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A name applied to various Manichaean sects of the later Middle Ages. The essential tenet of their belief was philosophical dualism. There were two ultimate principles, really two creator gods, one of good and the other of evil. They denied the value of oaths and the right to punish, commended suicide, and rejected marriage. Their ideas tended to undermine the foundations of civil society, and for this reason they were opposed not only by the Church but also by the State. By the fourteenth century Catharism had practically disappeared in France, Germany, and England and by the next century in Italy and the Balkans, where it had previously flourished.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.