.- The Vatican has declared that a book on sexual morality written by a controversial American sister runs so contrary to Church teaching that it cannot be considered Catholic.
âThe Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expresses profound regret that a member of an Institute of Consecrated Life, Sr. Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M., affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality,â says the notification, issued in Rome on June 4.
The decision follows a two-year audit of Sr. Farleyâs book âJust Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,â which argues against the Churchâs teaching on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions and marriage. The Sister of Mercy and emeritus professor of Christian Ethics at Yale Divinity School published her book in 2006.
The audit found that âJust Loveâ did not present âa correct understanding of the role of the Churchâs Magisterium as the teaching authority of the Bishops united with the Successor of Peterâ but, instead, presented it as just âone opinion among others.â
It further concluded that Sr. Farleyâs work rejected âthe objective nature of the natural moral law,â choosing instead to argue âon the basis of conclusions selected from certain philosophical currentsâ or âfrom her own understanding of âcontemporary experience.ââ
The issuing of a notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is both significant and infrequent.
Highlighting some specific areas of concern, the congregation noted that Sr. Farley argued in her book that masturbation âusually does not raise any moral questions at all.â
She also suggested that homosexual acts âcan be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships,â while homosexual civil unions âcan also be important in transforming the hatred, rejection, and stigmatization of gays and lesbiansâ that is reinforced by âteachings of âunnaturalâ sex, disordered desire, and dangerous love.â
On marriage, Sr. Farleyâs book proposed that re-marriage should not be prohibited âany more than the ongoing union between spouses after one of them has died prohibits a second marriage.â
Despite discussions that lasted three years, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concluded that Sr. Farley âdid not adequately clarify the grave problems contained in her book,â which would have prevented the publication of todayâs notification.
In response, Sr. Farley said June 4 that she âappreciated the efforts made by the Congregation and its consultantsâ and did ânot dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching.â
She also stated that her book âwas not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teachingâ but as a way of offering âcontemporary interpretations of traditional meanings for the human body, gender and sexuality.â
Her religious congregation, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, also expressed its âprofound regretâ at the decision against the work of âa highly respected and valued member.â
âWhile being faithful to her own faith tradition and commitments, her sensitivity to the varied circumstances, realities and needs of her students is the context she consistently honors,â said the orderâs president, Sr. Patricia McDermott, in a June 4 statement.
Todayâs ruling means that the book âcannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation,â as the dissemination of such ideas ârisks grave harm to the faithful.â The book also cannot be used in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues.