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Sister Farley’s revenge

Sister Farley’s revenge

UPDATE: see below

Nothing like having your book “banned” to make sales according to the Washington Post :

From papyrus to vellum to paper to e-books, two principles of publishing have not changed over the centuries:

1. Churches can’t resist the temptation to condemn books.

2. Nothing boosts book sales like condemnation by a church.

Who, after all, would have read Sister Margaret Farley’s “Just Love” if the Vatican hadn’t censured it this week? The Catholic Church delivered the nun’s treatise on Christian sexual ethics from the wilderness of obscurity into the promised land of fame. For any book publicist, such denunciation is an answer to a prayer. On Amazon’s Web site, “Just Love” immediately ascended from No. 142,982 to No. 16.

Maureen Dowd writes in the New York Times:

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith… seems as hostile to women as the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice…

The denunciation of Sister Farley’s book is based on the fact that she deals with the modern world as it is. She refuses to fall in line with a Vatican rigidly clinging to an inbred, illusory world where men rule with no backtalk from women, gays are deviants, the divorced can’t remarry, men and women can’t use contraception, masturbation is a grave disorder and celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages.

In old-fashioned prose steeped in historical and global perspective, Sister Farley’s main argument is that justice needs to govern relationships. …

Taking on the Council of Trent and a church that has taken a stand against pleasure, Sister Farley asserts that procreation is not the only reason couples should have sex. Fruitfulness need not “refer only to the conceiving of children,” she writes. “It can refer to multiple forms of fruitfulness in love of others, care for others, making the world a better place for others” rather than just succumbing to “an égoisme à deux.”


This latest ignoble fight with a noble nun adds to the picture of a Catholic Church in a permanent defensive crouch, steeped in Borgia-like corruption and sexual scandals, lashing out at anyone who notes the obvious: They have lost track of right and wrong.

h/t and read more at Friends of Jake.


Mary Hunt writes at Religion Dispatches:

A first-year graduate student could have handled the analysis in a week. S/he would have figured out that Dr. Farley was dealing with ethical method—how we frame and approach moral questions—not defending the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Grawemeyer Award committee that chose Margaret for that prestigious and generous prize ($200,000 is real money in the theological business) realized Margaret was doing an outstanding job as a moral theologian in the broad interreligious conversation that is now the gold standard in the field.

Vatican interlocutors, who obviously have no clue about such matters, only embarrass themselves by publishing their ignorance in six languages. They leave the distinct impression that they are oblivious to the fact that postmodern ethical analysis emerges from multi-disciplinary, multi-religious discussions grounded in concrete actions for justice.

A scholar of Margaret Farley’s stature must terrify the staff of the CDF. She is, after all, the Gilbert L. Stark Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at Yale Divinity School; a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America which gave her its highest award in 1992; as well as a past president of the Society of Christian Ethics. Dr. Farley holds 11 honorary degrees. In addition to 7 books, she has contributed more than 100 chapters and papers to the field. Her lengthy resume of lectures, workshops, and consultations attests to the fact that this modest woman of quiet confidence is simply an excellent scholar.


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C. Wingate

Michael, I don’t observe that the Roman hierarchy thinks with a single purpose, and I especially do not see that the American clergy think or act in concert, nor do they do so at Benedict’s direction. It’s useful to lay the mess created by American bishops in JP II’s reign and earlier on Benedict so that you don’t have to respond to him theologically. And I say all this as I personally disagree with a great deal of Roman sexuality teaching. The fact remains that this case is not like the cases of Curran and Kung, and it seems to me that Benedict is determined that it isn’t going to come out looking like the cases of Spong and Pike either. Rhetorically, Benedict is well within his rights to say that Farley’s writings aren’t consonant with church teachings. But the trope is that the Roman church persecutes its dissenters, so that’s the message that’s being pressed, even though it is, well, a bald-faced lie in this instance. That lie is indefensible, whatever else you might think about how badly the Roman church deals with issues of sexuality.

Bill Ghrist

“The Catholic Church has always taught that the way of Jesus is very demanding…”

The problem is that most people perceive the Vatican hierarchy’s current concerns as having little if anything to do with the way of Jesus and very much to do with preserving the institution and its male-dominated sense of privilege. This is one of the things that has led so many people to dismiss institutional Christianity as irrelevant to true spiritual concerns.

rick allen

What is most odd is the apparent belief that the Church’s interest in teaching the difference between right and wrong is so that sinners can be “purged” from parishes.

If that were truly the case, of course, there would be none of us left. Not a one.

The Catholic Church has always taught that the way of Jesus is very demanding, whether we are talking about generosity toward the poor, love of our enemies, or sexual self-mastery that does not “seek its own.” Very few of us are able to reach that standard. But some of us believe that holding on to those high demands, coupled with an infinite willingness to forgive when we fall short, most accurately reflects the way that Jesus himself, in the scriptures, draws us to himself.

Michael Russell

One does not have to be very deeply in “graven rebellion” to ignore and protest a hierarchy that protects pedophiles and then targets nuns. Were the Roman curia honest they would have to purge 80% or more most of their congregants who already openly ignore their teaching on contraception.

But we are not dealing with a honest hierarchy but a desperate one.

C. Wingate

Well, it wouldn’t hurt for the Post to tell the truth, which is that nothing was banned at all. And if the Vatican’s seal of disapproval elevate a book so, it mostly demonstrates how how deeply rebellion is graven in the hearts of American Catholics.

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