Vatican attacks popular US nun over 'masturbation book'
THE Vatican yesterday strongly rebuked a popular American nun, saying her book on sexual ethics, including topics such as masturbation and homosexuality, contradicted Catholic teaching and must not be used by Catholic educators.
The Vatican's doctrinal department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a stern "notification" about Sister Margaret A Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy and a professor emeritus of Christian ethics at Yale University.
The Congregation sharply criticised Sister Margaret, saying her writings manifested a "defective understanding of the objective nature of natural moral law" and posed "grave harm to the faithful".
The Vatican judgment, approved by Pope Benedict, sharply criticised Sister Margaret's award-winning book 'Just Love, a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics'.
The Vatican rejected her views on four subjects -- masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions and remarriage after divorce.
The nun writes that masturbation, particularly in the case of women, "usually does not raise any moral questions at all" and that it "actually serves relationships rather than hindering them".
The Vatican said the church teaches that masturbation is "an intrinsically and gravely disordered action".
Sister Margaret writes that "same-sex oriented persons as well as their activities can and should be respected".
The Vatican notification reminded her that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered (and) contrary to the natural law".
Sister Margaret writes that homosexual marriage can help reduce hatred, rejection and stigmatisation of gays.
The Vatican said her positions "are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality". The review of the book took years, as the Vatican repeatedly urged Sister Margaret to change her text to conform with church doctrine.
She refused, explaining in letters to Rome that the book was not intended to represent church teachings but rather help readers move beyond a reflexive "taboo morality" and think through sexual ethics in the context of justice, wisdom and love.
"I do not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching," the nun said in a statement last night.
"The book was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching, nor was it aimed specifically against this teaching. It is of a different genre altogether."
Several Catholic theologians also issued statements yesterday supporting Sister Margaret. Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, expressed "profound regret" at the Vatican's response to the book.