Kolbe Report 11-9-19

Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

The most important dogmatic statement on creation in the history of the Catholic Church was the Firmiter decree of Lateran Council IV in 1215.  According to this decree:

Deus…creator omnium visibilium et invisibilium, spiritualium et corporalium: qui sua omnipotenti virtute simul ab initio temporis utramque de nihilo condidit creaturam, spiritualem et corporalem, angelicam videlicet et mundanam: ac deinde humanam, quasi communem ex spiritu et corpore constitutam.

God…creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body (Denz 428).


Among contemporary theologians who still believe in the unchanging and unchangeable truth of defined Church dogmas, most seem to hold that the Firmiter merely defined that God created the angels and some kind of primitive matter at the beginning of time - not all of the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures, and then man.  However, the historical facts set forth in an article just posted on the Kolbe website render this view completely untenable.

Contemporary descriptions of the beliefs of the principal heretical groups in Languedoc (in the south of France) confirm that all of them rejected the traditional orthodox teaching of the Church on creation defined at Lateran IV and embraced one of two heretical doctrines regarding the origins of man and the material universe.  The first group, usually designated as “absolute dualists,” believed in the existence of two principles of creation - a good god who created all of the spiritual creatures, and an evil god who created all of the corporeal, or bodily, creatures.  The second group, usually designated as “mitigated dualists,” believed in one God who created the spiritual creatures and the four elements, but held that the angel Lucifer made all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures as well as the human body from those four elements.  According to both sects, created spirits were trapped in corporeal bodies as punishment for a primordial sin, and the purpose of life was to follow the authentic teaching of Christ who came into the world as a pure spirit disguised as a bodily man, to liberate men and women from their bodies so that they could return to their original state as pure spirits.

These false beliefs in regard to creation shaped a Catharist anti-culture.  These errors explain why the Catharist priests, or “perfects,” abstained from foods derived from animal bodies, despised sacraments - including the Most Blessed Sacrament - on account of their material elements, looked down on Holy Marriage and childbirth, and viewed the death of the body as a good thing.  It is important to note that this anti-culture encompassed all of the Catharist heretics, both the absolute dualists and the mitigated dualists, since all of them shared the conviction that corporeal creatures - and the human body itself - were directly created by Lucifer or the evil god.  This also helps to explain why the Catharist priests, or “perfects,” appeared so attractive to many lay Catholics, scandalized as they so often were by the worldliness of many Catholic clergy and religious.  It also helps to explain why the new mendicant orders, especially the Dominicans, played such a key role in combating the Catharist movements in Languedoc and in northern Italy.  St. Dominic and his followers recognized the goods of this world as good things but renounced them to an even greater degree than the Catharist heretics.


The Catholic response to the Catharist anti-culture hinged on the fact that God had directly created all of the different kinds of spiritual creatures and all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures and then man, body and soul, who summed up in himself the spiritual and the corporeal orders.  Thus, to argue that the Firmiter merely defined that God created the angels and some primitive matter is to imagine that the Pope and the Council Fathers failed to contradict the most fundamental doctrine of the Catharist heresy by failing to define the doctrine of creation opposed to that false doctrine.  As Quay has pointed out in his work on Lateran IV, the Firmiter’s account of what God created “at once” from the beginning of time is exhaustive - that is, it includes every kind of living creature that God created: the spiritual creatures, the corporeal creatures, and man.

It is indeed certain that the Council was deeply concerned to defend God's being the unique and sole creator of all things without exception. Hence Firmiter takes over the phrase "creator of all things, visible and invisible," already utilized for just this purpose in Eastern professions of faith prior to 325 and consecrated by I Nicaea and I Constantinople. This would seem to take care of the universality of His creative activity as well as can be done, since it provides what logicians refer to as an adequate distinction (in the thirteenth century, disjunctio exclusiva), one such that all possible beings can be assigned properly to one or the other of the two categories.[1]

Just as the phrase “spiritual creatures” encompasses all of the angels, each of them a distinct species according to Scholastic thought, so the phrase “corporeal” must encompass all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures, other than man.

Records of debates between Catholic preachers and Catharist heretics prove again and again that the phrase Creator of “all things visible and invisible” for Catholics in contrast to Cathar heretics meant all of the different kinds of creatures in heaven, on the earth and in the sea and all that dwell within them.  At the end of the twelfth century, a convert from the Catharist cult named Bonacursus revealed the doctrines of the cult in a published confession.  He wrote that:

Their heresy is, indeed, not only terrifying, but is, truly, too frightful and execrable to speak or hear about.  For some of them say that God created all the elements, others say that the devil created these elements; but their common opinion is that the devil divided the elements. They state also that the same devil made Adam from the dust of the earth and with very great force imprisoned in him a certain angel of light . . .[2]

At a public inquiry in Toulouse, France, in 1178, heretics were accused of teaching that

There were two gods, one good, the other evil; the good had created only invisible things, those which could not be altered or corrupted; the evil one had formed the heavens, the earth, men, and other visible things.[3]

Nor is it possible to argue that the Firmiter would allow Catholics to believe that God used angels or other secondary causes to produce the different kinds of corporeal creatures since the Cathar belief that something other than the Most Holy Trinity created the corporeal creatures always stood at the top of the list of errors to be refuted by Catholic speakers in public debates.  Writing just five years after the proclamation of the Firmiter, the Cistercian monk Caesarius of Heisterbach wrote an account of the Church’s struggles against the Albigensian/Catharist heresy and identified the principal error of the Cathars:

Some of the heresiarchs selected tenets from the teaching of Manes, others chose from among the errors which Origen is said to have written in Peri archon . . . With Manes, they believed in two principles, a good God and an evil one, the latter the devil, who, they say, created all bodies, just as the good God created all souls.

