by Chi Ibe
The Vatican has written off a book on sexuality which ironically was published by a prominent American nun.
According to the Vatican, the book contradicted church teaching on issues like masturbation, homosexuality, and marriage saying that its author had a “defective understanding” of Catholic theology.
The Vatican’s orthodoxy office said of the book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics” by Sister Margaret Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy religious order and emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School, posed “grave harm” to the faithful.
In its statement, the Vatican singled out specific problems in Farley’s book which it said, “Affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality.”
In the book, Farley writes that masturbation doesn’t raise any moral problems and can actually help relationships rather than hinder them. The Vatican asserted that according to church teaching “masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action”. Farley also wrote that homosexual people as well as their activities should be respected. Church teaching holds that gays should be respected but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered”.
On gay marriage, Farley said legal recognition of gay marriage can help transform the stigmatization of gays. Levada wrote back that approving gay marriage would not only signal approval of “deviant behaviour” but would obscure the value of traditional marriage between man and woman in society.
In defence, Farley said she never intended the book to reflect current official Catholic teaching. Rather, she said, she wrote it to explore sexuality via various religious traditions, theological resources, and human experience.
The Farley critique comes at a time when the Vatican is cracking down on the largest umbrella group of American sisters. The Vatican last month essentially imposed martial law on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, accusing it of undermining church teaching and imposing certain “radical feminist themes” that were incompatible with Catholicism.
The crackdown on Farley, a top American theologian, will likely fuel greater resentment of Rome among more liberal-minded American sisters.