The 260's, that is.
The history of child molestation in the Catholic Church goes back centuries. The first official decree on the subject was written at the Council of Elvira, held around A.D. 305 near Granada, Spain. The precise history is complicated, but the council is traditionally believed to have set down 81 rules for behavior, the 71st of which is: "Those who sexually abuse boys may not commune even when death approaches." It was the harshest one-strike policy: If you're caught abusing a child, you are not only laicized, but permanently excommunicated—damned for all time.UPDATE: Corm O'Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland and author of Beyond Belief, tweets a salutary correction:
The other major condemnation of clerical sex abuse was The Book of Gomorrah, completed by radical church reformer Father Peter Damian (a Benedictine monk, as it happens, who became a cardinal) in 1051. He appealed directly to the pope about the abuse of children, as well as consensual sex among clergy—in howling language: "O unheard of crime! O outrage to be mourned with a whole fountain of tears!... What fruitfulness can still be found in the flocks when the shepherd is so deeply sunk in the belly of the devil!"
In the 1930s, a priest-psychiatrist—and also a Benedictine—named Reverend Thomas Verner Moore researched the higher-than-usual rates of insanity and alcoholism among Catholic clergy. He suggested the church build an asylum for priests. The U.S. Catholic Bishops turned down his request in 1936. Father Moore became a Carthusian hermit.
In 1947, Father Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez, New Mexico—the same institution Father Poole was to visit almost 50 years later.
In a 1957 letter to the Bishop of Manchester, Father Fitzgerald wrote that predatory priests (who he euphemistically refers to as "schizophrenic") cannot be effectively treated and should not be allowed to continue in the ministry:
Their repentance and amendment is superficial and, if not formally at least subconsciously, is motivated by a desire to be again in a position where they can continue their wonted activity. A new diocese means only green pastures... We are amazed to find how often a man who would be behind bars if he were not a priest is entrusted with the cura animarum [the cure, or care, of souls].By the early 1960s, Father Fitzgerald had seen enough chronic pedophiles that he did not want to treat them and have them rereleased into the ministry, but, as he proposed in a letter to Archbishop Davis, to build an "island retreat... but even an island is too good for these vipers."
@jusiper Actually further. 117ad Bishop Athenagoras characterised pederasts as foes for Christianity, subjected them to excommunicationSo it wasn't the 260's. It was the 60's. Literally!