Today, the Church honors Saint Peter Damien, who is a doctor of the Church. As with most saints, he preferred to live a life of prayer and solitude in a monastery, but the Catholic Church had other intentions for him.
His most famous work is this book, “The Book of Gomorrah” which is all about the sexual sins of priests against children. One passage in the book says this “A cleric or monk who persecutes adolescents or children, or who is caught in a kiss or other occasion of indecency, should be publicly beaten and lose his tonsure, and having been disgracefully shaved, his face is to be smeared with spittle, and he is to be bound in iron chains, worn down with six months of imprisonment, and three days every week to fast on barley bread until sundown. After this, spending his time separated in his room for another six months in the custody of a spiritual senior, he should be intent upon the work of his hands and on prayer, subject to vigils and prayers, and he should always walk under the guard of two spiritual brothers, never again soliciting sexual intercourse from youth by perverse speech or counsel.”
Another quote from a chapter titled “On rectors of the Church who are soiled with their spiritual children", Saint Peter Damien says this: “O unheard of crime! O offense to be mourned with a whole fountain of tears! If they who consent to those who do these things are to be struck with death, what can be conceived of as a worthy punishment for those who commit these evils, which are punishable by eternal damnation, with their spiritual children?”
I recently read an article on a fairly traditional Catholic website, and the thesis of the article was that the reforms made in 2002 have largely worked, and the author compared the Catholic abuse numbers to that of the Chicago Public School system. I can’t even imagine trying to compare the 2 situations. First of all, does the author not know how much more scandalous it is for a Catholic priest to abuse a child than for a public school teacher? Also, does the author not know that while school children tend to report abuse pretty quickly, it takes a child raped or molested by a priest on average about 30 years to come to grips with what has happened to them, if they haven’t already killed themselves out of shame?
As we hear in our Gospel today, Jesus, “Taking a child, placed the child in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me."
For this Lent, I will be offering up all of my sufferings for the victims of Catholic Clergy sexual assault, Catholic clergy sexual grooming, and Catholic clergy sexual harassment, that the living will find justice today, and those who are deceased, even by suicide, might one day be allowed into the eternal bless of Heaven.
Saint Peter Damien, please pray for all the victims throughout the 2,000 year history of the Catholic Church, and also please pray that any Catholic cleric who has harmed a child or any other person, in any way with regards to human sexuality, would immediately step away from the priesthood, and live a life of profound penance.