Have you ever noticed the dark view of cats that is used during the Halloween season? Images of black cats with arched backs and outstretched claws accompany images of witches, demons and skeletons on Halloween decorations. Somehow the cute and cuddly creatures we all know and love are transformed into minions of evil. There are a few different explanations for the bad rap cats have gotten in western culture. Below you will find one such explanation.
“Kill them all, for God knows His own.” – Papal legate Arnaud
The seesaw of power between the Christians and the Muslims over the Holy City of Jerusalem was coming to a close. The Crusades had raged on for over 200 years. The Catholic church had gained in power both as a religion and as a political entity.
In the south of France a new religious group called the Cathars had taken shape. Some say that the Cathars were true Christians who simply denounced the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, others say that the Cathars were an off-shoot of Christianity that was closer to the Gnostics in ideology. Either way, the Cathars pulled away from the teachings of the Catholic church. The Cathars also did not recognize the authority of the rulers of northern France.
In 1209 Pope Innocent III, with the support of the nobles in northern France, called for a Crusade against the Cathars for their heresy. He offered part of the spoils of the Crusade as well as indulgences (pardons from sin) to anyone who would take up the Crusade. When the leader in the crusade, Simon de Montfort, asked the papal representative how he should tell the difference between the true Catholics and the heretics, the papal representative replied “Kill them all, for God knows His own.” In the first day of battle 20,000 men, women and children were killed. This bloody crusade, known as the Abigensian Crusade, would last more than 2 decades.
“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
The successor of Pope Innocent III, Pope Gregory IX, continued Pope Innocent III’s war on heresy. The Abigensian Crusade had failed to completely destroy the Cathars and other non-Catholic groups had been cropping up. To solve the problem with heresy Pope Gregory IX instituted the Papal Inquisition in 1227. Inquisitors were given the authority to remove heretics by whatever means they felt were necessary. This authority was difficult for the church to keep under control.
Conrad of Marburg was appointed by Pope Gregory IX as the first inquisitor in Germany. He was known for his ruthlessness. Once a person was accused of heresy they would either have to confess to their guilt and be punished or deny it and be burned at the stake. He would also require the accused persons to give up the names of other heretics. Brutal physical torture was often used to draw out confessions and names of other heretics. He was so feared and hated that even the bishops of Germany begged the Pope for his removal.
“…after the kiss, the memory of the Catholic faith totally disappears from his heart.” – Vox in Rama
The inquisitors took very detailed notes which they shared with the Pope. Supposedly (there is some controversy over the historical validity of this) Conrad of Marburg brought a Satanic cult to the attention of Pope Gregory IX through his notes. A man accused of being a part of the Satanic group eventually confessed in great detail to Conrad of Marburg. The pope then sent out a papal bull (official legal document of the pope) called the Vox in Rama publicizing the rituals of joining this Satanic cult.
The bull says that the entrance ritual begins with the inductee kissing a very large frog. Then a thin pale man appears and the inductee kisses him as well, at which point the Catholic faith leaves the inductee. Next there is a meal served after which a black cat appears and the inductee kisses the cat on the butt and pledges allegiance to it. Then the candles are blown out and there is an orgy complete with homosexual acts. Finally the candles are lit again and a half man- half cat appears who is presumable Satan himself. The Satanists then go on to pretend being Catholic during the day while actually hating God.
“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” – Ring Around the Rosie
With the Vox in Rama, Pope Gregory IX claimed that cats were the incarnations of Satan. Being known to have cats was sure to get you accused of witchcraft. Fearing the power of Satan entering their homes and the potential witchcraft accusations, people began killing cats. Cats were accused of being the cause of all kinds of evil. This kind of thinking stayed around throughout the course of the inquisition and some of it lingers still.
Perhaps it was some kind of karma, but the lack of cats was one of the reasons the Bubonic plague spread so easily across Europe. The bacteria that causes the plague lived in rats (who are immune to the bacteria). Fleas that attempted to feed on the rats that contained the plague bacteria would also bite humans, thus spreading the bacteria. Those who used cats to keep the rats away were able to fend off the plague.