Those who today wonder about positions of the Catholic Church about homosexuality, reading what follows, can understand how deep are the roots of the incompatibility between Church and homosexuality.
St. Peter Damian, a character in many respects not without his merits, one of the most popular contemplative saints of hermitical life, was in fact a man of action very well integrated in the political context of his time, was born in 1007.
When he was just prior of the Fonte Avellana monastery, he attended the imperial coronation of Henry III in Rome and entered into good relations with the environment of the court. Subsequent contacts were numerous and cordial: he spent several years in Germany, the empress Agnes was his penitent and he tried to hold back Henry IV from divorcing Berta.
Dante places him in the seventh heaven, that of Saturn, among the contemplative spirits, in the twenty-first canto of the Paradise and describes him outraged by the ecclesiastical corruption.
The first concern of Peter Damian was the reform of the Church and in this context he wrote, around the second half of 1049, the Liber Gomorrhianus dedicated to homosexuality, in particular that spread among the clergy. Peter Damian condemns radically, for example, the practice, common among the clergy of his time, of having carnal contact with each other and then to absolve each other and also the practice of havimg carnal contacts between confessor and penitent.
I invite anyone who wants to have a serious idea of the relationships between homosexuality and Church in the Middle Ages (relationships that have not changed in substance) to read a thesis (in Italian) in History of Philosophy, discussed September 24, 1996, at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy based in Arezzo, University of Siena, entitled “Liber Gomorrhianus by Peter Damian: homosexuality and Church in the Middle Ages”, published in “Philosophia Medii Aevi” Site dedicated to the study of the history of medieval philosophy and culture, with the sponsorship of the Department of Classical Philology and Philosophical Sciences of the University of Salento http://www.phmae.it/ . I reproduce below, without comment, some passages of the Liber Gomorrhianus by Peter Damian, that I translated into English.
The text is taken from the page http://www.phmae.it/IZ/traduzioneLG_a.htm
Different sodomitic behaviors
Four types of this shameful behavior can be distinguished in an effort to reveal all the problem in an orderly fashion.
Some are stained by themselves, others mingle together touching each other with their hands the virile members, other fornicate between her thighs, and finally, others [fornicate] behind. Among these there is a gradual progression so that the last is considered more severe than those that precede. Therefore is imposed, to those who sin with others, a penance greater than that expected for those who are stained by themselves with the contact of the semen emitted, and those that contaminate from behind are judged more severely than those who join between the thighs. So the crafty machinations of the devil produced these degrees of debauchery so that, the further the wretched soul continues among these, the lower is thrown into the deep pit of hell.
[… Omitted …]
inspiring from the council of Ancyra.
About those who sin irrationally, i. e. who have joined with the beasts and defiled with males
Those who have lived or are living irrationally:
those who have committed this sin before their twentieth year, after fifteen years of penance, deserve to enter the community of prayer, only after five years of residence in this community they will receive the sacrament of penance. In addition, during the time of repentance the quality of their lives has to be examined and so they shall obtain mercy. If they continue to commit these sins insatiably, they need a longer time to do penance. Those who instead have fallen into this sin and have passed the age of twenty years and are married, after twenty-five years of penance, are welcomed into the community of prayer and remain there for five years, and only then will receive the Eucharist. Finally, if those who have sinned are married and exceed fifty years of age, they will receive the grace of the Eucharist at the end of their lives.
[… Omitted …]
But because we care to provide two examples taken from a single sacred council, we insert also what the great Basil thinks of this vice we’re talking about, so that “every issue is decided on the word of two or three witnesses.” He says:
Clerics or monks that molest males
“A cleric or a monk molesting adolescents or young people, or those who have been caught kissing or following another shameful attitude, must be publicly whipped and they lose his tonsure. After being shaved, they must be covered with spit and chained with iron chains, and must be left to rot in the anguish of prison for six months. In the evening, for three days a week they have to eat barley bread. Then, after another six months, in the custody of a spiritual father, living segregated in a small courtyard they can be occupied with manual work and prayer. They must be subjected to fasting and prayer, and must walk always in the custody of two spiritual brothers, without any perverse sentence, and must always be separated from younger people.”
[… Omitted …]
The due condemnation of this abominable infamy
This habit certainly is not comparable to any other vice because it exceeds in severity all the other vices. In fact, this vice is the death of the body and the ruin of soul. It contaminates the meat, turns off the light of the mind. Banish the Holy Spirit from the temple of the human breast, opens the door to the devil instigator of lust, leads us into error, uproots the truth from the mind that has been deceived. It prepares traps for those entering and those who have fallen into the pit and obstructs it to prevent escape. It opens the hell and closes the gates of heaven. It makes the citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem a heir to the infernal Babylon. It transforms a star of the sky in a stubble of eternal fire. It tears the body of the Church and throws it into the fire of terrible hell. This vice seeks to break down the walls of the supreme kingdom and is anxious to repair the walls of the reborn burned Sodom. This vice destroys sobriety, stifles modesty, massacres chastity, slaughters with the sword of terrible epidemic the unrecoverable virginity. It disfigures everything, scrubs everything, defiles everything. Nothing that surrounds it remains pure, away from the filth, clean. “All is pure to the pure persons, instead, nothing is pure to those who are defiled and unbelieving”[Paul to Timothy 1.15]. This vice removes from the Church community and relegates to pray with the insane people and those who work for the devil, separates the soul from God to link it with the demons. This terrible queen of the Sodomites creates followers of his tyrannical laws, filthy in front of the men and hateful to God. It orders to start nefarious wars against God and forces the militant to carry the burden of bad soul. It removes from the communion of angels and imprisons the unhappy soul under the yoke of its domain through its power. It strips its soldiers of virtuous weapons and exposes them to the darts of the vices so that they are pierced. It humiliates in the Church and condemns in the law. It defiles in secret and dishonors in public. It gnaws conscience like a worm, it burns the flesh like fire. It craves that the desire is satiated and, on the contrary, is concerned that it could be seen, that it could go out in public and could be disclosed in front of people.
