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Book of Gomorrah

An Eleventh-Century Treatise against Clerical Homosexual Practices

Peter Damian

Publication Year: 1982

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

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pp. ix-x

Research for this translation was done in the course of a study of sexuality in the early Middle Ages which was undertaken with aid from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Mount Saint Vincent University. I would like to thank all those who read the work in its various stages and who made valuable comments. In particular I must acknowledge the helpful comments...


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-5

Homosexuality is a problem which North American society has not been successful in resolving. Polarized positions range from demonstrations in favour of "gay rights" and the legal protection of sexual preference to referenda for the repeal...

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Censures of Homosexuality Prior to 1048

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pp. 6-11

The condemnation of homosexual practices is not an uncommon feature of the regulative literature of the early medieval church. The penitentials, which originated in Ireland in the latter half of the sixth century, frequently mention homosexual offences and provide for a wide range of penances...

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Early Reform Movements

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p. 11-11

It is generally recognized that in the course of the tenth century and the first half of the eleventh the moral life of the church deteriorated in continental Europe and at Rome in particular. Simony and clerical sexual immorality were felt to be the two central...

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Peter Damian

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p. 12-12

At the time of Leo's accession to the papacy in Rome, Peter Damian was busy working for the reform of monastic institutions and clerical morals from his base at the monastery of Fonte Avellana in the diocese of Gubbio in central Italy...

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Book of Gomorrah

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pp. 13-14

Peter perhaps sensed the possibilities for reform in Pope Leo IX since it is to him that he addressed his Book of Gomorrah, the first of his works censuring clerical sexual...

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Concerns of the Book of Gomorrah

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pp. 14-15

What is not clear is the precise nature of some of the problems that alarmed Damian. In the first chapter he outlines three forms of homosexual activity (in addition to masturbation which he seems to put in the same class of acts against nature), but he is not always...

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Damian's Arguments

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pp. 15-19

The canonical section of the Book of Gomorrah deals directly with the problem of homosexuality, the arguments in favour of deposition of offending priests, and in the last chapter requests the Pope to appoint a commission to study the problem and to reply to Damian's questions so that his doubts and the doubts...

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Pastoral Concern

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p. 19-19

It was suggested above that the Book of Gomorrah was meant to be read by the offenders themselves. This is evident from what was called the pastoral section of the work (chs. 17-25) and seems to be anticipated by Damian in chapter 25 where he attempts...

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Was Homosexuality a Problem?

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pp. 20-22

A word must be said about a question that invariably occurs to a reader of the Book of Gomorrah: Did actual circumstances prompt Peter Damian to write this work? Bailey says that it is uncertain whether the tract has any historical value in providing evidence for the extent of homosexual practices in Damian's...

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p. 22-22

To the extent that Peter Damian received a reply from the Pope to his questions in regard to the ecclesiastical censure of clerics engaged in homosexual practices, the Book of Gomorrah could be said to have been a success...

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The Translation

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pp. 22-24

The challenge for a translator is to be faithful to the original while being as idiomatic as possible in the translation. I will not resurrect the ancient debate over whether a good translation should be one that translates word for word or idea for idea. In translating Peter Damian one must contend with the words...

Book of Gomorrah

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pp. 27-28

Peter, the lowliest servant of monks, to the most Blessed Pope Leo, the homage of due respect: Since it is known from the very mouth of Truth that the Apostolic See is the mother of all the churches, it is proper that, should a doubt arise from any source whatever which seems to pertain...

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I. The Different Types of Those Who Sin against Nature

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p. 29-29

Four types of this form of criminal wickedness can be distinguished in an effort to show you the totality of the whole matter in an orderly way: some sin with themselves alone; some commit mutual masturbation; some commit femoral fornication; and finally, others commit...

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II. Excessive Piety on the Part of Superiors Fails to Exclude from Orders Those Who Fall in This Way

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pp. 30-31

It is true that those liable to this ruin frequently come to their senses through the generosity of divine mercy, make satisfaction, and even piously receive the burden of penance no matter how heavy; but they are utterly terrified of losing their ecclesiastical status.4 And some rectors of churches who are perhaps more humane in regard...

