But contrary to what Catholic Church professes, Catharism professed that the material world, or the world we are in, is evil. Cathars believed that the Church that is characterized merely by brick churches, papal hierarchy, bureaucracy and dogmatic traditions is merely a group and not a spiritual movement. With such case, they professed not to venerate the crucifix and other symbols or icons important to the Catholic Church. They also professed not to subscribe to the sort of hierarchy Catholicism has and radically questioned the sacraments of the Church.
Prior to the cessation of Catharism in 14th century, it had received a popular support. It was supported by people, who had apprehensions about the Catholic Church by people who think that the Church itself is corrupted and is in need of reform. The reform that Cathars wanted is not a reform that can be done within the system of Catholic Church. The reform that they wanted is a reform that can be done from the outside a reform that is not tainted with the corrupted system of Catholic Church.
Cathars questioned the whole system of Catholicism, and with such they proposed a new alternative a new religion that has an entirely different structure and episcopal hierarchy. The popular support that Catharism was able to obtain alarmed the Catholic Church. The teachings of this alternative religion, if would be able to obtain more followers, could destroy the Catholic Church itself. It would destroy its system, bureaucracy and traditions. But probably, the greatest threat that Catharism was able to pose was the political challenge that it had affected to those who were powerful.
During those times, there was no clear line that is drawn yet between the church and state. The threat that Catharism posed, then, is not only a threat to the Church, but also a threat to nobility supporting the Church. 3 Nevertheless, the rise of Catharism was a response to the growing power of the Church; the power that dethrones kings and put the human spirit in a state of spiritual decomposition. The Church became infuriated of religious things foreign to its locus of control. It became more hostile to the political leaders supporting such religious movement.
Such was the case of the Count of Toulouse. His descendants were excommunicated and put to shame on the basis that they were supporting the Cathars in Southern France. Events during the Crusade Against the Cathars When Pope Innocent III proclaimed a general inquisition in Southern France to be carried out by members of the Dominican order, he was met with serious resistance. Many Frenchmen upheld the view of the Cathar Church that the Roman Church was the seat of Satan. 4 The Roman Church was corrupt and its authority was bleak and self-benefiting. The pope did not hesitate to punish the Cathars.
He declared that political rulers who supported this heresy would be dispossessed and excommunicated. Nonetheless, he also declared his desire for the people of Southern France to return to the arms of Catholicism. The Count of Foix and most of the nobility of Southern France joined forces to stop the intrusion of the Roman Church in their affairs. They set their ideals against the Church of Rome, and to an extent, vowed to reform the Church. 5 The pope however declared that the people of Southern France (which at that time was predominantly Catholic) was already released from the authority of their lords temporal.
The rulers have no right whatsoever to exercise authority to the people of Sothern France, according to the pope, because they have deprived themselves the right to be upheld by the High Lord. The pope held a general council hoping to elicit the help of the nobility of Northern France. The nobility responded favorably and asked the pope the date for the start of the new crusade. The crusade would start as soon as provisions were ready for the invasion of Southern France. Simon de Montfort was given the task of destroying Cathar bases in Southern France. The crusading army was under his command.
Those who opposed his policies were given unjust penalties; their families massacred and property taken as a gift to Rome. Many historians described this man as infamous and detestable owing to his harsh and unnecessary policies. Rulers were well aware of the implications of his policies. 6 Hatred for the Church of Rome would increase, and the people of Southern France would suffer for at least 20 years. Simon de Montfort asked the Count of Toulouse to give up all his possessions to the Church of Rome. If the count refused, then he would be excommunicated and be labeled as an enemy of the Church.
He chose to be excommunicated in order to protect his possessions and subjects from the blunder of the infamous count (Simon). He went to his brother, Peter II of Aragon to ask for his assistance. His brother responded with enthusiasm for he himself was indignant to that hated count. Peter II of Aragon and his brother, the Count of Toulouse, fielded an army, which according to legends, numbered around a hundred thousand to battle Simon de Montfort. They were faced by an army, according to legends propagated by the Dominican order, which numbered around 1800 (800 cavalry and 1000 infantry), divided into three divisions.
The army of Peter of Aragon and the Count of Toulouse was defeated. The Dominicans attributed that event as a miracle. 7 The Count of Toulouse was dispossessed and provided a pension by the Roman Church on the condition that he would never allow his descendants to claim the lands lost in the crusade. He was also told that everything he owned would transferred to the Roman Church as an offering for the sins he and his people committed to the universal Roman Catholic Church. He did what the pope said, with a heavy heart and grieving memory of his people.