Friday, November 10, 2006

St. Peter Damian on the spiritually destructive effects of sodomy

The Liber Gomorrhianus (Book of Gomorrha) of St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) was offered to St. Leo IX (1002-1054), who was pope during the years 1059-1054, as a tool to help reform customs in the clergy, a pressing issue at the time. This movement was historically subsumed under what came to be known as the Gregorian Reform, since it was inspired to a large extent by the monk Hildebrand, who later became Pope St. Gregory VII.

St. Leo IX offers the following words of praise for St. Peter Damian's book:
Leo, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the beloved son in Christ, Peter the hermit, the joy of eternal blessing.

The book, beloved son, which with noble style and even more noble intention you have published ... shows with clear documents that by applying your intelligence you have attained, through pious effort, the apex of a refined purity. For you, who thus raised the arm of the spirit against the obscenity of lust, have overcome the disorder of the flesh, and execrable vice that removed people far form the Author of virtues, who, being pure, admits nothing impure. And His inheritance will not belong to those who indulge in sordid pleasures....

Most dear son, I rejoice in untold manner than you preach, by the example of your behavior, all that you have taught through the gift of oratory. Indeed, it is more holy to preach through works than words. For this reason, by doing God's work, you will obtain the palm of victory and, with God [the Father] and with the Virgin's Son, you will rejoice in the eternal mansion filled with as many rewards as the people you wrenched from the snares of the demon, and these people will serve as your retinue and, in a certain way, will crown you." (St. Leo IX, Epistula super Librum gomorrhianum, PL 145, cols. 159f.)
The following is excerpt if taken from a St. Peter Damian's Liber Gomorrhianus, where he attacks the vice of sodomy:
In fact, this vice is absolutely not comparable to any others, because its enormity supersedes them all. Indeed, this vice produces the death of bodies and the destruction of souls. It pollutes the flesh, extinguishes the light of reason, expels the Holy Ghost from His temple in man's heart and introduces into it the devil who is the instigator of lust; it leads into error, totally expels truth from the deceived soul, sets up traps for those who fall into it, then caps the well to prevent those who fall into it from getting out, opens the gates of Hell and closes the door of Heaven to them, turns a former citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem into an heir of the infernal Babylon, transforming him from a heavenly star into a straw for the eternal fire, wrenches a member away from the Church and plunges him into the voracious flames of the fiery Gehenna.

This vice strives to destroy the walls of one's heavenly motherland and rebuild those of devastated Sodom. Indeed, it violates temperance, kills purity, stifles chastity and annihilates virginity -- which is irrecoverable -- with the sword of a most infamous union. It infects everything, stains everything, pollutes everything; it leaves nothing pure, nothing but filth. 'All things are clean to the clean,' as the Apostle says, 'but to them that are defiled, and to unbelievers, nothing is clean; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled' (Titus 1:15).

This vice expels one from the choir of the ecclesiastical host and obliges one to join the possessed and those who work in league with the devil; it separates the soul from God and links it with demons. This most pestiferous queen of the Sodomites makes those who obey her tyrannical laws repugnant to men and hateful to God; it [-this sin] wages a nefarious war against God and obliges the person to enlist in the ranks of the perverse spirit; it separates him from the company of Angels and deprives his soul of its nobility; it imposes on the unfortunate soul the yoke of its own domination. It tears its henchmen from the arms of virtue and exposes them as prey to the arrows of all vices. It humiliates at church, condemns at court, defiles in secret, dishonors in public, gnaws at the person's conscience like a worm and buns his flesh like fire....

Miserable flesh burns with the fire of lust, cold intelligence trembles under the rancor of suspicion, and the unfortunate man's heart is possessed by hellish chaos, subjecting him to as many pains of conscience as he is tortured in punishment. Yes, as soon as the most venomous serpent plunges its fangs into the unfortunate soul, it is immediately deprived of its senses and memory; the edge of is intelligence is dulled, he forgets God and even himself.

Indeed, this scourge destroys the foundations of the faith, weakens the forces of hope, dissipates the bonds of charity, annihilates justice, undermines fortitude, eliminates hope and dulls the edge of prudence.

And what else shall I say? It expels all the forces of virtue from the temple of the human heart and, pulling the door from its hinges, introduces into it all the barbarity of vice ...

In effect, the one whom ... this most atrocious beast has swallowed down its bloody throat is prevented, by the weight of his chains, from practicing all good works and is precipitated into the abysses of its uttermost wickedness. Thus, as soon as someone has fallen into this abyss of extreme perdition, he is exiled from the heavenly motherland, separated from the Body of Christ, confounded by the authority of the whole Church, condemned by the judgment of all the Holy Fathers, despised by men on earth and reproved by the society of heavenly citizens; he creates form himself an earth of iron and a sky of bronze. On the one hand, laden with the weight of his crime, he is unable to rise; on the other hand, he is no longer able to conceal his evil in the refuge of ignorance. He cannot be happy while he lives nor have hope when he dies, because now he is obliged to suffer the ignominy of men's derision and later, the torment of eternal condemnation. (Liber Gomorrhianus, cols. 175ff.)
From the earlier-quoted words of Pope St. Leo IX concerning those whom St. Peter Damian will wrench from the snares of the demon and will serve as his retinue in Heaven, it should be clear that St. Peter Damian is not asserting that repentance is impossible after sins of sodomy, but, rather, that such sins are the most difficult sins from which to repent.

[Acknowledgement: the quotations from Pope St. Leo IX and St. Peter Damian are taken from Atila Sinke Guimaraes, "The Catholic Church and Homosexuality," Eli, Eli, Lamma Sabachthani? Vol. I: The Murky Waters of Vatican II, Second Edition (Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1999), 358-361.]

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