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Vatican: American nun's book on sex could harm Catholics

June 04, 2012|By Matt Pearce

An American nun’s book on sex has put Catholics at risk of “grave harm,” the Catholic Church announced Monday.

Why? She thought masturbating was OK, that being gay was OK and divorce was sometimes OK.

This round of controversy actually started in 2006, when Sister Margaret Farley released “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.”

Farley, a longtime theologian, has long kept company with controversy within the church; she was once threatened with expulsion for signing an ad in the New York Times in 1984 that argued Catholics could hold a variety of views about abortion, according to the Catholic News Service.

So perhaps it’s not a shocker that “Just Love,” although released to plaudits among non-church reviewers, didn’t get the same love from the church itself, which has recently cracked down on American nuns for questioning the Vatican.

“Among the many errors and ambiguities of this book are its positions on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage and the problem of divorce and remarriage,” read the critique signed by Cardinal William Levada of the church’s doctrinal office, which said the dissemination of Farley's positions “risks grave harm to the faithful.”

In her book, Farley wrote that masturbation “usually does not raise any moral questions at all,” to which the church raised moral questions.

“This statement does not conform to Catholic teaching,” the decision read, citing church catechism that says “masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”

Farley also wrote that “same-sex oriented persons as well as their activities can and should be respected whether or not they have a choice to be otherwise.”

“This opinion is not acceptable,” the reviewers responded, reaffirming church doctrine that holds gay sex to be “grave depravity.”

The Vatican’s review began a couple years ago. Farley told the Associated Press on Monday that she hadn’t intended the book to reflect official Catholic teachings.

But whether the church approves of “Just Love” or not — well, it doesn’t — readers have found a lot of company in its pages.

“What distinguishes a contribution and a classic in a field of study is the difference between works that further a conversation and works that reconstruct the conversation,” read a review in the Anglican Theological Review, which then added, “Farley's Just Love is (at the least) a contemporary classic in Christian sexual ethics.”

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