Liber Gomorrhianus

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The Liber Gomorrhianus (Book of Gomorrah) is a book authored and published by the Roman Catholic priest St. Peter Damian circa AD 1051.[1] It is a treatise regarding the vices of the clergy, principally sodomy, and the consequent need for reform.

Against simony and clerical concubinage[edit]

St. Peter Damian was a determined foe of simony, which some medieval ecclesiastical authors denounced as the most abominable of crimes.[2] He strongly condemned the purchase of ecclesiastical offices by clergy, but, however, defended the validity of the Sacraments that such clerics administered. In June AD 1055, during the pontificate of Pope Victor II, the Saint attended a synod at Florence, Italy where simony and clerical incontinence were once more condemned.

Against various sexual sins[edit]

In the AD second century, Tertullian wrote that “all other frenzies of lusts which exceed the laws of nature and are impious toward both bodies and the sexes we banish … from all shelter of the Church”.[3] Early medieval penitential books contained a wide array of different penances for such trespasses. Although various forms of same-sex behaviour were discussed in contemporary handbooks of penance, such as those by Burchard of Worms and Regino of Prüm, according to Paul Halsall, this is the only theological tract which exclusively addresses this theme.[1]

In this, Petrus Damiani made an attack on homosexual practices, mutual masturbation, copulation between the thighs, anal copulation and solitary masturbation,[1] as subversive disruptions against the moral order occasioned by the madness associated with an excess of lust. He was especially indignant about priests having sexual relationships with adolescent boys. He singles out superiors who, due to excessive and misplaced piety, have been lax in their duty to uphold church discipline. He opposes the ordination of those who engage in homosexual sex and wants those already ordained dismissed from Holy Orders. Those who misuse the sacraments to defile boys are treated with particular contempt.

Controversy[edit]

It caused a great stir and aroused not a little enmity against its author. Even the pope, Pope Leo IX, who had at first praised the work, was persuaded that it was exaggerated. He praised Damian's motivation in advocating chastity and condemning vice, and told him that Damian's own exemplary life did more to teach appropriate conduct than any words. He softened the suggestions for decisive action against offending clerics made by the author and excluded from the ranks of clergy only those who had offended repeatedly and over a long period of time.[4] The Pope's reaction drew from Damian a vigorous letter of protest.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Paul Halsall: Peter Damian: Liber Gomorrhianus Medieval Sourcebook. April 2006.
  2. ^ Weber, Nicholas. "Simony." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York, New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 31 January 2015.
  3. ^ Tertullian, De pudicitia, 4.
  4. ^ Thomas P. Doyle: "Roman Catholic Clericalism, Religious Duress, and Clergy Sexual Abuse," in Pastoral Psychology, Vol. 51, No 3, January 2003.

Sources[edit]

  • Damian, St. Peter (October 2015). The Book of Gomorrah: St. Peter Damian's Struggle Against Ecclesiastical Corruption. Matthew Cullinan Hoffman (trans.). Ite ad Thomam. ISBN 978-0-9967042-1-2. 
  • Pierre J. Payer (ed.): Book of Gomorrah: An eleventh century treatise against clerical homosexual practise, Waterloo, Ont., 1982. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. (Includes the response of the Pope.)
  • Owen J. Blum, O.F.M.: Peter Damian, Letters 31-60, part of the Fathers of the Church - Medieval Continuation series issued by the Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1990.