Apr 19 2011

The Focus of the Council of Elvira 306AD Confirms the Nearly Two thousand Year History of Sexual Abuse By Catholic Clergy

Despite the canon law established by the Council of Elvira, the sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests and clergy, as well as other inappropriate sexual activities and relationships were widespread throughout the history of the Catholic church up to the present time.

Reverend Thomas Doyle, in his “A very short history of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic church”, notes:

“By the 9th century collections of the growing mass of legislation began to appear.  These were unofficial and generally poorly organized attempts at putting at least some of the known legislation in the same place.”

Doyle further explains that the Catholic world was divided into dioceses under the authority of individual bishops, and that each area of the world were developing canon laws attempting to deal with the extensive pedophilia and other sexual abuse by clergy in their own separate domains.

Doyle states:

“The first truly systematic collection was produced by the monk Gratian in 1140. Known as the Concordance of Discordant Canons or more commonly as Gratian’s Decree it consisted of a wide spectrum of texts arranged in a dialectic method with Gratian’s own opinions added.  Though never officially approved, Gratian’s decree became the most important resource for the history of Canon Law.” 

Doyle makes clear that the widespread sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is documented by the legislation enacted all over the world. Each Christian community was concerned in its own way by the sexual violations of the clergy and developed their own legislation to attempt to manage these serious problems.

Grations Decree in 1140 offers the first single document organizing canon law, and is the predecessor to the authority of the pope, which comes after the medieval period in history.

I have not yet found any more details about Grations Decree, but will publish more when I am able to find materials.

However, one of the most direct means to understand the thinking and actions of the Catholic church regarding the sexual abuse by priests and clergy are the records of the Inquisition, especially related to priests seducing penitents during confession. To quickly look at sites offering documentation, go here, here and here.

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