Friday, November 29, 2013

How do we explain this away? St. Peter Damian and the Book of Gomorrah?

Don't say anything about the Book of Gomorrah...

I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it. 

Actually I referred to it a few times.  It's a good way to lose followers.  Even when I make references to the period when the work was published - in jest, such as burnings at the stake - I can get some pretty hostile comments from the GLBTQ crowd.  I'm against it of course - burning at the stake and sodomy, I can call it that, right?

Seriously, the treatise by St. Peter Damian is a classic and deserves scholarly attention.  Evidently some have tried that before.  A new look at an old book,  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: Getting another look and a new review by Anne Barbeau Gardiner at New Oxford Review.  I think New Oxford limits readers to subscription once articles are archived, so I'll reproduce some points which seem relevant to conditions in our day, and let the reader go to the original review for more

The more things change, the more they stay the same...
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.”
Damian reports that he has endured persecution for preaching against this sin, and he begs the Pope to use his sacred authority to quiet “the complaint of perverse men” who reason that “a statement brought forward by one person…is rejected by others as prejudice.” At one point he addresses the dissenters as men “who are angry with me and who hate to listen to this writer.” He tells the Pope that some of them “accuse me of being a traitor and an informer on the crime of a brother,” while others think it “valid to attack me who am on the attack” and to “accuse me of presumptuous prattle.” They also denounce him for not being “afraid of picking on Christians.” 
In his reply, Leo IX gives Damian his full support and warns those who would dare to criticize or question his papal decree concerning sodomy that they will be putting themselves in danger of being deposed from their rank. He agrees with Damian that severity against this sin is needed, that he who does not attack it encourages it, and that silence about it is rightly thought to incur guilt. 
In this remarkable treatise, Damian condemns priests in authority who have been too indulgent with these sinners. As a result of their laxity, priests who have “fallen into this wickedness with eight or even ten other equally sordid men” have remained in their ranks. And so the sin has come “to be committed freely” without its practitioners fearing the loss of their priestly faculties.
Citing St. Paul’s condemnation not only of those who commit sodomy but also of those who “approve” it in others (Rom. 1:32), Damian observes that his adversaries’ silence can be interpreted as consent...
The Book of Gomorrah demonstrates that it was no easier a thousand years ago than it is today to speak out against this vice and to bring active homosexuals to repentance, to an acknowledgement of the natural law, and to the practice of purity. In his little treatise, St. Peter Damian warns us against keeping silence in the face of such a growing evil and thus becoming complicit. He offers us a needed model of how to speak out fearlessly against the corruptions of our age. - New Oxford  


NB: For a contemporary example of what St. Peter Damian reports as 'persecution for preaching against this sin' go here: an Austin Ruse commentary on The Catholic Thing.

"You started it."


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.