The Waldensian system thus created a simple church organization with a tendency ever to grow simpler. As a general proposition it may be stated that the distinction between the clergy and laity was reduced to a minimum, especially when transubstantiation was rejected. The layman could hear confessions, baptize, and preach. In some places it was the custom for each head of a family on Holy Thursday to administer communion in a simple fashion, consecrating the elements and distributing them himself. Yet of necessity there was a recognized priesthood, known as the Perfected, or Majorales, who taught the faithful and converted the unbeliever, who renounced all property and separated themselves from their wives, or who had observed strict chastity from youth, who wandered around hearing confessions and making converts, and were supported by the voluntary contributions of those who labored for their bread. The Pomeranian Waldenses believed that every seven years two of these were transported to the gate of Paradise, that they might understand the wisdom of God. One marked distinction between them and the laity was that, when on trial before the Inquisition, the prohibition of swearing was relaxed in favor of the latter, who might take an oath under compulsion, while the Perfects would die rather than violate the precept. The inquisitors, while complaining of the ingenuity with which the heretics evaded their examination, admitted that all were much more solicitous to save their friends and kindred than themselves.
With this tendency towards a restoration of evangelical simplicity, it followed that the special religious teaching of the Waldenses
- Passaviens. Anon. cap. 5. — Bernard. Guidon. Practica P. v. — David Augustens. (Marteue Thesaur. V. 1786).— Steph. de Borbone, 1. c— Wattenbach, ubi sup. — Lib. Sententt. Inq. Tolosan. p. 352.
(Mag. Bib. Pat. XIII. 300).— Disput. inter Cath. et Paterin. (Martene Tliesaur. V. 1754).— David Augustens. (ibid. p. 1778).— Lucae Tudens. de altera Vita Lib. i. cap. 4-7. — Tract, de modo procedendi contra Haeret. (Doat XXX.)- — Index Error. Waldens. (Mag. Bib. Pat. XIII. 340).— P. de Pilichdorf contra Waldens. cap. 34.— Lib. Sententt. Inq. Tolosan. pp. 200, 301.— Nobla Leyczon, 17-24, 387-405, 416-423.
Yet it was impossible to resist the contagion of superstition. The Pomeranian Waldenses, in 1394, are described as believing that if a man died within a year after confession and absolution, he went directly to heaven. Even speaking with a minister preserved one from damnation for a year. There is even a case of a legacy of eight marks for prayers for the soul of the deceased. — Wat-tenbach, Sitzungsberichte der Preuss. Akad. 1886, pp. 51, 52.