Nun Targeted by Vatican for Saying Masturbation Prolly Won't Hurt You

Just when you thought the Vatican assault on U.S. nuns could get no more ridiculous comes news of the Holy See's censure of a 2006 book written by Margaret Farley, Yale Divinity School professor emeritus and member of the Sisters of Mercy, for daring to note her own personal opinions on marriage, homosexuality and the morality of certain sexual acts.  The overarching problem had by the men of the hierarchy is that Sister Farley's personal opinions -- which she presents quite clearly as her personal views -- diverge from theirs, so the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (the Vatican office once known as the Roman Inquisition), issued a "notification" regarding the book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, which takes the author to task for specific examples of doctrinal heresy. To wit (with emphasis added):


Sr. Farley writes: "Masturbation… usually does not raise any moral questions at all. … It is surely the case that many women… have found great good in self-pleasuring – perhaps especially in the discovery of their own possibilities for pleasure – something many had not experienced or even known about in their ordinary sexual relations with husbands or lovers. In this way, it could be said that masturbation actually serves relationships rather than hindering them. My final observation is, then, that the norms of justice as I have presented them would seem to apply to the choice of sexual self-pleasuring only insofar as this activity may help or harm, only insofar as it supports or limits, well-being and liberty of spirit. This remains largely an empirical question, not a moral one" (p. 236).

This statement does not conform to Catholic teaching: "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action…"

The notification continues, both on the topic of masturbation and a host of other sex-related and marriage-related subjects, but you get the basic idea. But here, I believe one finds the crux of the Vatican's problem with Farley's work, which regards her treatment of what the Vatican refers to as "the Magisterium," which is the teaching of the church as divined by its all-male hierarchy :

In addressing various moral issues, Sr. Farley either ignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionally mentioned, treats it as one opinion among others.

The document states that Pope Benedict XVI personally approved the notification.

The man Benedict appointed to lead the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is Cardinal William Levada. Before he got his big promotion to corporate headquarters, Levada served as Archbishop of Portland, Ore., and, later, San Francisco. There he engaged in the cover-up of sexual crimes against children and teen-agers, and even retaliated against a whistle-blowing priest who turned a brother priest into the cops after witnessing an act of sexual assault against a 14-year-old boy. Now that, one might say, is a "gravely disordered action." 

[Interesting, BTW, that the notification about Farley's book became news just yesterday, only days after the board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious issued a statement basically saying that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith was not only wrong in its "doctrinal assessment" of their group -- which represents 80 percent of U.S. nuns -- but had also behaved badly in its actions taken against the nuns. Note that Farley's book was published six years ago.]

AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at June 5, 2012, 5:38am

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