Pope Benedict and Damian


Not many in the hierarchy write like Saint Peter Damian (+1072), whose direct and blunt condemnation of the unnatural sexual sins of the clergy he condemns in his vivid Book of Gomorrah, as told in summary form by Carl Sundell.

Then again, not many today in the hierarchy write like Pope Benedict XVI, who, in the midst of a series of Wednesday audiences on the Church fathers, sings the praises of the 11th century bishop and doctor, who was not by nature a fire-and-brimstone Cromwellian iconoclast, but rather a highly cultured man, immersed in the beauty and culture of his age, one of the finest of Latinists, who penned treatises, hymns, poems and sermons that still move the soul. His condemnation of sin – and his own practice of asceticism – was a propaedeutic to the appreciation of beauty, truth and goodness, to which vice, especially disordered lust, blinds us. Only thus can true joy – interior, spiritual joy transcending the vicissitudes of this world – be found.

That is why many have adopted Petrus Damianus as a patron of the synod on the ‘sex abuse crisis’ underway at the Vatican. And as many others have written, unless said synod recognizes that sin – not procedural policies – is the root of this crisis, little good will be achieved. And by ‘sin’ we mean the ‘sin’ condemned by Damian, which we may hope is named by name, so the axe may be brought down upon the root of the withered and decayed tree, and good fruit borne again.