Friday, June 8, 2012


The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently issued a "Notification" about a book by Sr Margaret A Farley, RSM entitled Just Love.  A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.  The Notification has been described as an example of the Vatican's heavy-handed censorship of scholars, but please read below its conclusion:

With this Notification, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expresses profound regret that a member of an Institute of Consecrated Life, Sr. Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M., affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality. The Congregation warns the faithful that her book Just Love. A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Consequently it cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Furthermore the Congregation wishes to encourage theologians to pursue the task of studying and teaching moral theology in full concord with the principles of Catholic doctrine.

In light of this, I offer some reflections for consideration--

First of all, the book has not been condemned; it will not be burned; Sr Margaret has not been excommunicated; neither has she been ordered to be removed from her teaching post.

Second, and what should be obvious to those who look at the whole Notification with its quotes from Sr Margaret's book, it is truly not in line with official Catholic moral teaching as enshrined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

Third, this is all the Notification says.  It is patent that by defiinition the book cannot be held up as a paradigm of Catholic teaching.  This does not mean the book is worthless, nor that the author is a heretic.  It means that since the book does not conform with Catholic teaching, no one should pretend that it does.  The book reflects Sr Margaret's theological opinion (or perhaps her willingness to initiate a discussion) and nothing more.

This is surely the mildest of all possible censures; it scarcely merits the idea of its being a censorship of any kind.

"Big Brother" may indeed be watching, but in this case he did not come down with a sledge hammer.

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