If the Vatican’s teachings face one threat graver than any other, it’s Catholics reading books for themselves. There are many, many books out there, but one particular Cardinal Levada, and the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are mighty upset about a particular book, written by a member of that liberal elite known as “nuns.” The book is Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics by Sister Margaret A. Farley, and it just doesn’t include the sex shaming and gay hatred which are prerequisites if it’s going to be considered True Catholic Teaching. Cardinal Levada and his friends attempted to man-splain the problems with the book to Farley herself, but she apparently did not adequately change her mind on her spot and bow to the superior wisdom of the Cardinals, so Levada had to issue a tedious press release, outlining point by point his problems with her book:
1. General problems
The author does not present a correct understanding of the role of the Church’s Magisterium as the teaching authority of the Bishops united with the Successor of Peter, which guides the Church’s ever deeper understanding of the Word of God as found in Holy Scripture and handed on faithfully in the Church’s living tradition. 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. Such an attitude is in no way justified, even within the ecumenical perspective that she wishes to promote. Sr. Farley also manifests a defective understanding of the objective nature of the natural moral law, choosing instead to argue on the basis of conclusions selected from certain philosophical currents or from her own understanding of “contemporary experience”. This approach is not consistent with authentic Catholic theology.
How dare she look at the evidence and consider the reality of the world around her? I am beginning to question her commitment to Sparkle Motion.
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 deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose. For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved. To form an equitable judgment about the subject’s moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability”.1
Body is place of shame and shall not be touched! Tintin at Sadly, No! points out the obvious disconnect between proclamations against masturbation and the church-wide problem the Vatican has with priests molesting altar boys.
Sr. Farley writes: “My own view… is that same-sex relationships and activities can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships and activities. Therefore, same-sex oriented persons as well as their activities can and should be respected whether or not they have a choice to be otherwise” (p. 295).
This opinion is not acceptable. The Catholic Church, in fact, distinguishes between persons with homosexual tendencies and homosexual acts. Concerning persons with homosexual tendencies, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “they must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”2. Concerning homosexual acts, however, the Catechism affirms: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”.3
“The Catholic Church, in fact, distinguishes between persons with homosexual tendencies and homosexual acts.” Likewise, I distinguish between people with left-handed tendencies and those who choose to write with their left hands. And don’t even get me started on people who do other things with their left hands as well!
Sr. Farley writes: “Legislation for nondiscrimination against homosexuals, but also for domestic partnerships, civil unions, and gay marriage, can also be important in transforming the hatred, rejection, and stigmatization of gays and lesbians that is still being reinforced by teachings of ‘unnatural’ sex, disordered desire, and dangerous love. … Presently one of the most urgent issues before the U.S. public is marriage for same-sex partners – that is, the granting of social recognition and legal standing to unions between lesbians and gays comparable to unions between heterosexuals” (p. 293).
This position is opposed to the teaching of the Magisterium: “The Church teaches that the respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself”. 4 “The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it”.5
You see, Sr. Farley, you can only respect gay people as long as you don’t really respect us, according to the Magisterium.
Anyway, those are the interesting parts. Levada also has a problem with the parts about divorce, and presumably with the very act of a woman daring to write a book. If you want to wade through the tedium [helpfully translated into several languages!], click over, or if you want the short version, go here.