Catholic journalist Vittorio Messori has called for the creation of a Catholic “Anti-Defamation League” in order to combat what he calls the “ideological manipulation” of history by those who are against the Church.
“Catholics,” he said, “now reduced to a minority (at least at the cultural level), should follow the example of another minority, the Jews, and create their own ‘Anti-Defamatation League,’ without seeking any kind of censorship or privilege, but rather only the possibility of rectifications based on specific facts and authentic documents.” Messori words came in his latest column published by the Spanish daily “La Razon.”
Messori points as an example to the case of the Catharists (a heretical group also known as the Albigensians), who take a lead role in The Da Vinci Code book and movie, along with other works, forgetting that their members “were followers of a dark, ferocious and bloody sect of Asian origin.”
In his column, the Italian journalist commented that for some, the most famous incident associated with this group is the “siege and taking of Beziers in July of 1209,” where supposedly some 40,000 people were massacred. The problem, he said, is the incident never actually took place.
The alleged massacre supposedly occurred at the order of Abbott Arnaldo Amalrico of Citeaux, “spiritual advisor to the crusaders,” who told the barons who asked him what to do with the conquered city: “Kill them all,” he reportedly said. “God will recognize those that belong to him.”
“Coincidently, we have many contemporary chronicles of the fall of Beziers, but none of them include anything about that ‘kill them all’,” Messori stressed.
He also pointed out that seventy years later, “a monk named Cesareo de Heisterbach, who lived in a monastery in northern Germany and had never once left, wrote a fantasy pastiche known as ‘Dialogus Miracolurum’,” in which he invented “the miracle” that “while the crusaders reeked havoc in Beziers (…) God had ‘recognized his own,’ allowing those who were not Catharists to flee the massacre.”
The reality, says Messori, is that Catholics did not want a massacre, and thus they sent ambassadors to the city to try to secure surrender. “Therefore, after a long period of tolerance, Pope Innocent III decided to go to war only when the Cartharists, in the previous year, killed his envoy who was bringing a peace proposal.”
The peace efforts of the great saints like Bernard and Dominic had also failed as well,” Messori notes.
The journalist also recalled that “the Catharists replied with fanatical violence to the offer to dialogue and negotiate,” attempting a surprise attack, but they were met by the Ribauds, who were mercenaries and adventurers and who pursued them all the way to the city. “When the Catholic commanders arrived with the regular troops, the massacre had already begun and there was no way to stop those furious ‘Ribauds’,” Messori writes.
“20, maybe 40,000 deaths?” Messori asks. “There was a massacre, unthinkable to the mentality of those times and explainable by the exasperation caused by the cruelty of the Catharists, who not only in Beziers, but for years persecuted Catholics.”
Therefore, he adds, “Only a storyteller like Dan Brown [of Da Vinci Code fame] can speak with ignorance about a ‘Albigensian meekness’.” Messori notes in his column that the principal episode occurred in the Church of the Magdalena, where there was room for no more than 1,000 people, and that Beziers was not left unpopulated and destroyed, because there was further resistance and a new assault was necessary.
“An Anti-Defamation League would not only be desirable and necessary for Catholics, but also in order to establish a just and realistic judgment about the past of Europe, forged during so many centuries by the Church as well,” Messori wrote in conclusion.