PETER DAMIAN: SAINT, DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH AND FIGHTER AGAINST CLERICAL ABUSE
As I was reading my copy of “Magnificat” this morning, I was stunned to learn that today, February 21 is the feast of St. Peter Damian, a prelate who, half a millennia ago, worked tirelessly to reform the Church, in particular to rid the Church of clerical sex abuse!
And today – intended or not by the Vatican – is the start of the 4-day meeting on the Protection of Minors against clerical sex abuse!
“Magnificat” had this to say about Peter Damian:
“As a young professor, Peter Damian joined the followers of St. Romuald at the foundation of Monte Avellino, distinguishing himself by his austerities and his ardent love of the cross. In 1057 Peter left the silence of the hermitage to serve as cardinal bishop of Ostia. He tirelessly countered clerical abuses. His diverse writings extolled the primacy of the spiritual over the secular. Pope Benedict said of St Peter Damian, doctor of the Church: “He spent himself with lucid consistency and great severity for the reform of the Church of his time.”
St. Peter Damian was, in fact, a reforming Benedictine monk and cardinal in the circle of Pope Leo IX who died in 1072. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828. His feast day is 21 February.
As one biography notes: Although living in the seclusion of the cloister, Peter Damian closely watched the fortunes of the Church, and like his friend Hildebrand, the future Pope Gregory VII, he strove for reforms in a deplorable time. When Benedict IX resigned the pontificate into the hands of the archpriest John Gratian (Gregory VI) in 1045, Peter hailed the change with joy and wrote to the new pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the church in Italy, singling out the wicked bishops of Pesaro, of Città di Castello and of Fano.
About 1050, during the pontificate of Pope Leo IX, he wrote a scathing treatise on the vices of the clergy, including sexual abuse of minors and actions by church superiors to hide the crimes. “Liber Gomorrhianus” was openly addressed to the pope. (CWR image)
And half a millennia later, reformers are alive and well and trying to root out what Damian called “the filth, the rot” that was in the Church.