The system of Catharism recognized two classes of adherents, credentes and perfecti.
It may be said generally that Catharism formed the abiding background of medieval heresy.
The influence of Catharism on the Catholic church was enormous.
It continued among the Albigenses and other dissident sects of the middle ages, among whom it served a double purpose; for their elders were thus not only able to prove their own chastity, but to elude the inquisitors, who were less inclined to suspect a man of the catharism which regarded marriage as the "greater adultery" (maius adulterium) if they found him cohabiting (in appearance at least) with a woman.
The people were attached to the bons hommes, whose asceticism imposed upon the masses, and the anti-sacerdotal preaching of Peter of Bruys and Henry of Lausanne in Perigord, Languedoc and Provence, only facilitated the progress of Catharism in those regions.