Vatican Critiques Book By Mercy Sister Margaret Farley
WASHINGTON—The Vatican Congregationfor the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has declared that a book on sexual ethicsby Mercy Sister Margaret A. Farley does not conform to the teachings of the Magisterium.
WASHINGTON—The Vatican Congregationfor the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has declared that a book on sexual ethicsby Mercy Sister Margaret A. Farley does not conform to the teachings of the Magisterium.As such, the CDF said, “it cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching,either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligiousdialogue.”
CDFcritiqued the book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Social Ethics,” in a five-page notification released atthe Vatican June 4. Pope Benedict XVI approved the notification March 16, andordered its publication.
Thenotification can be found at http://press.catholica.va/news_services/bulletin/news/29292.php?index=29292"&lang=en#
SisterFarley, professor emerita from Yale University Divinity School, where shetaught from 1971-2007, published “Just Love” in 2006. She has been in dialoguewith CDF over their concerns since 2010. She twice responded in writing totheir concerns, but neither response settled what CDF said in the notificationwere “grave problems in her book.”
Thenotification addressed “general problems” and said that “Sister Farley eitherignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionallymentioned, treats it as one opinion among others.” It added that she “alsomanifests a defective understanding of the objective nature of the naturalmoral law, choosing instead to argue on the basis of conclusions selected fromcertain philosophical currents or from her own understanding of ‘contemporaryexperience.’ This approach is not consistent with authentic Catholic theology.”
Thenotification specifically criticized the book’s treatment of masturbation,homosexual acts, homosexual unions, indissolubility of marriage and divorce andremarriage.
The notification noted that SisterFarley said that “masturbation ... usually does not raise any moral question atall.” In response, the notification quoted the “Catechism of the CatholicChurch,” which states that both the Magisterium “and the moral sense of thefaithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation isan intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”
On homosexual acts, Sister Farley wrote that“same-sex oriented persons as well as their activities can and should berespected whether or not they have a choice to be otherwise.” The notification saidthat “this opinion is not acceptable” and cited the catechism, which statesthat homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”It added, however, that Scripture presents homosexual acts as “acts of gravedepravity,” and that “tradition has always declared that homosexual acts areintrinsically disordered.”
Onhomosexual unions, Sister Farley offered a defense for domestic partnerships,civil unions, and gay marriage and said they can be “important in transformingthe hatred, rejection and stigmatization of gays and lesbians that is stillbeing reinforced by teachings of ‘unnatural’ sex, disordered desire, anddangerous love....” The notification said her position is “opposed to theteaching of the Magisterium” and cited the 2003 CDF document “Considerationsregarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexualpersons.” The 2003 statement holds that “the common good requires that lawsrecognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primaryunit of society.”
“Legal recognition of homosexualunions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only theapproval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model inpresent-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the commoninheritance of society,” the CDF said in 2003.
Onindissolubility of marriage, Sister Farley said that her own position “is thata marriage commitment is subject to release on the same ultimate grounds thatany extremely serious, nearly unconditional, permanent commitment may cease tobind.” The notification, citing the catechism, said “by its very natureconjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses.”
On divorce and remarriage,Sister Farley argued that after divorce, “whateverongoing obligation a residual bond entails, it need not include a prohibitionof remarriage – any more than the ongoing union between spouses after one ofthem has died prohibits a second marriage on the part of the one who stilllives.” The notification said her view “contradicts Catholic teaching that excludesthe possibility of remarriage after divorce” adding from the catechism that “theChurch maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the firstmarriage was.”
Inits conclusion, the notification expressed “profound regret” that SisterFarley, a member of an institute of consecrated life, “affirms positions thatare in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexualmorality.”
Thenotification added, “Furthermore the Congregation wishes to encouragetheologians to pursue the task of studying and teaching moral theology in fullconcord with the principles of Catholic doctrine.”
Keywords: Sister Margaret Farley, Yale University School ofDivinity, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Sisters of Mercy,masturbation, same-sex unions, homosexuality, homosexual acts, divorce,remarriage,
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