To this, a novice replies in Caesarius’ text:

Moses proves that God created bodies and souls by saying, “God formed man,” that is, the body, “of the slime of the earth and breathed into his face the breath of life,” which is the soul.

To which Caesarius replies:

If they would accept Moses and the prophets, they would not be heretics.[4]

Moses with Commandments

Recalling the preaching of the heretics in 1205 forty years later, Peire Jocglar testified that he had “’heard the heretics saying errors about visible things’ . . . namely, ‘that God didn’t make them.’  The sacred host, he remembered hearing, ‘isn’t the body of the Lord.’”[5]  In what one historian calls the “most circumstantial report of heretical ideas [from the Albigensian-Cathar movement] that survives among records of inquisitorial processes before 1250,” Franciscan Friar William Garcias deposed that when he mentioned the text from the beginning of St. John’s Gospel, “Without Him was made nothing,” the Catharist heretic Peter Garcias of Toulouse answered that “the word ‘nothing’ was used to designate visible things, which are nothing.”[6]

“Also when Friar William Garcias spoke with Peter Garcias about the text, “In Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,” Peter said that it should be expounded:’ visible to the heart and invisible to the eyes of the flesh’ . . . and “when Friar William Garcias spoke with Peter Garcias about the text, ‘Preaching to you to be converted from these vain things [to the living God who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea and all that are in them],’ Peter said that “the sea” signified not the material sea where sea creatures lived but the “prison,” where heretics were unjustly confined.[7]  In short, Peter Garcias completely rejected the literal and obvious sense of the sacred history of Genesis for a purely figurative interpretation that had no precedent in the writings of the Fathers of the Church.  It was this kind of purely figurative interpretation which denied the direct creation by God of all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures, including the human body, that the Firmiter was specifically intended to exclude.

In a widely-circulated literary account of a debate between a Catholic and a dualist heretic, from around 1250, of which 28 manuscripts have been preserved, the principal point of contention between the Catholic and the heretic concerns the correct meaning of the “creation of all things.”  At the very beginning of the debate, the Catholic apologist interprets the words of St. John’s Gospel, “All things were made by Him,” to mean that God directly created “heaven and earth and the sea and all things that are therein” (Acts 17).  To this, the heretic rejoins:

I admit that God created all things.  This means all good things, but He did not make the evil, vain, perishable, and visible things; a lesser creator, Lucifer, made them, whence the words of John, “Without Him was made nothing,”  Moreover, [we must] interpret the phrase, “The world was made by Him,” as meaning worldly souls, namely, our own.  But our bodies and all other visible things were made by a lesser creator, the devil.  Yet God also created “the heavens,” which are our heavenly souls; the earth which means the earthbound souls of all believer; “the sea,” which means our souls, abounding with the water of doctrine; and “all things which are therein,” which means our whole faith which is in these aforesaid souls.  All these things God created.[8]

It took a hundred years for the Inquisition to eradicate the Catharist heresy in the South of France, and the records of the Inquisition testify to the persistence of the principal errors of the sect.  A few generations after the promulgation of the Firmiter decree, the Bishop of Pamiers recorded the testimony of a woman who had been led astray by a Catholic priest who had secretly promoted the heresy in his diocese for many years.  She told the Inquisition:

This priest told me that God had only created spirits, those which can neither be corrupted or destroyed, because the world of God would live eternally. But all the bodies which one sees and one senses, that is to say the sky and the earth and all that is found therein, with the sole exception of spirits, these were created by the devil, who rules the world. Because it was he who made them all - he who could not make anything stable and solid - these things are the prey of corruption.[9]

This testimony demonstrates that the principal errors condemned by the Firmiter persisted into the fourteenth century and remained prominent among the tell-tale signs of heretical belief for inquisitors in the Catharist heartland.  It also demonstrates that contemporary theologians who hold that the Firmiter merely defined that God created the angels and some kind of primitive matter at the beginning of time - and not all of the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures, and man - are inadvertently resurrecting one of the very errors that the Fathers of the Fourth Lateran Council intended to condemn!

Yours in Christ through the Immaculata,

Hugh Owen

P.S.  We are deeply grateful to all of you who have supported the production of our DVD series “Foundations Restored” with your prayers and financial gifts.  Our videographer has been working night and day to make the final product as nearly perfect as possible, for the glory of God and for the good of the souls who will view the series.  We are hopeful that the entire series will be available for digital download by the feast of the Immaculate Conception and that the physical DVDs will be ready for distribution by the Feast of the Epiphany.


[1] Paul M. Quay, S.J, “Angels and Demons: The Teaching of IV Lateran” (Saint Louis University), p.23.

[2] Walter L. Wakefield and Austin P. Evans, Editors, Heresies of the High Middle Ages (New York: Columbia University Press,1991), p. 171.

[3] Op cit., p. 198.

[4] Walter L. Wakefield, Heresy, Crusade, and Inquisition in Southern France 1150-1200 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), pp. 195-196.

[5] Mark Gregory Pegg, A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 46.

[6] Op. Cit, p. 243.

[7] P. 244.

[8] Walter L. Wakefield and Austin P. Evans, Editors, Heresies of the High Middle Ages (New York: Columbia University Press,1991), pp. 290-291.

[9] Inquisition Records of Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers, 1312-1325; Confessions of Beatrice de Planissoles. Original Electronic Text at the web site Nancy P. Stork, English Department , San Jose State University.

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