Spiritual Fathers Who Are Defiled Along With Their Children (Peter Damian, 1049)

NOTE: The following article is the 6th and 7th chapters of Liber Gomorrhians (Book of Gomorrah), an 11th-Century Treatise Against Clerical Homosexual Practices:

Book of Gomorrah

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 children—evils to be punished with damnation? What fruitfulness can still be found in the flocks when the shepherd is so deeply sunk in the belly of the devil? Who would still remain under the rule of one who, he knew, was separated from God as an enemy? Whoever makes a mistress out of a penitent whom he had spiritually borne as a child for God subjects the servant tp the iron rule of diabolical tyranny through the impurity of his flesh. If someone violates a woman whom he raised from the sacred font, is it not determined that he be deprived of communion without delay, and ordered to pass through public penance by censure of the sacred canons? For it is written: spiritual generation is greater than carnal.

Likewise it follows that the same sentence is justly inflicted both on one who has ruined a natural daughter and on one who has corrupted a spiritual daughter through a sacrilegious union, unless perhaps in this matter the quality of each crime is distinguished, since, although sinning incestuously, nevertheless, they each sinned naturally because they sinned with a woman. However, anyone who commits a sacrilege with his son is guilty of the crime of incest with a male and breaks the laws of nature. And it seems to me to be more tolerable to fall into shameful lust with an animal than a male.1 That is, one who perishes alone is judged much more lightly than one who also draws another along with himself to disastrous ruin. In fact, it is a sad situation where the ruin of one person depends in this way n the ruin of another so that while one is destroyed the other necessarily follows to death close behind.

Peter Damian is not an Orthodox saint. The Catholic Church commemorates him February 21.
Peter Damian is not an Orthodox saint. The Catholic Church commemorates him February 21.


However, that the arguments of diabolical fraud might not be hidden, I will bring into the light what was fashioned secretly in the workshop of ancie4tn wickedness. I do not accept that this hidden thing should go on, namely, that certain ones who are filled with the poison of this crime, as if taking heart, should confess to one another to keep the knowledge of their guilt from becoming known to others. While they shame the face of men, the authors of this guilt themselves become the judges. The indiscreet indulgence which each desires to be applied to himself, he rejoices to bestow on the other through a delegated change of roles. So it happens that although they ought to be penitents for their great crimes, nonetheless their faces do not pale with fasting, nor do their bodies waste away with thinness. While the belly is in no way restrained from the immoderate reception of food, the spirit is shamefully inflamed to the ardour of habitual lust,2 with the result that the one who had shed no tears for what was committed continues to commit more seriously what should be mourned.

But is a precept of the Law that when a person is covered with leprosy he be shown to the priests (Lev. 14:2). Now, however, he is shown to the leprous rather than to the priests since the impure confess to the impure the wickedness they committed together.3 But since confession is also a manifestation, what, I ask, does he manifest who tells the listener what is known; in what way is it to be called a confession where nothing is revealed by the one making the confession except what the listener already knows? Besides, by what law, by what right can he who is bound by the social bond of the evil deed bind or loose the other? Vainly does he strive to loose another while he himself is ensnared in chains. If anyone wishes to be a guide for a blind person, it is necessary that he himself see lest he cause the one following to fall, as the voice of Truth says, “If one blind man guide another, both fall into a pit” (Luke 6:39). And again, “You see the speck in your brother’s eye, and yet miss the plank in your own. Hypocrite, remove the plank from your own eye first; then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41-42).

It is evident from these Gospel witnesses that those shrouded in the darkness of the same guilt strive in vain to recall each other to the light of penance.4 And while he is not afraid of perishing by leading another astray beyond his own powers, the one who follows does not escape the pit of present ruin along with him.

Illumination from Liber Gomorrhianus
Illumination from Liber Gomorrhianus


1. Perhaps an explicit contradiction of the “Second Diocesan Statute” of Theodulf of Orleans which reads, “For just as it is more abominable to mix with a mule than a male, so it is a more irrational crime to mix with a male than with a female.”

2. Elsewhere, Damian provides a detailed account of the relationship between eating and sexual arousal; see Letter 1.15 (PL 144, 230B-32A).

3.The Migne edition (PL 145, 190B-D) adds a comment to this passage, which also applies to what immediately follows, suggesting that Peter Damian is not claiming that the confessions performed by such priests are invalid. The scholion applies particularly to the statement a few sentences later, “Vainly does he strive to loose another while he himself is ensnared in chains.” The scholion is probably correct, particularly when we recall the string defense Damian made of the validity of the ministrations by simoniacal priests in his Opusc. 6.

4. Literally, “whoever is shrouded in the darkness of the same guilt strives in vain to recall another to the light of penance.”

Lot's Wife