From a thousand years ago, St. Peter Damian's warnings against sodomy...

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New Oxford Review just ran a review of a new translation of St. Peter Damian's eleventh century jeremiad against sodomy within the Roman Catholic priesthood and hierarchy in his time. Damian's Book of Gomorrah: An Eleventh-Century Treatise against Clerical Homosexual Practices is translated and edited by Pierre Payer and the reviewer is Anne Barbeau Gardiner, Professor Emerita of English at CUNY's John Jay College.

Professor Gardiner summarizes Damian's warnings:

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. Damian calls this negligence rather than love because it allows a wound to spread in a neighbor’s heart, a wound “from which, I have no doubt, he dies cruelly.” Therefore, Damian himself will not “neglect to cure” that wound with the “surgery of words,” for if he remains silent, he too will deserve punishment.


Rather than “fear the hatred of the depraved or the tongues of detractors,” Damian fears God, who warns him through the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, “If you see your brother doing evil and you do not correct him, I will require his blood from your hand” (3:20). Damian will not be silenced, no matter how many tell him to put the sword of his tongue in the sheath of silence: “Who am I to see such a harmful outrage growing up among the sacred orders and, as a murderer of another’s soul, preserve the stricture of silence, and to dare to await the reckoning of divine severity? Do I not begin to be responsible for a guilt whose author I never was?”

Last night, I was talking to a pastor who told of one of the men of his church...

witnessing to his relatives over Thanksgiving. There had been a family discussion in which family members who were a part of an Evangelical church were telling their relatives that their church had homosexual couples who attended. And of course, no one preached against their sin or called them to repent. The Christian souls of the church are simply proud to have such an oppressed minority able to feel at home, just as other sinners also feel at home among them. At which point the man spoke up, plaintively asking if there was no one in the church who loved the homosexuals? No one who cared enough about them to warn them of the danger they stood in before the holy God?

Listening to the pastor recount his friend's witness, I thought that this is the next step of decline among conservative Reformed and Evangelical Christians, today. We will pride ourselves on the attendance of sodomites, but without hating their sin. And therefore, without loving them at all. Of course we'll say we love them. You know, "hate the sin but love the sinner" and all that.

But in fact, we don't and won't love them because, either from the pulpit or in person, we don't and won't call them to repent. Thus as we pride ourselves in our great tolerance and transformationalism, men bearing the image of God will be rendered impregnable to the Gospel and will fall into eternity without hope of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.

In other words, the only thing we'll transform is the expectations of the cultural elite for what a Christian is. Looking at both the transformationalists and the R2K men, the hip and urbane will be shocked at seeing our rabid non-judgmentalism; they'll be pleased at our FB updates announcing our newfound leanings toward the Democratic ticket; they'll note our reading list, our degrees, and our tastes in craft brews and wines. But ultimately, what will really please them the most is our equanimity as, in solidarity with them, we drown in the Flood, drink blood from the Nile, and are roasted by fire and brimstone from Heaven.

These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. - Jude 1:12, 13

Professor Gardiner ends her review with this pastoral note:

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.

(With thanks to Dan) 

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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