Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Peccatum illud horribile, inter Christianos non nominandum Definition:

Latin: that horrible crime not to be named among Christians.

Related Terms: Ubi scelus est id, quod non prosicit scire, jubemus (insurgere) leges, armari jura gladio ultore, ut exquisitis poenis subdantur infames, qui sunt, vel qui futuri sunt rei, Bestiality

An ominous maxim which demonstrates the ancient fear and loathing of the crimes of bestiality and homosexuality, the latter often expressed as, inter alia, the crimes of buggery and sodomy.

William Blackstone's Commentaries, Book 4 which was released in 1759, is completely self-explanatory and self-evident as a reflection of the then-law in reflecting the prevalence of the societal attitude towards homosexuality.

Blackstone writes as follows just after having covered the crime of rape, when he refers to:

"… of another offense, of a still deeper malignity, the infamous crime against nature, committed either with man or beast….. It is an offense of so dark a nature …

"I will not act so disagreeable a part, to my readers as well as to myself, as to dwell any longer upon the subject, the very mention of which is a disgrace to human nature. It will be more eligible to imitate in this respect the delicacy of our English law, which treats it, it's very indictments, as a crime not fit to be named, peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nominandum; a taciturnity observed likewise by the edict of Constantius and Constans: ubi scelus est id, quod non prosicit scire, jubemus (insurgere) leges, armari jura gladio ultore, ut exquisitis poenis subdantur infames, qui sunt, vel qui futuri sunt rei."

Blackstone then concludes his commentary with a few words as to the then-punishment for these "crimes against nature" on which he relies upon the "express law of God", referring to 10 Levit. 13-15. Individuals caught engaged in bestiality or homosexual acts were to be burnt to death or buried alive "either of which punishments was indifferently used for this crime among the ancient Goths. But now the general punishment of all felonies is the same, namely, by hanging."

Writing in the Ohio State Law Journal, New York University law professor David Richards noted the suggestion that the act was so offensive as to be beneath a name among Christians, and reflected:

"Such total silencing of any reasonable discussion rendered homosexuality into a kind of cultural death, naturally thus understood and indeed condemned as a kind of ultimate heresy against essential moral values."

REFERENCES:

  • 25 Eliz. Chapter 17
  • 25 Henry VIII, Chapter 6
  • Blackstone, William, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4, 5th Edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1773), pages 215-216
  • Richards, David, Sexual Preference as a Suspect (Religious) Classification: An Alternative Perspective on the Unconstitutionality of Anti-Lesbian/Gay Initiatives, 55 Ohio St. L.J. 491 (1994)
  • Rot. Parl. 50 Edw. III no 53, 12 ER 37
  • Tayler, Thomas, The Law Glossary (New York: Lewis & Blood, 1858), page 378

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