They certainly don’t make ecclesiastical punishments like they used to.
If you haven’t already heard, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been credibly accused of sexual molesting minors, as well as preying on seminarians and priests for decades. I won’t rehash it all here, but you can read about it here and here.
Suffice it to say, if even part of these accusations are true, Cardinal McCarrick has done extremely evil things over a long period time. The Vatican has banned him from public ministry while they do further investigation, but people are already wondering what else would constitute fitting retribution for his crimes.
On that topic, senior editor of First Things Matthew Schmitz tweeted out a picture of a quote from St. Peter Damien’s 11th century book The Book of Gomorrah that’s now going viral across the Catholic social media-sphere.
Here’s what it said:
The text reads:
“Any cleric or monk who seduces young men or boys, or who is apprehended in kissing or in any shameful situation, shall be publicly flogged and shall lose his clerical tonsure. Thus shorn, he shall be disgraced by spitting into his face, bound in iron chains, wasted by six months of close confinement, and for three days each week put on barely bread given him toward even.
“Following this period, he shall spend a further six months living in a small segregated courtyard in the custody of a spiritual elder, kept busy with manual labor and prayer, subjected to vigils and prayers, forced to walk at all times in the company of two spiritual brothers, never again allowed to associate with young men for purposes of improper conversation or advice.”
Although St. Peter attributes the quote to St. Basil, commenters have pointed out the quote is actually from an old monastic rule.
The Church today condemns torture and the death penalty in most cases, so it’s not clear the current magisterium even thinks that punishments like this are morally permissible.
But the point is that Cardinal McCarrick’s crime are extremely serious and demand an equally serious response, not just a slap on the wrist.