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Catholic Dictionary




A sect that arose in France in the twelfth century. Its name is derived from Peter Waldo (Pierre Valdez) of Lyons, who died in 1217. He took a vow of poverty and soon gathered a large following, mainly of persons who were scandalized at the pomp and wealth of the medieval Church. From protests against luxury they attacked Catholic doctrine; rejecting the authority of the Pope, denying Purgatory, claiming that laymen could absolve, and saying that sinful priests could not validly offer Mass or administer sacraments. Condemned by Pope Lucius III in 1184, they became a threat to civil order and were opposed by political rulers. They were among the principal forerunners of the Protestant Reformation and are still organized and active, primarily in Italy, France, Spain, and Switzerland.