The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith slaps Sr. Margaret A. Farley, RSM, on the hand…

In a notification dated March 30, 2012, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) stated that the book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics” written by Sister Margaret A. Farley, RSM, contains “erroneous propositions, the dissemination of which risks grave harm to the faithful.”

In her 2006 book, the CDF states that Sr. Farley—now retired from the faculty at Yale Divinity School—“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 addition, Sr. Farley’s treatment of specific moral issues—including masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage, and the problem of divorce and remarriage—are erroneous and ambiguous.  The CDF notes:

…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.

Because Sr. Farley’s affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality, the notification states:

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.

While the focus of the notification is the content of Sr. Farley’s book, The Motley Monk notes that Pope Benedict XVI approved it and ordered its publication.

Might this notification, approved and ordered before what The Motley Monk called the “hostile takeover” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, provide another signal that the Vatican is going to take a more activist stance in “truth in labeling”?

The warning is gentle, but it’s there.

The CDF wants to “encourage theologians to pursue the task of studying and teaching moral theology in full concord with the principles of Catholic doctrine.”


To read the CDF’s notification, click on the following link:

To read The Motley Monk’s post on the hostile takeover of the LCWR, click on the following link:

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:

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The Motley Monk

The Motley Monk is Fr. Richard Jacobs, O.S.A., a Professor of Public Administration at Villanova University. His academic specialities include: organizational theory; leadership ethics; Catholic educational leadership; and, U.S. Catholic educational history. Check out Fr. Jacobs' daily blog at http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html.


  1. For the liberals it always boils down to permission – even praise – for sex without responsibility. They want to rut in heat like wild baboons and not be held accountable for their actions. They are like an addict to heroin, cocaine or crystal methamphetamine, except that sex is their drug and they want the Church to sanctify what they do – fornication, adultery, homosexual sodomy and lesbianism – in all its filthy forms. They demand in the case of those acts which can give rise to pregnancy that permission and assent means the Church must pay to murder the consequence of their sexual idolatry. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for what these people do. If LCWR fails to curtail itself into obedience, then He may yet do the same to the hippie nit wits therein. Or perhaps He will simply allow them to peacefully die out as youthful orthodox nuns and sisters take their place.

  2. So sad that this book is another effort to pile shame on the head of the CDF and thus the Pope to give more fuel to the fire of the ant-Church-Pope-Hierarchy fire. it does not sound like she came up with any insights that would advance the understanding of human sexuality. There is a legitimate place for the feminine contribution to the topic but Sr Farley is not the one. Also a distraction from the global concern for women’s integrity, dignity and sexuality in a war on all of it from DC to Hollywood to Delhi, Nigeria and China

  3. I admit that I haven’t read the book. I’m not sure how many of those offering opinions have.

    I suspect that Sr. Farley is not basing her work on natural law theology. Some views might make perfect sense if we assume natural law theology, which might be completely incompreshensable if we do not.

  4. John Paul II once gave a speech to the Vatican court judges that they must speed up their processes. This book warning is another molasses experience. The warning is in 2012. The book was published in 2006 and may have sold the bulk of what people would have bought already. I suspect Vatican City is a place where people are rarely fired but that means…no one’s rushing. The other question is this: what percent of US Catholics are going to be aware of the warning if the news like today’s NY Times is the main conduit of the warning? If people then skip todays news conduits, they won’t even know of the warning.

  5. Bill, both the Pope, the Vatican Judges, and the Cardinals have do deal with a boatload of stuff ranging from marauding Muslims to sex slavery to this book.

  6. There is an old saying “The Church thinks in centuries,” so when the book was published and this warning are irrelevant, it re-states the natural law which is even more relevant today. As to whether Sr Farley was writing from a NATURAL LAW position is interesting, the CHURCH teaches from a Natural Law position, on which the biblical truths are based and we slowly plough/ plow our way through them as culture-Church with Grace and Sin dueling for our allegiance and the Dove weaving in and out through the mix. Sr Farley may have been dipping into the Sin bit, judging by the summary of her teachings which the CDF read and published.

  7. Lone Teacher,
    The Church wisely takes centuries to change areas like liturgy where this is no emergency and where there are human sensitivities.
    The Church offices need updating if they take too long for other areas in which speed is relevant….remember Christ with the whip of cords. He acted quickly.
    U.S. Court records showed that this same CDF office had an audio tape of the gay ideas of pedophile Fr. Shanley in 1979. Years later he molested several boys in the mid 80’s because the CDF wrote Boston about him but then accepted from Boston an evasive letter that simply said
    they were working on all such propblems but they would address Shanley in particular. By 1990
    Shanley, on Bostom Diocese medical leave money, was running a gay motel in California. Fortunately state prosecutors didn’t take centuries and he’s now in prison.
    This book in question by now is probably sitting in multiple…not all… Catholic college libraries. The Vatican needs to have an email connection to all Catholic institutions of such a nature that a Vatican email must be read and confirmed as received whereby they could order the book removed and from Catholic book stores also.

