Official document from Rome on homosexual activity by clerics

Here is a rather strongly worded document issued by the Roman Pontiff on clerics who commit homosexual acts (Latin original followed by my translation):

Contra quoscumque Clericos, tam saeculares quam regulares, nefandi criminis reos.


Ad perpetuam rei memoriam.

Horrendum illud scelus, quo pollutae foederatae Civitates a tremendo Dei judicio coflagrarunt, acerbissimum Nobis dolorem inurit, graviterque animum nostrum commovet, ut ad illud, quantum potest, comprimendum, studia nostra conferamus.

#1. Sane Lateranensi Concilio dignoscitur constitutum, ut quicumque Clerici, illa incontinentia, quae contra naturam est, propter quam ira Dei venit in filios diffidentiae, deprehensi fuerint laborare, a Clero deiiciantur, vel ad agendum in Monasteriis poenitentiam detrudantur.

#2. Verum ne tanti flagitii contagium, impunitatis spe, quae maxima peccandi illecebra est, fidentius invalescat, Clericos hujus nefarii criminis reos, gravius ulciscendos deliberavimus, ut qui animae interitum non horrescunt, hos certe deterreat civilium legum vindex gladius saecularis.

#3. Itaque quod Nos iam in ipso Pontificatus nostri principio hac de re decrevimus, plenius nunc, fortiusque persequi intendentes, omnes, & quoscumque Presbyteros, & alios Clericos saeculares, & regulares cujuscumque gradus, & dignitatis, tam dirum nefas exercentes, omni privilegio clericali, omnique officio, dignitate, & beneficio Ecclesiastico praesentis Canonis auctoritate privamus. Ita quod per Judicem Ecclesiasticum degradati, potestati statim saeculari tradantur, qui de eis illud idem capiat supplicium, quod in laicos hoc in exitio devolutos, legitimis reperitur sanctionibus constitutum. Nulli ergo &c.

Datum Romae apud S. Petrum, Anno Incarnationis Dominicae 1568. 3. Kal. Sep. Pont. nostri Anno III.

Against any cleric whosoever, secular or regular, who are guilty of a heinous crime.

Pius, Bishop (St. Pope Pius V)
Servant of the Servants of God

For perpetual memory of the matter.

A ghastly crime, by which the joined (papal) states were polluted enflamed by God’s fearful judgment, flares up our bitter sorrow, and gravely moves our soul so that we lend now our attentions to repress it as much as possible.

1. It was properly denoted by the Lateran Council, that whatsoever Cleric will have been discovered to suffer from that incontinence which is against nature, on account of which the wrath of God falls upon the sons of disobedience (cf. Vulg. Eph. 5,6), is to be ejected from the ranks of the clergy and be reduced to do penance in a monastery.

2. But lest the contagion of such a scourge, from the hope of impunity which is the greatest lure of sinning, more confidently grows in power, We determine that clerics guilty of this execrable crime are to be quite gravely punished, so that whoever does not abhor the ruination of the soul, the avenging secular sword of civil laws will certainly deter.

3. And thus because We have made a decree in this matter at the beginning of Our Pontificate, now in a fuller and stronger way intending it to be followed strictly, every and all priests, whoever they are, and other secular clerics, and regular clerics of any grade and dignity, busy at such a detestable monstrosity, We deprive of every clerical privilege, every office, dignity, and ecclesiastical benefice by authority of the present legal instrument. So it is enacted that once they are degraded by the Ecclesiastical Judge, they be handed over immediately to the secular arm, which will exact upon them the same (death) penalty, which is ascertained to have been constituted by legitimate sanctions against laymen who have slid down into this ruin. Nothing to the contrary withstanding, etc.

Given at Rome at St. Peter’s, 30 August in the Year of the Lord’s Incarnation 1568 during the third year of Our Pontificate.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Dan Hunter says:

    Amen,Thanks be to God.

  2. ignorant redneck says:

    If this sanction, essentially laicization and lifetime pennance was decreed by the latern Council, doesn’t that make it law for the whole church, for all time? Assuming that the lateran Council was an Ecumenical Council?

  3. ignorant redneck: The Church and her laws (disciplines) are not like a fly caught in amber.

  4. proklos says:

    Perhaps the Church\’s discipline is not like a fly caught in amber, but the ruling against homosexuality is not simply a matter of discipline. Homosexual acts are not only contrary to church law but also to scripture. There is nothing the Roman pontiff can do to abrogate the clear teaching of scripture on the matter. The current teaching we hear in the Church that chastity is incumbent upon homosexual and heterosexual alike. Hence, a presbyter may be a homosexual but this is fine as long as he does not act upon his homosexual desires. The point is that the desires themselves are subjectively disordered. And since we have the capacity for objectivity, we have the obligation to order our desires accordingly.

    One therefore should not be duped by certain current teachings that homosexuality is objectively disordered and be left with the impression that homosexualit is somehow subjectively ordered. That suggests that God made some people homosexuals. And there is no compelling evidence for this in scripture or the Fathers. The appeal is often made to biology and developmental psychology. Yet, these are no more than conventional theories whose truth is dependent upon what the so-called scientific community agrees upon. Is this a basis for Catholic church teaching?

