The Vatican has criticized a popular American nun, saying her book on sexual ethics, including topics such as masturbation and homosexuality, contradicted Catholic teaching and must not be used by Catholic educators.
The Vatican’s doctrinal department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a stern “notification” about Sister Margaret A. Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy and a professor emeritus of Christian ethics at Yale University.
The Congregation sharply criticized Farley, saying her writings manifest a “defective understanding of the objective nature of natural moral law” and pose “grave harm to the faithful…”
The only grave harm is posed to the authority of the 14th Century inquisition brain trust and maybe – just maybe – the pile of gold the Vatican rakes in from American Catholics.
The Vatican repeatedly urged Farley to change her text to conform with church doctrine. She refused, explaining in letters to Rome that the book was not intended to represent Church teachings but rather help readers move beyond a reflexive “taboo morality” and think through sexual ethics in the context of justice, wisdom and love…
Farley sounds way too much like a 21st Century Christian to me. And, certainly, to the Pope.
Several Catholic theologians also issued statements Monday supporting Farley and describing her as a serious scholar and insightful theologian. Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, expressed “profound regret” at the Vatican’s response to the book…
Roman Catholic Womenpriests
The Vatican rejected Farley’s views on four subjects, masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions and remarriage after divorce. Farley writes that masturbation, particularly in the case of women, “usually does not raise any moral questions at all” and that it “actually serves relationships rather than hindering them”…
Farley writes that “same-sex oriented persons as well as their activities can and should be respected”…
Farley writes that homosexual marriage can help reduce hatred, rejection and stigmatization of gays…
When the book was published in 2006, America, the weekly magazine of the Jesuit order in the United States, called its contents “an important message in a time in which sexual abuse and violence are rampant and the Catholic Church has failed to protect children from sexual exploitation”.
In 2008, the book received the prestigious Louisville Grawemeyer Award for books on religion.
I admit I haven’t stayed in touch with progressive movements in the European Catholic church since I spent time with members of the worker-priest movement exiled from France by the Vatican for being too close to people who toiled for a living. But, I know about the US church. My family back in New England are ex-Catholics who walked away from church foolishness about birth control in 1942.
Hypocrisy over questions about divorce and masturbation isn’t limited to the Catholic church; but, that body is the loudest, most public focus of silliness in the United States over behavior that civil law and common sense have decided are non-issues decades ago. Homophobia crosses all religious lines in our country – but, the rate of turnaround on that question is moving so quickly as to scare the pants off the stodgiest pruneface at weekend services for any religion. Young people simply have stopped tolerating that flavor of bigotry. Sensible adults stopped long ago.
The question of an independent Catholic church for the United States returns to mind. That the leadership of such a movement might come from the women of the church – so long denied equality – seems to be better than justice in my mind. Such a church doesn’t need to be sanctioned, after all, by moneychangers and antiquarians in Rome. The dollars spent on keeping that lot in the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to could be better spent on good works right here in the United States.
I think it’s time for theologians of a new American Catholic Church – one that eventually stretches from Canada to Tierra del Fuego – to get to working out the details.