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What was regarded as the principal heresy of the Waldensians was their contempt for ecclesiastical power. The leaders of the group believed and taught that they were not subject to the authority of the Pope, Roman Pontiff or to any prelates of the Roman Church, and therefore could not be excommunicated. They declared that followers should not obey any of the leaders of the Roman Church when commanded to abandon or abjure the Waldensians.

They also preached that all oaths, whether in justice or otherwise, were forbidden by God and should be considered illicit and sinful. This belief was interpreted from the words of the Holy Gospel and of St James the apostle against swearing. At the time, the Holy Church believed that the swearing of oaths was necessary for the purpose of declaring the truth in justice, and did not take the Waldensians' attitude lightly. Interestingly, the Waldensians reserved the right to swear an oath to avoid death to themselves or for another member of the group, or to avoid revealing the secrets of the group. To the cynical mind, this may appear a little too convenient, but the Waldensians thought it an inexpiable crime and sin against the Holy Ghost to betray a member of their group.

Along the same lines, the Waldensians also believed that since all judgement was forbidden by God, then all judges violated this prohibition. They did not accept or consider valid the canonical sanctions and the decretals and constitutions of the supreme pontiffs. Nor did they agree with the regulations concerning fasts and the celebration of feast days which were such a prominent feature of medieval life.

The clergy of the Roman Church believed that the power to absolve confessions and impose penances was held only by priests or clerics ordained by a bishop of the Roman Church. Thus they held in particular contempt, the Waldensian idea that their members had power from God alone, just as the apostles had from Christ.

The structure of the Waldensian church was organised into three ranks; deacons, priests and bishops, who could be of either gender. The power of these three orders came not from the Roman Church, but from themselves. The three doctrines were not made known to all believers, but were kept secret amongst the three ranks which were known as "perfects".

The leaders of the group taught that the miracles of the saints were not true, that prayers should not be made to them, and that their feasts should not be celebrated except for Sundays and the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They would also preach on the Gospels, Epistles and other sacred writings which were somewhat distorted by their interpretation.

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