Albigensians: A tight little group that was obviously way ahead of its time

The Albigensians, or Catharists, were neo-Manicheans, regarding material creation as an evil and viewing all of existence as a conflict between evil matter and good spirit—but O’Brien says it was much more. Like all Gnostics, of which Manicheanism was a branch, they believed themselves to be the only “pure” ones and the only ones to have the truth. They were certainly a forerunner of Protestantism and even more specifically of the most ardent of contemporary fundamentalists, with their complete rejection of the Real Presence, transubstantiation, the Eucharist, and the Mass, and their belief that the pope was the Antichrist. Their teaching and practice, however, had enormous implications for marriage, sexual morality, and social and political life.

The parallels to the present are almost uncanny. While hatred for the Church is nothing new, the visceral character of the Albigensians’ hatred bears a resemblance to the ugliest side of the Reformation and today’s assaults on religion. For example, O’Brien tells us how the Albigensians were known for indiscriminately chopping down crosses and stamping on them. In America today, we see the relentless efforts by rabid, uncompromising church-state separationist groups to remove all religious symbols from public places and the heightened vandalism of crosses and other Christian monuments.

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Peter Kreeft on the Liberal Arts and Sexual Morality


Are the liberal arts and sexual morality connected? There is strong evidence that they are, for if we graph their development over the last half-century, we will see an almost identical curve of accelerating decline. Although this proves nothing, it certainly suggests something worth exploring more deeply.

Spectacular proof of the decline of the liberal arts is the simple fact that the only places in America where you can be sure you will get a liberal education, in the authentic sense of the term, are a few tiny little upstart crackpot islands of sanity like St. John’s, St. Thomas More, Magdalene, Christendom, Corpus Christi, St. Thomas Aquinas, Ave Maria University, Kings College, and Campion College. Whenever major secular universities like Kansas or USF relax the vigilance of their animus against Great Books programs and tolerate the creation of a classical liberal arts program (like the St. Ignatius Institute), two things always happen: It is spectacularly successful, and the university demands to murder it. That is why I called these universities “secular,” not “Catholic.”

Whereas liberal education has declined so much that the term has become nearly unintelligible, sexual morality has declined so much that it has become nearly extinct. We do not need to define it, only to find it. Like liberal education, it can be found mainly in enclaves of eccentricity: mainly families (often unfashionably large ones) that believe the orthodoxy and live the orthopraxy of six religious traditions: Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish, Evangelical, Mormon, and Islamic. But its definition is not hard to find, unless you have a Ph.D. As a very simple, earthy neighbor of mine said when complaining about the elaborate “sex education” program in our local, very liberal high school, “They teach them everything except to keep their pants on.”

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