Not understanding the difference between the Institutional Church and the Divine Church leads to great suffering among Catholics as conflating the two elevates the former, which can be destroyed, and tarnishes the latter, which can never be destroyed.
An excellent case is when England destroyed the Institutional Church in Great Britain but the Divine Church survived.
This excellent article from Crisis Magazine reminds us of important history by discussing the 11th Century’s Book of Gomorrah, which has, unfortunately, a 21st Century parallel, the magisterial The Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, by Randy Engel.
An excerpt from the Crisis Magazine article.
The Book of Gomorrah, written in the eleventh century by St. Peter Damian, has now been published in a modern translation by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, a journalist and graduate student at Holy Apostles College. To the original book Hoffman has added a useful introduction and copious notes. The book manages to be both scholarly and highly readable at the same time.
The level of corruption in the Catholic Church in the eleventh century was immense—especially simony, or the buying and selling of episcopal positions. It was a vice that extended to cardinals and even to popes. Some popes at that time reigned only for a few weeks before being deposed.
In addition to spiritual authority, popes in the Middle Ages enjoyed considerable political power. They “politicized the papacy by appropriating its spiritual functions for secular ends,” Hoffman writes. We are told that Pope John XII (r. 955-963) “lived in a pigsty of lust,” which was so scandalous that a synod of bishops was called to address the problem. An antipope was unsuccessfully named to replace him.
The priesthood at that time was rife with lax and uneducated men, unworthy of their office. “Many priests violated the Church’s strictures against sacerdotal marriage by entering into illicit unions with wives or concubines, with the consent and even the approval of their flocks.” Many also “succumbed to unnatural sexual practices, alone or with others, all of which fell under the name of ‘sodomy’ referring to the city destroyed by God in the book of Genesis.”
Born in Ravenna, Peter Damian (1007-72) had a difficult upbringing. In his 20s he decided to abandon the distractions of the secular life, joining the hermitage of Fonte Avellana south of Ravenna. He embraced the asceticism of the hermitage—famous for extreme acts of penance, and devoted himself to spiritual learning. His abilities as a scholar soon caught the attention of his superiors, who assigned him to preach to the other monks. When the Prior died in 1043, Damian was elected as his successor.
The Book of Gomorrah was written in about 1050. In his labors, Damian was greatly helped by a saintly and reformist pope, an impoverished aristocrat who as pope took the name of Leo IX (r. 1049-54).
Damian warned Pope Leo that, “a certain most abominable and exceedingly disgraceful vice has grown in our region, and unless it is quickly met with the hand of strict punishment, it is certain that the sword of divine fury is looming to attack, to the destruction of many.”
He was referring to “the cancer of sodomitic impurity,” which is “creeping through the clerical order, and indeed is raging like a cruel beast within the sheepfold of Christ.” It was so unrestrained, Damian wrote, that “for many it would have been much more salutary to be oppressed by the yoke of worldly duties.”