Thursday, 21 February 2013

Feast of St Peter Damian

St Peter Damian: Relevant to modern times...
Today is the Feast of St Peter Damian. I know not too much about this Saint and so looked him up on Wikipedia. He appears to be quite relevant to the modern Church's situation.

Firstly, St Peter Damian resigned his bishopric. Before becoming Bishop he was a hermit leading an ascetic life, but was sought out because of his outstanding holiness.

Secondly, he was a great reformer, seeing a great deal of 'filth' in the Church of his time. In Italy, there appeared to be something of a 'crisis of Bishops'.

Thirdly, it appears that his age was also one struck by a 'child sexual abuse crisis'. So clergy abuse of minors, it appears, is not an entirely modern phenomenom, much as many believe it is. St Peter Damian was vocal in condemning the scandalous activities of some clergy. Wikipedia kindly tells us that:

'About 1050, during the pontificate of Pope Leo IX, Peter 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.'

Fourthly, St Peter Damian condemned philosophy, arguing that it was not of itself conducive to salvation, but could be employed at the service of the Faith:

'Peter often condemned philosophy. He claimed that the first grammarian was the Devil, who taught Adam to decline deus in the plural. He argued that monks should not have to study philosophy, because Jesus did not choose philosophers as disciples, and so philosophy is not necessary for salvation. But the idea (later attributed to Thomas Aquinas) that philosophy should serve theology as a servant serves her mistress originated with him.'

St Peter Damian rose to the rank of Cardinal in 1057 and shortly after there arose a crisis in the papacy. Today we are told by a writer for Chiesa that the new Pope will necessarily be an anti-Pope by virtue of his predecessor still being alive on Earth, making two Peters for the price of one.

'Four months later Pope Stephen died at Florence, and the Church was once more distracted by schism. Peter was vigorous in his opposition to the antipope Benedict X, but force was on the side of the intruder and Damiani retired temporarily to Fonte Avallana.'

Fiftly, it was clearly an age in which the authority of the Holy See was greatly challenged and that 'national Churches', at least in concept, are nothing new:

'About the end of the year 1059 Peter was sent as legate to Milan by Pope Nicholas II. So bad was the state of things at Milan, that benefices were openly bought and sold and the clergy publicly married the women with whom they lived. The resistance of the clergy of Milan to the reform of Ariald the Deacon and Anselm, Bishop of Lucca rendered a contest so bitter that an appeal was made to the Holy See. Nicholas II sent Damian and the Bishop of Lucca as his legates. The party of the irregular clerics took alarm and raised the cry that Rome had no authority over Milan. Peter boldly confronted the rioters in the cathedral, he proved to them the authority of the Holy See with such effect that all parties submitted to his decision.'

After Pope Nicholas II died, the same disputes broke out once more over where authority lay in the Church. Wiki tells us that, 'having served the papacy as legate to France and to Florence, he was allowed to resign his bishopric in 1067.'

Petrus Cardinal Damiani is a saint and was made a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo XII in 1828.

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