A long-simmering conflict between the Vatican and American nuns erupted again in early June when the Vatican’s doctrinal office issued a scathing critique of a popular book on sexual ethics by Sister Margaret A. Farley, one of the first Catholics to teach at Yale Divinity School.
After two years of study, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a “notification” on Farley’s Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, saying it contradicts Catholic doctrine on key issues such as gay marriage, homosexuality and divorce.
The Vatican statement retorts that “masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action” and that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law.”
Coming just days after U.S. nuns rejected the Vatican’s reasoning for a wholesale makeover, and a year after U.S. bishops sanctioned another nun theologian, the condemnation of Farley is the latest example of what critics see as a top-down attempt to muzzle women’s voices and an obsession on sexual ethics.
The Vatican’s doctrinal office singled out masturbation, homosexuality and marriage as specific areas of concern in Just Love. For example, Farley writes that “masturbation … usually does not raise any moral questions at all,” and that homosexual acts “can be justified” following the same ethics as heterosexual ones. The Vatican statement retorts that “masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action” and that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law.”
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