A The Catholic Thing the scholar and translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy uses this most important of works to unpack a central issue in The Present Crisis.
There are those today, such as highly tattooed gang of Team Francis, who work assiduously to distract people’s attention away from the true cause of The Present Crisis of clerical, indeed prelatial sexual victimization of mostly post-pubescent males, including even something that looks very much like sex trafficking and covering up these sins and crimes or looking the other way. They would have us believe that “clericalism” is the root of The Present Crisis. No. Sure there is a clericalist dimension since this is a problem among clerics. The real evil root is a homosexual subculture among clerics. Hence, we should call it #sodoclericalism – let’s call it what it is.
In his piece, Esolen describes something of Dante’s layout of Hell. Remember that La Divina Commedia is not primarily intended to describe Hell, Pugatory or Heaven. This works is a vehicle for Dante’s presentation of a new political theory and a new poetic theory, both concerning the relationship of the sacred and the profane. That said, Esolen gives a brief description of how certain kinds of sinners wind up where they do – it is rigorously logical, by the way.
Then he gets to sodomy.
Let’s turn now to Esolen, with my emphases:
The violent are divided into three groups, according to the victim of the violence: worst are the violent against God Himself. These suffer the punishment of a rain of fire-flakes that spark the burning sands beneath them. They must take that fire lying down (blasphemers), sitting at the brink of the gulf of the fraudulent (the usurers), or racing about continually (the sodomites).
If Nature is the daughter of God, Dante reasons, then those who violate Nature in their sexual deeds, meant for the bringing of new life into the world, show their contempt of the Creator Himself. If human industry is the daughter of Nature, then those who do nothing for their wealth but rub coins together to make them breed are blasphemers too, as are the sodomites.
It is not pleasant to ask where in this scheme the wicked prelates of our time belong. Perhaps the question is too narrow. In our age of easy travel, after all, people can get around. Bishop Black might touch down in Sodom, in scorn of God, but only after he has supinely accepted the heresies that make Sodom conceivable to him; and then he takes the Eucharist in hands that smell of that foul city in an act of blasphemy.
But he cannot rest there. His fundamental “creative” sin must remain always in act; there is in fact no end to it, nor can there be. So he weaves about himself a web of sinners of like mind, and this is preeminently the sin of simony, which in this instance is to replace the bride of Christ with a male in drag, and set him about to pander and procure.
It would be cleaner just to sell the mitre and crozier for good old ill-gotten money. But all of this is to commit treason against Christ, who gave His life for the Church, to have her as his bride, pure and without spot.
It appears that if we pull at one string of the rats’ nest we will catch the rest too. I am not saying that all of the bad bishops have been formal heretics, or that they have all been sodomites or men who condoned that sin in others, or that they have all made a habit of putting priests and other bishops in their hip pockets, or that they have all built their lives upon betraying Christ and His Church at every pass.
There is no need to make that claim. Nor do I say that we should always expect to find, among the prelates of Sodom, plenty of the other two ways that Dante identifies of being violent against God – in our time, the blasphemy of gross liturgical abuses, and the laundering of millions of dollars pressed from the hearts of the faithful.
Not always, not always. ? I do not make any universal claim. One sinner is not the same as another. The great general claim will do.
Nor do I say that the people in the pews have been paragons of orthodoxy, charity, truth, and fidelity. We have not. But now we know why some of our superiors have treated the most faithful of the laity with irritated indifference at best, and thinly veiled hatred at worst.
It is hard to take divorce seriously, I suppose, or cohabitation, or the smutty stuff peddled to children in many a Catholic school, when you have your hands down a seminarian’s pants, or when you seat your homosexual lover in the front pew, or when you cannot bring yourself to call God “He,” because the pronoun is too personal for comfort.
Perhaps the scandal will have this immediate effect: The next time you find a prelate who treats the Mass with blithe innovation, or who pushes a rainbow of sexual wickedness in the schools, or who seems allergic to the masculine character of Christ Himself, or who hedges himself with yes-priests and yes-nuns who promote these things, you will wonder perhaps where he is and what he does on a Friday evening.
That may not be fair. But what in this scandal has been fair?
Blistering to be sure.
If you have never read the Divine Comedy, you should. You could start with Esolen (Part 1, Inferno US HERE – UK HERE) or perhaps with Dorothy Sayer’s fine version (Part 1, Inferno, US HERE – UK HERE). There are many renderings to choose from. I would very much like to teach on Dante someday. Maybe it’ll happen.
When you make the excellent choice to read the Divine Comedy, here are a couple tips. First and foremost, make the decision that you will read the whole thing. Don’t read just the Inferno. The really great stuff comes in Purgatorio and Paradiso. Also, read through a canto to get the line of thought and story and then go back over it looking at the notes in your edition.
Dante was, perhaps, the last guy who knew everything (with the possible exception of Erasmus). Each Canto is dense with references. You will need notes to help with the history, philosophy, cosmology, poetic theory, politics, theology, etc. Really. You will need help.