Vatican warns against nun’s book on sexual ethics

Sr. Margaret Farley

Sr. Margaret Farley

June 11, 2012

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warned June 4 that Mercy Sister Margaret Farley’s 2006 book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, contains “erroneous propositions” on homosexual acts, same-sex marriage, masturbation and remarriage after divorce that could cause confusion and “grave harm to the faithful.”

In a notification signed by Cardinal William Levada and approved March 16 by Pope Benedict, the congregation said the book “is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church.”

It “cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue,” the notification said.

Farley said in a June 4 statement that she feared that the notification “— while clear in its conclusions – misrepresents (perhaps unwittingly) the aims of my work and the nature of it as a proposal that might be in service of, not against, the Church and its faithful people.”

“I do not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained (in the book) are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching,” she said.

However, the book was not intended to express Catholic moral teaching nor was it aimed against that teaching, she said. “It is of a different genre altogether.”

The book “was designed to help people, especially Christians but also others, to think through their questions about human sexuality,” she said.

Farley is the Gilbert L. Stark professor emerita of Christian ethics at Yale University Divinity School, and is also a past president of both the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Society of Christian Ethics.

The Vatican notification says the congregation first wrote to Farley about its concerns more than two years ago.

Urged to “correct the unacceptable theses contained in her book,” Farley sent responses in 2010 and 2011 that “did not adequately clarify the (book’s) grave problems.”