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III. Those Given over to Unclean Acts Should Not Be Promoted to Orders, and Those Already Promoted Should Not Remain in Orders

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pp. 32-34

It seems utterly preposterous to us that those who are habitually defiled with this festering contagion would dare either to be promoted to orders or to remain in their rank if already promoted since it is proved to be contrary to reason and against the canonical decrees of the fathers...

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IV. Whether Such Should Be Allowed to Function in This Office in the Event of Ecclesiastical Need

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pp. 35-36

But perhaps someone will say, "There is an imminent necessity and there is no one to perform a sacred function in the church. The judgment which was first based on the pronouncement of divine justice is reasonably modified by the proposed necessity of the situation."...

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V. Those Who Desire To Have Sacred Orders after This Vice Have Fallen into a Depraved Sense

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pp. 37-40

For who would turn a deaf ear; yes, who would not tremble to the core when he hears the Apostle, as a thundering trumpet, say of such men, "God delivered them up in the desires of their heart to unclean practices; they engaged in the mutual degradation of their bodies?"18 And a little further...

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VI. Spiritual Fathers Who Are Defiled Along with Their Children

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pp. 41-42

O unheard of crime! O outrage to be mourned with a whole fountain of tears! If those who consent to the ones doing these things are to be punished with death, what torment could be thought fitting for those who commit these great evils with their spiritual...

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VII. Those Who Confess Their Crimes to the Very Ones with Whom They Fell

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pp. 43-44

However, that the arguments of diabolical fraud might not lie hidden, I will bring into the light what was fashioned secretly in the workshop of ancient wickedness. I do not accept that this hidden thing should go on, namely, that certain ones who are filled...

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VIII. Just as the Sacrilegious Violator of a Virgin, so also the Prostitutor of a Spiritual Son Must Be Deposed by Law

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pp. 45-46

Now I meet you face to face, carnal man, whoever you are. Do you ever refuse to confess to spiritual men what you have committed because you fear giving up your ecclesiastical rank? But how much more salutary was it to endure temporary shame in the sight of men, than to be subject to eternal punishment...

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IX. Those Who Sin with Either a Natural or Baptismal Daughter are Guilty of the Same Crime

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pp. 47-48

To turn the dispute back now to the sacred, that is, to the accursed confessors. If a priest who is a canon has fallen with a woman to whom he had declared a judgment of penance even once, no one doubts that he is to be degraded by the censure of a synodal judgment...

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X. The Apocryphal Canons in Which Those Who Trust Are Completely Deceived

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pp. 49-50

Since in the sacred canons there are some sad things discovered in which lost men trust in vain presumption, we add some of them here to demonstrate clearly that not only they but all others like them are false and entirely apocryphal, wherever they might be found. For among other things...

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XI. A Credible Refutation of the Aforesaid Canons

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pp. 51-54

Let us return to the beginning of that fallacious chapter which reads: (1) "A priest without the vow of a monk who sins with a young girl or a prostitute shall do penance for two years." Now who is so dull, who can be found so insane as to believe that a priest caught in fornication should receive a penance worth two years?...

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XII. These Mockeries Are To Be Excluded from the Sacred Canons Since They Do Not Seem To Have Certain Authorship

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pp. 55-56

Indeed, who fashioned these canons? Who presumed to plant such thorns in the noble grove of the Church—such prickly, thorny thistles? It is clear beyond any doubt that all authentic canons either were arrived at in venerable synodal councils or were promulgated by the holy fathers, pontiffs of the Apostolic...

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XIII. "Those Who Fornicate Irrationally, That Is, Who Mix with Cattle or Who Are Polluted with Males"

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pp. 57-58

Of those who have acted or who act irrationally: as often as they have committed such a crime before the age of twenty, after fifteen years of penance they should merit the community of prayers; then, after spending five years in this community, they can have the eucharist...

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XIV. "Those Who Were Once Polluted with Animals or Males, or Who Still Languish in This Vice"

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pp. 59-60

"The holy synod commands that those who have lived irrationally and who have polluted others with the leprosy of this unjust crime are to pray among those who are struck with an unclean spirit."64 Clearly, while it does not say, "who corrupt others with the leprosy...

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XV. Clerics or Monks Who are Seducers of Males

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pp. 61-62

A cleric or monk who seduces youths or young boys or is found kissing or in any other impure situations is to be publicly flogged and lose his tonsure. When his hair has been shorn, his face is to be foully besmeared with spit and he is to be bound in iron chains. For six months he will languish in prison-like confinement...

