A new publication of St. Peter Damien’s treatise
Excerpts from the Introduction
Roberto de Mattei
February 11, 2015
St. Peter Damien (1007-1072) Abbot of the Fonte Avellana Monastery and subsequently Cardinal/Bishop of Ostia, was one of the most outstanding figures of Catholic reform in the XI century. His Liber Gomorrhianus, appeared around 1049, in an age when corruption was widely spread, even in the highest ranks of the ecclesiastical world. In this writing, addressed to Pope Leo IX, Peter Damien condemns the perverted habits of his time in a language that knows no false mercy or compromises. He is convinced that of all the sins, the gravest is sodomy, a term which includes all the acts against nature and which want to satisfy sexual pleasure by separating it from procreation. “If this absolutely ignominious and abominable vice is not immediately stopped with an iron fist – he writes – the sword of Divine wrath will fall upon us, bringing ruin to many.”
Liber Gomorrhianus has now been published by Edizioni Fiducia, (Rome, 2015 – 10Euros) The translation along with a bio-bibliography is by Gianandrea de Antonellis with an introduction from Roberto de Mattei. We report here some passages from the introduction.
The Catholic Church is an organism which has, like her founder Jesus Christ, an intimately connected divine and human nature. However, unlike Jesus Christ, perfect not only in His Divinity, but also in His Humanity, the Church, Holy and Immaculate, is made up of men who are subject to sin. The Church is never the sinner, but within Her we find sinners alongside saints. There have been times in Her history when sanctity pervades Her and others when the defection of Her members cause Her to collapse into darkness, appearing almost as if the Divinity has abandoned Her. Yet this never happens. The Church never wanes: She will overcome the hardest of trials and advances invincible along the course of history, towards the Parousia – Her final triumph – on earth and in heaven, when She will be united definitively to Her Divine Spouse.
This theological vision was very clear to St. Peter Damien when he set about the writing of Liber Gomorrhianus around 1049 and where he fearlessly lifts the veil on the ignominies of the churchmen of his time. A thousand years have passed since then and a thousand had passed since the death and Resurrection of Christ. Yet Peter Damien’s voice resounds today, as it did yesterday, with encouragement and comfort for those, like him, who have fought, suffered, cried and hoped, throughout the course of history.
Peter Damien experienced the fragility of the flesh, the weight of sin, the transiency of the things of this world and the inexorable march towards death, but he abandoned himself to the mercy of God and obtained his heavenly reward. He was universally venerated as a saint from the moment of his death. Dante places him in seventh heaven among the contemplatives. Pope Leo XII honored him with the title Doctor of the Church (Constitution Providentissimus Deus of October 1st 1828).
The teaching of a Doctor of the Church shines brilliantly for its purity of faith and profundity of theological and moral knowledge. These notes characterize all of Peter Damian’s works, beginning with Liber Gomorrhianus, from which we want to capture the essentiality of its spirit.
A spirit of truth, since St. Peter Damien did not turn his face away when confronted with moral filth, but lifted the veil with which other ecclesiastics wanted to cover up the evil, revealing its deformity and horror.
A supernatural spirit, since he was not intimidated by the false judgment of the world, but assessed everything in the light of the Divine and Natural Law.
A prophetic spirit since he not only identified the evils, but predicted their consequences in society and the life of souls and indicated their necessary remedies, in a life of Grace, penitence and effort.
He did not moderate his language, but kept it fiery to show his indignation. He was fearless in voicing an uncompromising hatred for sin and it was precisely this hatred that rendered his love burning for the Truth and the Good.
Today, at the beginning of the third millennium of Christ’s birth, priests, bishops and Episcopal conferences are arguing for married priests; they are placing in doubt the indissolubility of the marriage bond between man and woman and at the same time, accepting the introduction of laws for homosexual pseudo-marriage. Sodomy is not being thought of as a sin that cries to God for vengeance but is diffused in seminaries, colleges, ecclesiastical universities and even inside the Sacred Walls of the Vatican itself.
Liber Gomorrhianus reminds us that there is something worse than moral vice practiced and theorized. It is the silence that should speak, the abstention that should intervene, the bond of complicity that is established among the wicked and of those, who with the pretext of avoiding scandal are silent, and, by being silent, consent. Graver still, is the acceptance of homosexuality by churchmen, thought of as a “positive” tension towards the good, worthy of pastoral care and juridical protection and not as an abominable sin. In the summary Relatio post disceptationem of the first week’s work in the Synod of Bishops in October 2014, a paragraph affirmed that: “homosexual persons have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community”, with an invitation to the Bishops “…are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing them a fraternal space in our communities?” This scandalous statement was removed from the final report, but some bishops and cardinals, inside and outside the Synod Hall, insisted on the appeal to look for the positive aspects of a union against nature, going as far as hoping for “a way to describe the rights of people living in same-sex unions.”
St. Peter Damian as a simple monk, and with greater reason as a cardinal, did not hesitate in accusing even the Popes of that time for their scandalous omissions. Will the reading of the book Liber Gomorrhianus instill the spirit of St. Peter Damien in the hearts of some prelates or laypeople, by shaking them out of their torpor and force them to speak and act?
Even if abysmally far from the holiness and prophetic spirit of St. Peter Damien, let us make his indignation against evil, ours, and with the words that conclude his treatise we turn to the Vicar of Christ, His Holiness, Pope Francis, presently reigning, so that he may intervene and bring an end to these doctrinal and moral scandals: “May the Almighty Lord assist us, Most Reverend Father, so that during the time of Your Apostolate, all of the monstrosity of this vice be destroyed and the state of the Church, presently supine, may wholly rise up again in all its vigour.”
[Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]