the rack, scourging and vandalism. Monks chanted while battering rams hammered Cathar forts. Inquisitors combined the functions of prosecutor, jury and judge. No appeals were permitted. Languedoc was packed with turncoats and quislings.
• Cathars were dug up from their graves, their bones broken in case they rose from the dead and performed their “diabolical” deeds.
More knowledge about the Cathars is provided by the Stephen O’Shea book, “The Perfect Heresy,” subtitled “The Revolutionary Life and Death of the Medieval Cathars.” (Walker & Company, New York, 333 pages, 2006.)
SHAKESPEARE SCHOLAR ANNOINTS BARD
Harold Bloom, Shakespeare teacher at Yale University, has written 46 books but the Bard is his specialty.
He loves Falstaff, citing his good humor and playful wit. He declares Falstaff represents human freedom.
Bloom, 86, has written about Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear. In my view, Shakespeare’s three greatest plays (in that order).
In a recent interview by Alexandra Wolfe for the Wall Street Journal, Bloom admits that as he nears the end of his scholarly life “there’s only Shakespeare.” This Bard lover, also 86, agrees.
In Bloom’s book, “Shakespeare, the Invention of the Human,” he calls the character of Hamlet “unsurpassed in the West’s imaginative literature.”
Nietzsche in his book, “In the Birth of Tragedy,” “got Hamlet right, seeing him not as a man who thinks too much but who thinks too well,” Bloom writes. He concludes: “Hamlet is the most aware and knowing figure ever conceived.”
Amen. But reread the play and come to your own conclusion.
HISTORY IN SONGS
Much of the nation’s history is told in song.
One song for instance: “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave but his soul (truth) goes marching on.”
Many versions of that song exist but it is the truth that protesters are always marching with
PURITANICAL WALL STREET JOURNAL
The Wall Street Journal is a solid newspaper although frightfully conservative. It also has a puritanical policy of printing swear words with dashes.
A review of a Martin Luther biography (April 1) printed a verse by him in translation from Latin. It appeared as “Luther’s Dysentery Against the S—t Poet Little Lemmie.”
The ages of the Puritans and Victorians are long past. The WSJ should be ashamed to have such a policy in the 21st century.
Besides, readers can easily supply the missing letters.
ON POPES AND GENIUSES
The DVD, “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” like a lot of my DVDs, has a memorable line. Pope Julius, played by Rex Harrison, tells Michelangelo, played by Charlton Heston, that Michelangelo he is a genius but Julius is “a mere pope.”
No pope can ever equal geniuses like Michelangelo or da Vinci.
‘CASABLANCA’ THE GREATEST FILM?
I have watched “Casablanca” (1942) about six times on video and DVD. It is the greatest movie ever made, challenged for the honor only by the Orson Welles film, “Citizen Kane.”
Each time I watch “Casablanca” I laugh or cry over the great lines. As film buffs know, it features Humphrey Bogart as owner of Rick’s café, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and the wonderful pianist, Dooley Wilson.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)