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XVI. A Deserving Condemnation of Abominable Shamefulness

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pp. 63-65

Truly, this vice is never to be compared with any other vice because it surpasses the enormity of all vices. Indeed, this vice is the death of bodies, the destruction of souls. It pollutes the flesh; it extinguishes the light of the mind. It evicts the Holy Spirit from the temple of the human heart; it introduces the devil who incites to lust. It casts into error; it completely removes...

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XVII. A Mournful Lament for the Soul Who Is Given Over to the Filth of Impurity75

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pp. 66-68

O, I weep for you unfortunate soul, and from the depths of my heart I sigh over the lot of your destruction. I weep for you, I say, miserable soul who are given over to the filth of impurity. You are to be mourned indeed with a whole fountain of tears...

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XVIII. The Soul Ought To Be Mourned for Because It Does Not Mourn

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pp. 69-71

O miserable soul, I weep for you with so many lamentations because I do not see you weeping. I prostrate myself on the ground for you because I see you maliciously standing up after such a grave fall, even to the point of trying for the pinnacle of an ecclesiastical order. On the other hand, if you would bow down in humility...

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XIX. The Service of an Unworthy Priest Is the Ruin of the People

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pp. 72-73

O guilty, carnal men, why do you desire the height of ecclesiastical dignity with so much burning ambition? Why is it that you try with such desire to ensnare the people of God in the bonds of your own ruin? Is it not enough for you to throw yourselves...

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XX. God Refuses To Accept the Sacrifice from the Hands of the Unclean

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pp. 74-75

And if almighty God himself disdains to receive the sacrifice from your hands, who are you to presume to throw yourself importunately on him who refuses? "In fact, the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord."95...

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XXI. No Holy Offering Which Is Soiled with the Crimes of Impurity Is Received by God

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pp. 76-77

For he who despises the councils of the holy fathers which should be revered, who rejects the precepts of the apostles and of apostolic men, who does not fear to set aside the edicts of canonical sanction, who takes lightly the command of divine authority itself...

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XXII. All Four of the Modes Enumerated Above Are Against Nature

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pp. 78-80

No one should flatter himself that he does not fall together with another, if he fell by himself into the contamination of lustful attraction, since the unhappy hermit who was given over to the demons at the moment of death did not pollute anyone else but was instructed to ruin himself through impurity...

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XXIII. An Exhortation To Arise to One Fallen into Sin with Men

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pp. 81-83

Arise, I beg of you; rouse yourself, O man weighed down with the lethargy of miserable pleasure. Then come back to life, you who have fallen by the deadly sword before your enemies. The apostle Paul is present. Hear him crying out, shouting, admonishing...

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XXIV. To Conquer Lust It Is Enough To Contemplate the Rewards of Chastity

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pp. 84-86

The reward of this labour is that you continually look on the promised rewards of chastity, and whatever cunning the sly instigator opposes, you will overcome by the unshackled feet of faith. If happiness is attended to, which is not attained without a transition, the labour of transition becomes light...

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XXV. The Writer Credibly Excuses Himself

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pp. 87-90

Now, this little book might fall into the hands of someone whose conscience completely disapproves of it and who may be displeased, perhaps, by what is included above and accuse me of being a traitor and an informer on the crime of a brother. He should know that I eagerly focus my whole intention on seeking the favour of the internal Judge, and that in truth I do not fear the hatred...

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XXVI. The Work is Directed to the Lord Pope

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pp. 91-92

And now at the end of this work we return to you, most blessed Pope. We recall to you the point of this composition so that just as it was directed to you at the beginning so the closing of the completed work may fittingly end with you. Consequently, we ask and humbly impore Your Clemency, if it is legitimate to speak, that you prudently inspect the decrees of the sacred canons...


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pp. 93-98


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pp. 99-104

Biblical References

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pp. 105-108

E-ISBN-13: 9780889208421
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889201231
Print-ISBN-10: 0889201234

Page Count: 119
Publication Year: 1982

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Gay clergy.
  • Catholic Church -- Clergy -- Sexual behavior.
  • Homosexuality -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church.
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