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WALDENSIAN HERETICS

Teachings

There were two distinct categories in Waldensian society, the "perfect" and the "believers". The "perfect" were received into their order according to a special rite so that could know how to teach others. This group claimed that they possessed nothing of their own, in particular, no houses or furnishings. If they had had wives before joining the society, they gave them up. These perfect believed themselves to be successors of the apostles and were the masters and confessors of others. They travelled through the country, visiting their disciples. Believers of the group provided the perfect with necessities and spread the news of their arrival. Many followers would visit the lodgings of the perfect, bringing food and drink. Those gathered would listen to the perfect preach. This would occur mainly at night when others were asleep.

The secrets of the society were not immediately revealed to the believers. The information given at first referred to what the disciples of Christ should be like, according to the words of the Gospel and of the apostles. It was stated that only those who imitated the apostles and held to the example of their life, would be successors. On this basis, they argued that the Pope, bishops, prelates and clergy did not imitate this sanctity because they possessed riches of the world. Further to this, they claimed that Christ did not entrust his spouse, the Church to these prelates (etc), and therefore they should not be obeyed. In reference to the clergy, the Waldensians taught that an impure person could not purify another, nor could one who was imprisoned free another. An accused person could not influence a judge in favour of another accused person, nor could one on the road to perdition lead another to heaven.

In order to make themselves more readily heard, the Waldensians would teach their believers things which seemed good and moral, concerning the virtues which should be practised, and the vices which should be ignored. It was taught that one should not lie, since according to the Scripture, all who lied slayed their soul. They preached the universal rule that one should not do to another what he or she would not want done to them. These words apparently made a great impact on the listeners.

When preaching on the Gospels and the Epistles, the Waldensians would speak in French, as only a few of their believers could understand Latin. This made their words even more acceptable. Those who could not read, learned the lessons by heart so they would still be able to teach. The believers were instructed that true penitence and the purgatory of sins were only available in their current life and not another, and were compelled to confess their sins. The perfect would hear the confessions and impose penances which usually consisted of fasting on Friday and saying the Our Father. According to the Waldensians, when a person died, the soul left their body. If that person had been saved, the soul went straight to heaven. The unsaved soul went straight to hell and would be damned. There was no other place for souls except paradise or hell. It was taught that prayers said for the deceased were of no use because those who were in heaven did not need them, and there was no redemption for those in hell.

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