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Vatican Denounces Sister Margaret Farley's Book on Sexual Relations: A 'Harm to the Faithful'

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By Myles Collier, Christian Post Contributor
June 4, 2012|4:01 pm

The Vatican has come out and denounced a book that was written by Sister Margaret Farley, who many consider to be a leading theologian in the country, over perceived misrepresentations of the Church's teachings.

Sister Margaret Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy religious order and emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School, was the subject of a denunciation letter which stated that the teachings in her book were a "grave harm" to fellow Christians and were not to be followed.

Farley's book "Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics" explores the ethics and understanding behind sexual ethics and the varied perceptions held by Christians.

"This book was designed to help people, especially Christians but also others, to think through their questions about human sexuality ... moving from what frequently functions as a taboo morality to a morality and sexual ethics based on the discernment of what counts as wise, truthful, and recognizably just loves," Farley wrote in a statement obtained by The Christian Post.

But the Vatican felt the teachings and explanations of various actions like homosexual relations and same-sex marriage was not in line with church doctrines.

Following a lengthy investigation by the Vatican, through its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an official "Notification" detailing the misrepresentations of the Catholic doctrine was published.

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"Following an evaluation by a Commission of experts … [the] book contained erroneous propositions, the dissemination of which risks grave harm to the faithful," read the notification.

Farley subsequently produced a rebuttal to the Notification, outlining that her book was not aiming to undercut certain doctrines, but it was only to highlight historical and contemporary attitudes towards sexual ethics.

"This book offers contemporary interpretations of traditional meanings for the human body, gender, and sexuality. It aims to take account of both traditional and present-day scientific, philosophical, theological, and biblical resources," Farley wrote.

When discussing homosexual relationships and same sex unions in her book Farley wrote: "legislation for nondiscrimination against homosexuals … can also be important in transforming the hatred, rejection, and stigmatization of gays and lesbians that is still being reinforced by teachings of 'unnatural' sex."

But while religious leaders have repeatedly stated they share compassion and sympathy for homosexuals they have stood firm in upholding scripture as God intends.

The Notification, endorsed by Cardinal William Levada, expressed the Church's position that while homosexuals are respected, their actions are in direct conflict with the teachings of the Church.

"The Church teaches that the respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society," read the statement.

There are other notable academics in the field who see this as a missed chance to bring together conflicting parties to an open discussion concerning current ethical questions plaguing society.

"The Vatican has missed an opportunity for dialogue when it failed to see Margaret Farley as an important ally in critiquing problematic practices ranging from the hook-up culture to sexual slavery, rather than as a threat to the integrity of Catholic moral teaching," Cathleen Kaveny, Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, said.

Ultimately the Church concluded that Farley's book, "affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality … [her work] 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."

 

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