This question is not easily answered because so few documents remain. It is known that they had certain classes of membership. Their leading adherents were called parfaits or perfecti being close to unblemished members. We know they had certain festivals, one of them being close to the Christian Easter. However little is known of their beliefs.
The Church of Rome regarded Catharism as a heresy – that is a breakaway from orthodox Christianity. But many say it was separate religion based on the two essentials of good and evil – a dualism rather than a belief in a single omnipotent god.
Cathars believed that this world was created by Satan – not by God. Everything on earth was the creation of the Devil, including man. Jesus Christ was created by God in his own image and sent into the impure world to spread his message and was defiled by it. They believed that, in the most cunning way possible, Satan destroyed Jesus’ work by creating the Church of Rome to falsify his message. The true Christian Church and the repository of the Holy Spirit was that of the Cathars.
The Church of Rome was known to them as The Great Beast. Her sacraments were the snares of the Devil. The cross should not be venerated but should inspire horror, being the instrument of Jesus’ humiliation. People who bowed to religious relics were adoring mere matter, which was the creation of the Devil.
These are incomplete theories about Catharism since nearly all their records are believed to have been destroyed by the Church of Rome after the movement was massacred at the end of the Albigensian Crusade and only the ‘errors’ of the heresy were publicised to justify its subjugation.
There is also a theory that some of the remaining Cathar documents may be stored in the Tower of the Winds in the Vatican.
Will this ever be proved or disproved? Will anybody ever know about the true Secrets of the Cathars?
I am indebted to Zoe Oldenbourg’s Massacre at Montségur for much of the above information. The conclusions I have drawn are my own.