Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

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Albigensians, Massacre of the (1211-15).

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

The extent to which historical truths of great social importance are suppressed in our time is illustrated by the fact that there is not a single work available in the English language on this most shameful chapter of the history of the Middle Ages. It is painfully evaded in English and American historical literature, and the incredible meanness with which Catholic writers defend it is finding its way into standard works of reference. It occurred in what is held to be the finest period of the Middle Ages, and was ordered and directed by the greatest of the Popes, Innocent III. At least 100,000 men, women, and children, but probably a quarter of a million or more, who defied Rome were brutally slaughtered, and the most prosperous and most enlightened area in Europe was devastated. To speak of them as the Albigensians (people of Albi) is misleading, for Albi and its region were only the central part of the principality of Toulouse, 200 miles in width, with hundreds of towns and cities, which the heretics dominated. The influence of the brilliant civilization of the Spanish Arabs had, through the liberal Christians of Barcelona, who were friendly with them, extended to the south of France in the eleventh century, while the remainder of Europe was still almost entirely squalid and ignorant. The Papal Legates complained that 1,000 cities and towns were lost to Rome. Innocent III declares in one of his letters (Luchaire, p. 146) that his "Crusaders" captured 500 towns and castles, while his 220,000 soldiers took several years to exterminate the heretics, so that the number of victims can be vaguely appreciated. But here we can describe only the nature of the heresy and the behaviour of the Pope.
      The modern Catholic plea, which the Protestant historian H. C. Lea (History of the Inquisition, 1906, Ch. III) has singularly admitted, is that the doctrines of the Albigensians would, if generally accepted, have ruined the structure of civilization. The Encyclopaedia Britannica and the new Encyclopaedia Americana, in paltry notices (probably written by Catholics) of the historic outrage, make the - for works of their standing - scandalous misstatement that the Albigensian clergy released their followers from all moral obligations. This is, presumably, what would, in their view, have led to social ruin. One might briefly reply that the province, instead of facing social ruin, was admittedly the most prosperous in Christian Europe; that Pope Innocent III said nothing about moral licence or social interests; and that according to all authorities the Albigensians were the sternest critics of the vices of the Christian clergy. But the most painful aspect of this mean modern apology for a ghastly massacre is that the one authority alleged, P. Alphandéry, does not give it the least support. In the most serious attempt that has been made to understand the ideas and conduct of the heretics (Les idées morales chez les héterodoxes Latins au début du XIII siècle, 1903, in Vol. XVI of the Bibliothèque des Hautes Études) he shows that (as all admit) the conduct of the initiated or esoteric members (perfecti) of the sect was "ascetic to the point of cruelty," and that they merely permitted the great body of their adherents to live ordinary, but decent, human lives. It is ironic that the code of the initiated heretics which is now assailed was just that which in Christendom made saints of the few monks and nuns who observed it - strict celibacy, fasting, etc. - and in the case of the Albigensians it was logically based upon a belief, borrowed from ancient Persia through the Manichæans , that the devil had created the body (and all matter). They rejected the Old Testament and the Incarnation, which gave Jesus a material body. They had bishops (some say a Pope), churches, and nuns, and the Pope's legates reported to Rome that the Church was in danger of perishing, so widely had the heresy spread. The hundreds of thousands of ordinary members seem to have known little about the esoteric doctrines of "the perfect" and to have been alienated from the Roman Church by its corruption. No one denounces this comprehensive corruption more strongly than the Pope himself, and the highest authority on contemporary France, Prof. Luchaire, gives us an appalling picture of morals at the time in his Social France at the Time of Philip Augustus (Engl. trans. 1912).
      The most powerful missionaries having failed to make any impression in Provence, Innocent called for what he described as a Crusade. It is not disputed that greed for loot was the chief impulse of the 20,000 knights and 200,000 footmen who marched south under Simon de Montfort, a poor noble who coveted, and got, the principality. In an extant letter (XI, 232) the Pope instructed his Legates to disarm the Count of Toulouse by lying, and to the end he treated that prince with the gravest injustice. As the "Crusaders" slew 20,000 (including babes in arms) in the first city they took - it is here that the Monk-Legate is reported to have said, "Slay all, the Lord will know his own," which is at least what they did - and the slaughter continued for three years, its monstrous proportions may be imagined. H. C. Lea's account (History of the Inquisition, Chs. III and IV) and the article in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics are the best in English, though a full and accurate study is greatly needed. The third volume of Prof. Luchaire's Innocent III (6 vols., 1904-8, not translated) is nearest to an adequate account. The R.P.A. has a work in course of production.


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