The period from 8th to 10th century A. D was the darkest period of Christianity and Church. he decline of Roman and Carolingian empires AD had seriously affected the power and authority of Church around 9th century (Logan, 2002). The jurisdiction of Church was reduced to local political and geographic regions, the central authority of the Church had broken and increasing influence of local lords had worked to make Church officials, including priests and bishops as their own subjects (Sherman and Salisbury).
Although the local bishops and priests were never beyond the decree of Roman Pope in theory, the truth was that waning powers of Christian kings and emperors throughout Europe had handicapped the Pope to enforce his orders and hence papal authority received great setbacks in 9th and 10th centuries as different Churches and Ministries had started acting independently and outside the scope of Roman Church (Logan, 2002). Local Churches, in cahoots with the local lords and officials had established their own serfdom and dominions, managing their affairs at their own self.
They also started to take political interest in the local affairs, and fought with each other, often bitterly to establish their dominance. Meanwhile in Rome, the papacy had become a mere instrument in the hands of Roman politicians and it was used to achieve and serve the political ambitions of government and Church officials. The obvious effect of a weakened church was people’s loss of implicit faith in the Church authority and officials and diminishing Christian appeal to the followers.
The change in the status and influence of Church came due to emergence of powerful German King, The Holy Roman Emperor Henry III, who ended internal bickering and clash in Rome and appointed Pope Clement II to restore order and power of Roman Church, around 1050. By 1150, the Holy Roman Church had reestablished its full might and authority with helps of such powerful monarchs as Richard the Lion-heart of England, Philips II of France and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.
Moreover, it it had already started to transcend its boundaries as a religious institution by ordering military campaigns, engaging in political and governing functions and collecting revenues and taxes (Sherman and Salisbury). By 13th century A. D, the Church had become more powerful than many European emperors and Pope Innocent III, one of the most powerful popes, wielded spiritual and strategic leadership over empire of England, France and Germany and many other principalities of Europe.
The Church had its own army, its ministerial council and finance system, which was actively used by Innocent III to establish universal Christendom in Europe. To further the power and influence of Church, Innocent III convened Fourth Lantern Council in 1215 that established codes of priesthood, set to propagate Christian values, set rules of monastic life and wage crusades on heretics, thereby explicitly defining the medieval church and confirming its Empirical designs and supreme authority (Sherman and Salisbury).
The unprecedented rise in power and authority of Roman Church was bound to affect the general religious life and practices. Having failed in its Crusade efforts to drive out Muslims from holy land of Jerusalem, the Church concentrated on heretics and began a ruthless campaign to crush every movement that it saw as potential threat to its own powers.
Therefore, true to the character of every authoritarian rule, it started to a purge of those stream of Christianity that it saw dangerous on the name of heresy and through inquisitions. Cathars were among the first victims of this policy that was most feverishly implemented at the time of Innocent III. The Church also made it illegal for any other person to deliver sermons and preaching other than those officially anointed by the Church, thereby trying to control the religious fabric of the life (Logan, 2002).