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Peter Damian

1007-1072. Roman Catholic reformer. Born in Ravenna and raised amid hardship, he entered the Benedictine hermitage at Fonte Avellana in 1035, and was made prior eight years later. Having founded new monasteries and reformed old ones, gaining notice from Henry III's court and the papal Curia, he was made cardinal bishop of Ostia against his will. He attacked clerical decadence including marriage (Liber gomorrhianus), viewed church reform as a joint effort by papacy and empire, and gave himself to synodal work, diplomatic missions to France and Germany, and matters of highest ecclesiastical policy and principle. He defended the validity of orders conferred gratis by simonists (Liber gratissimus), upheld Alexander II during the schism of antipope Honorius II (Disceptatio synodalis), and benefited Cluny by supporting Abbot Hugh against Bishop Drogo of Macon (Iter Gallicum). Yet church and state beyond Italy did not concern him; he showed no interest in the open struggle between the Greek and Latin churches. His writings, inspired by antiquity as well as by the Carolingian Renaissance, ordered severe mortification and reveal his tension between the active and contemplative life, whether letters, sermons, treatises, or minor works of prose and verse. Though he was never canonized, Leo XII in 1828 made him “Doctor of the Church.”

See O.J. Blum, St. Peter Damian: His Teaching on the Spiritual Life (1947).

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