Perhaps an indication of it may be discerned as early as the 4th century in a custom, current in Spain, northern Italy and elsewhere, of washing the feet of the catechumens towards the end of Lent before their baptism.
The Cathars fell into two classes, corresponding to the Baptized and the Catechumens of the early church, namely, the Perfect, who had been "consoled," i.e.
In 441 a synod of sixteen bishops was held at Orange under the presidency of St Hilary of Arles, which adopted thirty canons touching the reconciliation of penitents and heretics; the ecclesiastical right of asylum, diocesan prerogatives of bishops, spiritual privileges of the defective or demoniac, the deportment of catechumens at worship, and clerical celibacy (forbidding married men to be ordained as deacons, and digamists to be advanced beyond the sub-diaconate).
For this reason the catechumens are anointed with holy oil both before and after baptism; the one act (of eastern origin) assists the expulsion of the evil spirits, the other (of western origin), taken in conjunction with imposition of hands, conveys the spirit and retains it in the person of the baptized.
There appears to be no locus poenitentiae for serious sins excepting in the case of catechumens, and there is a notable " perfectionist " tone in many of the prayers.