One of the Church’s primary concerns early on was to reinforce the holiness of its clergy. After all, the clergy’s lack of theological training and less than holy behaviour* only reinforced the Cathars’ arguments about a corrupt Church. This effort contributed especially to the rise of the universities in this time.
[The Jacobin Church, early 13th century, photographed by me]
[Side panel of the Perugia Altar, depicting St. Dominic, Fra Angelico, 15th century]
[Source: Wikimedia Commons]
While the Catholic Church did respond with some violence throughout the 12th century, it wasn’t until the 13th century, with the Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisition that violent action against the Cathars became institutionalized. At this point, not only Cathars, but also any who helped them came under fire. What started as an attempt to persuade and reform became a violent extermination.
*Lack of celibacy, especially in keeping concubines (not technically being able to get married was pretty much the only distinction between a concubine and a wife here), and hunting in particular.
**Catharism had been particularly popular in Cologne (Köln).
***In which Esclarmonde de Foix also participated. Legend has it that one of St. Dominic’s priests told her to go back to her spinning. This did not go over well at all.
Barber, Malcolm. The Two Cities: Medieval Europe 1050-1320. London: Routledge, 1993.
Stephenson, Carl and Bryce Lyon. Mediaeval History: Europe from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
Catholic Views of Cathar Belief - Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in Languedoc
Catharism - Wikipedia