Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Sword of the Saint, Unsheathed

Book of Gomorrah: An Eleventh-Century Treatise Against Clerical Homosexual Practices.  By St. Peter Damian. Translated and edited by Pierre Payer. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 108 pages. $38.95.

By the time he published the Book of Gomorrah around A.D. 1049, St. Peter Damian had been preaching for some time against homosexuality. He told Pope St. Leo IX, to whom he directed this work, that he needed his support against those who despised him for this preaching. While others in authority remained silent, he lamented, homosexuality kept spreading: “Vice against nature creeps in like a cancer and even touches the order of consecrated men.”

That homosexuality was indeed a problem at that time may be inferred from the fact that the vice was addressed at the Council of Rheims (A.D. 1049) in the canon de sodomitico vitio. Also, Damian received, in reply to his treatise, what he had requested from Leo IX, “a decretal writing as to which of those guilty of these vices ought to be deposed irrevocably from ecclesiastical orders; and to whom, truly taking the view of discretion, this office can be mercifully granted.”

In the Book of Gomorrah Damian says he has preached against this sin “with a whole fountain of tears” because the sinner he addresses sheds none at all: “O miserable soul, I weep for you with so many lamentations because I do not see you weeping. I prostrate myself on the ground for you because I see you maliciously standing up after such a grave fall, even to the point of trying for the pinnacle of an ecclesiastical order.” Damian weeps from “fraternal compassion” because he sees a “noble soul made in the image and likeness of God and joined with the most precious blood of Christ” cast down from a great height of dignity and glory. Any Christian who commits sodomy, he explains, surpasses in sin the men of Sodom, for he “defies the very commands of evangelical grace.”  (more...)

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