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Vatican condemns nun’s book on sexuality

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Sarah Graham
WVoN co-editor

The Vatican has spoken out against a book on sexuality, written by a popular American nun, which discusses homosexuality, masturbation and same-sex marriage.

Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, an award-winning 2006 book by Sister Margaret Farley, was sternly criticised by the Vatican this week for contradicting church teaching on sexuality and posing “grave harm to the faithful.”

The Vatican accused Sister Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy religious order and emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School, of having a “defective understanding” of Catholic theology and “the objective nature of natural moral law.”

The notification” issued against Sister Farley by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith takes particular issue with her writing on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions and remarriage after divorce.

Farley writes that many women “have found great good in self-pleasuring” and it “usually does not raise any moral questions at all,” concluding that masturbation “actually serves relationships rather than hindering them.”

On the issue of homosexuality, she writes: “same-sex oriented persons as well as their activities can and should be respected” and that same-sex marriage can help reduce stigmatisation of gay people.

According to the Vatican’s response, the Church teaches that masturbation is “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action” and homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered [and] contrary to the natural law.”

The Vatican equally condemned Farley’s openness to divorce and remarriage.

The statement, approved by Pope Benedict, described her views as “in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality” and warned that the book must not be used by Catholic educators.

When it was first published in 2006, American Catholic educators adopted Just Love, and many senior US Catholics have defended Sister Farley since the criticisms were made on Monday.

The attack on Sister Farley’s book follows the Vatican’s criticism, in April, of a group of US nuns for apparently promoting radical feminist themes, “incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

This latest crackdown is expected to further fuel resentment towards the Vatican amongst liberal-minded nuns in the US.

Farley responded to the Vatican’s criticisms, saying “the fact that Christians (and others) have achieved new knowledge and deeper understanding of human embodiment and sexuality seems to require that we at least examine the possibility of development in sexual ethics.”

Meanwhile, within 24 hours of the Vatican condemning the book, Just Love shot up the bestseller list, from being ranked at 142,982 on Amazon, to number 16!

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