    The point is that to commit a homosexual act is a mortal sin. Even to willingly and intentionally entertain an impure thought about such an act is a mortal sin. Unless one repents of such acts and thoughts before death it is clear that one is likely to find oneself waking up in a place where firemen are unheard of. So whilst it is true that matters of Church discipline are not like a fly caught in amber— clerical celibacy is a good example— that homosexual \”incontinence which is against nature\” perpetrated by a priest must result in him being \”ejected from the ranks of the clergy\” is a disciplinary ruling that no pope or council can justifiably or wisely abrogate. Any Catholic ought know this.

  5. Somerset '76 says:

    St. Pius V: Not only the guarantor of the continuity of the ancient and traditional Roman Rite of the Mass, but the patron saint of “political incorrectness” in several respects!

    Would that his present successor find his way to such uncompromising fortitude….

  6. proklos: You might have missed part of the point of this document, not about the fact that homosexual actions are are sinful, which they clearly are. The Legislator determines the best way to react to such sins, if they are manifest.

    The document of Pius stripped clerics of protection from certain penalties which the STATE had for homosexual acts: in this case supplicium which could be the death penalty. The Church did not punish clerics or anyone else with this penalty for any reason. The STATE could, however, but they could not do so to clerics. Thus, Pius lifted the Church’s protecting hand from them so that the STATE could try them and punish them according to laws.

    This is not the same set of circumstances today.

  7. Dan Hunter says:

    Why isn’t it the same set of circumstance’s today?

  8. Dan: The state, in the West at least, is not punishing anyone with DEATH for crimes against nature.

    The important thing to see in this, I think, is that the Pope, Pius V, saw clearly that, human nature being what it is, and this sinful inclination being what it is, severe treatment was necessary simply to DETER clerics from acting on their inclinations. Again, the Pope saw that men with this disordered inclination were probably going to act on it unless the repercussions were too terrible to risk.

  9. William Templar says:

    Great work Father, to share this post with us and thus giving bigots the opportunity to pronounce comments from their thrones of judgement.

    And here was I thinking your blog was about the Liturgy! Evidently inciting hatred is also within the ambit.

  10. William Templar: Yep, guess so.

  11. Séamas says:

    By all means, Father, don’t share a document by one of the Successors of Peter and Vicars of Christ in which he teaches the Truth according to Scripture, Tradition and God Himself! It might incite hatred…

    … of sin.

  12. Dan Hunter says:

    I missed what happened earlier.Someone mentioned something about bigotry.What happened?
    Thank you and God bless you Father.

  13. Proklos says:

    Pope Pius’s lifting of the Church’s protecting hand from priests so that the state could try them and punish them according to laws seemed parallel to what needs to be done in the case of contemporary pederast priests. Some bishops in the US believe that the Church’s protecting hand should not be removed from clerical pederasts and they refuse to cooperate with the state in its attempt to try them and punishthem according to its laws. I originally thought that your posting of the ruling was an expression of your criticism of bishops who harbor priests or fail to report homosexual priest who violate US laws. But then you said that Pope Pius’s ruling is not like a fly caught in amber. So I thought that you were condoning the failure of Rome to YET discipline bishops like Daniel Walsh of the Santa Rosa Diocese who delayed reporting a priest suspected child sex abuse until he had escaped to Mexico. Walsh will avoid criminal charges if he successfully completes a four-month counseling diversion program. But should he avoid discipline by the Church? You judge the penalty in the day of Pius V as severe. But today there seems to be no ecclesiastical penalty at all, even though the State does not exact the death penalty for crimes against nature. The Church simply accepted the retirement of Archbishop Rembert Weakland and did not laicize him. Cardinal Law was awared a rich living in Rome and not sent to a monastery. These injustices burn in the laity’s memory. Admittedly the treatment of Fr. Maciel, founder of Legionnaires was an exception. But look how long it took. And then no laicization! A man does not have to take priestly vows. So given this fact there seems to me to be no punishment too severe for those who break them by acts of pederasty. After all, if they repent they may still hope for divine forgiveness. But the pain caused to others by their sin does merit redress in this life, don’t you agree? it might be best to avoid the topic of clerical homosexuality altogether, since discussing it is hardly edifyng morally speaking. And one cannot speak the truth about it without breaking the hearts of some Xtians who are honestly struggling with an admitedly difficult problem.

  14. Siobhan says:

    Séamas said it for me above.

    St. Michael defend you, Father Z.

  15. Proklos: While you may have overly complicated this entry, I can admit that this is a complicated situation. The conditions of the past required certain laws on the part of the Pope. Today’s conditions require different laws. However, what the edict of St. Pius V reveals is a clear understand of the nature of this particular sinful inclination and how horrible it is unless it is checked. It leads also to the terrible abuse of children as well. While that document does not directly address child abuse by priests, it certainly includes child abuse. Despite what many claim, most of the clerical abuse of children was not strict pedophile abuse, but rather, homosexual abuse of males old enough not to fall into the strict category of pedophile abuse. Still, there are all sorts of categories of sinful actions and I think it is reasonable to imagine different categories of censures on the part of the Church. The document of Pope Pius merely withdraws ecclesial protection from clerics, who were in fact protected by special laws, so that the state could try and punish them according to existing laws. Today, priests are not protected in these matters by special laws keeping them from trial by the state. So, this document is really irrelevant to today’s situation EXCEPT insofar as it reveals the Pope’s understanding of human nature.

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