E-MAIL FROM HEAVEN
There is “nothing new under the sun,” says Ecclesiastes - including the current scandals in the Church. In 1047 Church Father St. Peter Damian, was so outraged at clerical immorality he wrote the Book of Gomorrah, a letter to the pope condemning homosexuality and clerical pederasty. This holy man didn’t need to consult psychotherapists to know sodomizing the young was diabolical, nor did he mince words in calling for severe ecclesiastical remedies. He exhorted Pope Leo IX to take action. Together these reformers began addressing the principal evils in the Church of their day: simony (buying and selling of clerical offices, indulgences, etc.) and clerical sexual immorality. Our Church leaders should listen to them and follow their example. We acknowledge our debt to Randy Engel and her articles on St. Peter Damian, which can be read in their entirety at www.catholictradition.org/cfn-damian1.htm and www.catholictradition.org/cfn-damian2.htm.
From the Book of Gomorrah: St. Peter calls a spade a spade. His words apply equally to abusers of our day Rudy Kos, Paul Shanley, etc. and those who covered up their crimes: “A certain abominable and terribly shameful vice has grown up in our region. Unless the hand of severe punishment resists as soon as possible, there is certainly a danger that the sword of divine anger will be used savagely against it to the ruin of many. Alas! it is shameful to speak of…. But if the doctor shrinks in horror from infected wounds, who will take the trouble to apply the cauter? If the one who is to heal becomes nauseated, who will lead sick hearts back to health? Vice against nature creeps in like a cancer and even touches the order of consecrated men…. This plague undermines the foundation of faith, weakens the strength of hope, destroys the bond of charity; it takes away justice, subverts fortitude, banishes temperance, blunts the keenness of prudence. And what more should I say since it expels the whole host of the virtues from the chamber of the human heart and introduces every barbarous vice as if the bolts of the doors were pulled out.”
St. Peter leaves no doubt of the sin: “Four types of this form of criminal wickedness can be distinguished in an effort to show you the totality of the whole matter in an orderly way: some sin with themselves alone [masturbation]; some by the hands of others [mutual masturbation]; others between the thighs [interfemoral intercourse]; and finally, others commit the complete act against nature [anal intercourse].”
Nor does he fear condemnation as a whistle-blower, “an informer and a delator of my brother’s crimes.” He knows he will experience but doesn’t shrink from “the hatred of evil men or the tongues of detractors… Rather, he sends a message to those in authority who enable evil by their silence: “I would surely prefer to be thrown into the well like Joseph who informed his father of his brothers’ foul crime, than to suffer the penalty of God’s fury, like Eli, who saw the wickedness of his sons and remained silent… How, indeed, am I to love my neighbor as myself if I negligently allow the wound, of which I am sure he will brutally die, to fester in his heart?… So let no man condemn me as I argue against this deadly vice, for I seek not to dishonor, but rather to promote the advantage of my brother’s well-being.”
Exhibiting the Gospel exhortation to hate the sin, not the sinner, St. Peter lovingly admonishes those enslaved by lust: “Your heart should beat with confidence in God’s love and not grow hard and impenitent, in the face of your great crime. It is not sinners, but the wicked who should despair; it is not the magnitude of one’s crime, but contempt of God that dashes one’s hopes.” Nevertheless, he calls on the pope to “utterly destroy this monstrous vice that a prostrate Church may everywhere rise to vigorous stature.” Oh, that our bishops might listen!
Pope Leo IX responds: Four months after his election, the pope held a synod to condemn simony and clerical sexual incontinence. Immediately after he held reform councils in Pavia, Cologne, Reims, and Mainz. He writes to St. Peter saying, “Let it be certain and evident to all that we are in agreement with everything your book contains, opposed as it is like water to the fire of the devil… Therefore, lest the wantonness of this foul impurity be allowed to spread unpunished, it must be repelled by proper repressive action of apostolic severity.” The pope calls for removal of all clerics who “have defiled themselves by either of the two kinds of filthiness which you have described, or, which is horrible to hear or speak of, have sunk to the level of anal intercourse.” And the pope sends a clear warning to clerical authorities tempted to attack his apostolic decree: “For he who does not attack vice, but deals with it lightly, is rightly judged to be guilty of his death, along with the one who dies in sin.” What a grim reminder for our own bishops. St. Peter’s stature in the Church of his day is evident by the fact that future popes sought his help: Victor the II, Nicholas II, Gregory VII, and Stephen X. He is a saint for our own day.
1961 Vatican directive banning ordination of gays: “Those affected by the perverse inclination to homosexuality or pederasty should be excluded from religious vows and ordination.”
1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons: “Increasing numbers of people today… are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity… [They] are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect…a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the [individual’s] supernatural vocation. The Church's ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church's position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage… No authentic pastoral program will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin. All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely.” When the scandalizing “organizations” are the parish and the chancery are the faithful not called to resist? Bishop Newman and the pastors of St. Bernadette’s and St. Joan of Arc are like the false shepherds of St. Peter’s day. If the laity don’t have reformers like St. Peter Damian and Pope Leo IX, reform must come from us, despite judgment by fellow travelers and useful dupes. Please make a holy hour today for Pope John Paul II and all clergy who will answer not only for their own souls, but for those of the flock. May God have mercy on us all.