[… Omitted …]
The miserable flesh burns to the fury of lust, the silly mind trembles because of the rancor of suspicion, in the breast of the wretched man the infernal chaos is already lifting. How many are those pierced by the pricks of unclean thoughts, so many are those tormented by torture of the penalty. Souls are really unhappy after this poisonous snake has bitten them. It immediately removes the ability to think, clears the memory, obscures the sharpness of the mind, causes the sinner to forget God and himself. This pest, really undoes the feeling of faith, weakens the power of hope, clears the bond of charity, removes justice, reduces the courage, removes temperance, and blunts the keenness of prudence.
What else can we say? Since it casts from human heart every single element of virtue and lets all sorts of vices, as if the bolts of the doors had been torn. Certainly, the judgment of Jeremiah adapts to what, from the point of view of the world, is called Jerusalem “the adversary has spread out his hand – he says – over all your treasures, has seen the pagans entering into her sanctuary, those to which you ordered not to enter into your assembly.” Without a doubt, this terrible beast eats in one bite with its bloody mouth, keeps away anyone, with his chains, from good works, it drops you precipitously down the cliffs of obscene perversity. Soon, of course, anyone who has fallen into this abyss of perdition will be sent far away, like an exile from the supreme homeland. He will be separated from the body of Christ, will be removed by the whole Church, will be condemned by the judgment of all the Holy Fathers, on earth he will be despised by men, will be dismissed from the house of the citizens of heaven. For him, the sky will become iron and the earth will become bronze, and he will never recover from there, burdened by the weight of the crime, nor can hide here for a long time its evils in the cave of ignorance. Here he can’t enjoy as long as he lives, nor hope until he sins, because he is forced to endure the scorn of the human derision in addition to the torment of eternal damnation. It is clear that refers to this soul the prophetic voice of lamentation where it says: “See, Lord, how terrible is my anguish, my bowels are upset, my heart is in trouble within me because I was rebellious. Out sword kills in the house is like death.”
I must point out that the language of Peter Damian is one of the most chaste and less explicit. Peter Damian uses “interrogationes confessarii” of Burchard of Worms, a guide to confession to the confessor, in which with a lot of details, he exemplifies to the confessor the questions to submit to the sinners in confession. Peter Damian summarizes this interview in his classification of four types of homosexual sin but omits many important details useful for the understanding of the text. In this regard, the thesis I mentioned compares the corresponding passages of Burchard and Peter Damian to highlight the difference in language.
Burchard: “You just did fornication with yourself […], I mean that you have taken in your hand your own male member and so you retracted your foreskin and you moved it with your own hand” (Fecisti solum tecum fornicationem […], ita dico ut ipse tuum virile membrum in manum tuam acciperes et sic duceres praeputium tuum, et manu propria commoveres […])
Peter Damian: “[…] those who contaminate themselves with the contagion of semen expelled” ([…] qui per semetipsos egesta seminis contagione sordescunt […])
Burchard: “Did you fornication […], I mean that you’ve got in your hand the penis of another man, and the other took yours in his hand, and so in turn with your hands you have moved the penises.” (Fecisti fornicationem […], ita dico ut tu in manum tuam veretrum alterius acciperes, et alter tuum in suam, et sic alternatim veretra manibus vestris commoveretis […])
Peter Damian: “[…] Others pollute handling each other’s manhood.” ([…] alii sibi invicem inter se manibus virilia contrectantes inquinantur […])
Burchard: “If with another male between the thighs […] I mean that you put your male member between the thighs of another man, and so by moving you poured the semen [..]” (Si cum masculo intra coxas […], ita dico, ut tuum virile membrum intra coxas alterius mitteres, et sic agitando semen effunderes […])
Peter Damian: “[…] those who have intercourse between the thighs” ([…] qui inter femora coeunt)
Burchard: “Did you fornication as did the Sodomites, so that, behind a male and in parts of the rear you entered your rod and so you had a sexual intercourse with him like Sodomites?” (Fecisti fornicationem sicut Sodomitae fecerunt, ita ut in masculi terga et in posteriora virgam tuam immitteres, et sic secum coires more Sodomitico?)
Peter Damian: “[…] those who corrupt others in the backs” ([…] qui alios in posteriora corrumpunt)
Burchard (about 965 – 1025), bishop of Worms, was one of the greatest canonists of the Middle Ages, out of the monastic school of Lobbes. With a modern mind, or better with a mentality that takes due account of the respect of people, we have to point out the violence inherent in the practice of confession conducted in the manner recommended by Burchard which is already an anticipation of the Inquisition.
I point out one more thing. The detailed list of convicted sexual behaviors doesn’t make any mention of oral sex, as if it did not exist or was not absolutely practiced. This thing baffles me.