A Church Protecting its Own
Yesterday, I prepared two posts on apparently unrelated themes that have been preoccupying my mind for some time. at Open Tabernacle, I have a draft post on the Irish clerical abuse scandal scheduled for publication, while here at QTC I wrote about the little known and neglected history of the church’s active persecution of homosexuals during the Renaissance. This morning, re- reading a little further into this history, I came across two details which, combining both stories, suddenly puts both issues and the connections between them, into sharp focus.
In the mid-fifteenth century in Venice, the emphasis shifted from simply convicting and executing “offenders” to actively seeking them out, with an array of paid officials instructed to comb the city in search of sodomites and also “boys who were patiente”. In the modern world, young boys would be seen as victims of abuse. In Venice at that time, boys as young as ten to fifteen were seen as willing accomplices, and were equally subject to torture and punishment. From 1424 on, the sentence prescribed for convicted boys aged from ten to fourteen was at least three months in jail, and twelve to twenty lashes. Later, the punishments for boys who were passive partners received the same sentences as their older, active associates. Boys, like Men, were subjected to severe torture to extract their “confessions”, in trials where prosecutors were the judges, and where the church and state, sharing between them the assets of those convicted, had a vested interest in securing guilty verdicts.