St. Alphonsus Liguori writes in Dignity and Duties of the Priest or Selva p. 112:

St. Bernard said that incontinence in ecclesiastics was one of the greatest persecutions that the Church could suffer.

[🇮🇹 original, Selva di materie predicabili ch. 6 "Del peccato d'incontinenza":]
Dice s. Bernardo che l'incontinenza degli ecclesiastici è la maggior persecuzione che oggidì patisce la chiesa.

Where may I find the actual quote of St. Bernard to which St. Alphonsus alludes?

  • I do own quite a lot of the translated work of St Bernard de Clairvaux, and I do recognise the style, but I don’t recognise the quote. I would recommend searching for the quote in French an/or in Latin. English was not his first language ;)
    – ABM K
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 14:56
  • @ABMK Probably Latin,; I'm not sure St. Alphonsus either read or spoke French, but he was well versed in Latin. The linked translated version of Dignity and Duties of the Priest contains almost 2000 footnotes, most of which are still in the Latin.
    – DDS
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


St. Alphonsus bases his statement upon what St. Bernard wrote in sermon 33 of his 86 Sermons on the Song of Solomon p. 224, where he commentates on Isaias 38:17 ("Behold in peace is my bitterness most bitter"). St. Alphonsus writes this right after what you quoted:

On the words of Ezechias [sic], "Behold in peace is my bitterness most bitter" ("Ecce in pace amaritudo mea amarissima") [Is. 38:17], says the holy Doctor [St. Bernard],

[Grimm's 🇬🇧 transl. of St. Alphonsus's 🇮🇹 transl. of the 🇻🇦:]

the Church has suffered much from the sword of the tyrant and from the infection of heresy, but she suffers still more from the incontinence of the unchaste ecclesiastic, who by his scandals drags the bowels out of his own mother.

St. Bernard's original 🇻🇦 in the 🇮🇹 original of St. Alphonsus:

Amara prius in nece martyrum, amarior in conflictu haereticorum, amarissima in luxuria ecclesiasticorum ["lust of clerics"]. Pax est, et non est pax: pax a paganis, pax ab haereticis, et non pax a filiis; filii propriam matrem eviscerant.

[The 🇻🇦 in the 🇬🇧 transl. of St. Alphonsus is a bit different:]
Amara prius in nece Martyrum, amarior in conflictu hæreticorum, amarissima in moribus domesticorum ["domestic morals"]. Pax est, et non est pax: pax a paganis, pax ab hæreticis, sed non profecto a filiis.

St. Alphonsus's 🇮🇹 transl. is somewhat free-flowing:

La chiesa, dice, patì già grande amarezza dai tiranni che uccisero tanti martiri; maggiore amarezza patì poi dagli eretici che infettarono tanti suoi sudditi; ma la più grande amarezza e persecuzione è quella che ora patisce dagli stessi suoi figli, che sono gli ecclesiastici disonesti, i quali co' loro scandali cavan le viscere ad essa lor propria madre.

[DeepL transl.:]
The church, he says, already suffered great bitterness from the tyrants who killed so many martyrs; greater bitterness did she then suffer from the heretics who infected so many of her subjects; but the greatest bitterness and persecution is that which she now suffers from her own children, who are the dishonest ecclesiastics, who with their scandals gouge out the bowels of their own mother.

Eales's 🇬🇧 transl. of St. Bernard:

It was bitter at first in the death of the martyrs; more bitter afterwards in the conflict with heretics; but most bitter of all now in the [evil] lives of her members. […] Peace it is, and yet it is not peace. There is peace from heathens, and from heretics; but not from her own sons.

Thus it seems there are a two different MSS of St. Bernard with slight variations between them. The MS St. Alphonsus used is less "sanitized".

  • Many thanks for posting this answer.
    – DDS
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 13:33
  • @jean-marie Thanks for asking! It's a very good quote.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 17:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .