St. Peter Damian was a man with a mission.
The church reformer was appalled by the sexual immorality of his fellow clergy and their superiors, who often refused to warn the faithful and allowed the guilty to go unpunished. He condemned all sexual immorality, but especially the priests who abused boys after hearing their confessions.
Damian poured his concerns into a volume called the Book of Gomorrah, which ended with an appeal to Pope Leo IX for reform.
The year was 1051. The pope praised Damian, but declined to take decisive action. A later pope tried to suppress the book.
"Anyone who thinks the problems the church has today are new just doesn't know history," said psychotherapist A.W. Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who has served as an expert witness in more than 200 cases of clergy sexual abuse. "There has always been a temptation to try to protect the image of the church, which usually means covering up scandals involving priests and bishops."
Another wave of nasty headlines hit this week, when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to a $60-million settlement with 45 victims. Plaintiffs continue to demand that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony release the records of the priests, including those left in ministry after parishioners complained about inappropriate behavior with minors.
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