  8. mr bannon: The Church THINKS in centuries, not the same as acting but the human tendency we have to delay and that institutions engage in with snail speed is a curse for all of us and our institutions. There seems to me to be no need to drag up the Shanley case, same principle at work. It takes murder sentences 12 years to make their way through several layers of courts and appeals. Not efficient but beats “off with their heads” as the NCCB did at Dallas and “W” did for Iraq 11, both of which cost personnel, cash and horrific loss of moral integrity Jesus was God-Man, knew His OT and Temple Law so did not need to refer His case to the corrupt hierarchs whose Cash Cow he whipped

  9. Lone Teacher,
    If your nephew got molested in 1985 in Newton by then Pastor Shanley and you found out the CDF had the audio tape in 1979, I think you would be enraged and less accepting of human slowness in these areas that require quickness. What if there’s another book by a Catholic of odd ideas being published right now this year, if warning time is irrelevant, then the CDF can wait 50 years and then warn about it….70 years. Reality is that with one billion plus Catholics, the Vatican offices are probably a decimal of the size they should be in terms of workers. Solution: each Catholic send Rome $2 one time donation. Half will do it. That’s one billion dollars to fund a large building at Castel Gandolfo and salaries for decades for many more workers in any offices that need exponentially more help which translates into more speed.

  10. i agree with you, but have lots of experience with Government and Church bureaucracy and cash does not seem to have much influence on moving any of it forward. I heard a story once of a caller to the New York City school system HQ and was sent through several phone numbers for answer to a specific question (forget which now) and did not get the answer. Same caller called the archdiocese of NY Catholic school system, one call got her to one person who answered the question immediately. We all have to accept the things we cannot control as the serenity prayer says, accept reality and do what we can to change what we can. Very little at a time gets changed. I am still waiting for the prosecutor to file charges against a man who stole my property in 2008/7? – the thief was allowed to slip away because the detective said he was in the next county and he did not want to do that. He was busted back to night patrolman and my experience was that he was only one example. I called the whole sheriff’s section in that County red neck Keystone Cops. I guess i am older than you are and have more experience of “liberty and justice for all” IF we get around to it!!

  11. Lone Teacher,
    Coincidence. I came upon my second house being robbed a year and a half ago by a guy who slammed the side door as I was entering the front door….he had the Kevin Garnett, bald black Celtics look going on. I tracked him, jumped him, brought him inches away from the particular judgement, and got everything back…including a lethal weapon he would have sold to my guilt……and I still thank God I didn’t murder him which was close but for God’s mercy. But I have to sleep with a tactical shotgun when I work on that inherited house which I’m fixing for sale…..because he hinted he’d return with a glock. The police came ten minutes later. I confessed what i did to him….but had to let the dude go because I didn’t know who was with him or what they were carrying. The one cop said,
    ” Ehh….ehhh….Yuu did what yuu hada duu.” ( NY harbor)….”now hide that pistol grip shotgun before the detectives see it…it needs a stock to be legal.”
    I got my things back….but I never sleep too deeply at that address.

  12. good for you. At one point the Red Neck sergeant threatened to haul my a** off to jail, his phrase because a man who was supposedly working for me, was actually a crack-head and went ballistic on me, called the cops after he left the house, came back and told them I had tried to push him out the door when he was smashing what he had already constructed. I was on a walker, did not know at the time I had a fractured hip, he was in his 20s. I was the first aggressor, I was not arrested because he said I was an old man and he did not want to press charges. They ran his record and arrested him when he got home, his G/F called me and called me a F**** white cracker because she blamed me! Ugly human beings and clueless cops.

  13. LoneTeacher seems to have an animus against red necks, conservatives, etc. A corrupt police sergeant or a group of officers acting like “keystone cops” are not indicative of all red necks everywhere. I am proudly a red neck. But I suppose all is fair in love and war for this is indeed a war against godless liberalism and progressivism.

  14. i do not make generalisations. I described the ones I met like that, I did not use the n word for my attacker nor call his G/F what she called me an F** cracker, FL black slang for whites. I told one of my protagonists one day in front of a SD that he gave the word N a bad name. He and a class I taught for a private college where the back three rows were all controlled by one lying &^£^%$ set my human rights record back pre-Lincoln.

  15. We all need to pray for your safety here on out and get calcium everyday. The plus of your situation: you could save those two young people’s souls by offering up some of your health problems for them in the Eucharist. I always pray for my bald thug…I’d kill him tonight if he broke in looking for me with a pistol….but I will his salvation every week in prayer specifically. God assigned those two young people to you. A man in a walker can save people’s souls uniquely through acceptance. Calcium….skim milk…intercession for the children of wrath….you’re all they’ve got perhaps. I may be the only intercessor for my Kevin Garnett clone.

  16. thank you, In my sane hours I pray for forgiveness for them and myself and was more than kind to them when they were actually taking advantage. I think that is what Jesus expects, yea, demands but it is not easy 24/7/365. one day at a time is easier to handle. I never realised how addicts lie and steal and deny reality so much.

  17. @ LoneTeacher:

    “I did not use the n word for my attacker nor call his G/F what she called me an F** cracker, FL black slang for whites.”

    How interesting! A black red-neck conservative keystone cop! How do you know that he / she wasn’t liberal? Or is it impossible for a keystone cop who uses expletives to be liberal?

  18. The attacker was not the sergeant. This topic is ended fir me, we have usurped the space reserved for an apparently theologically-biblically clueless Caucasian Irish-American nun, retired from Harvard.

  19. “…we have usurped the space reserved for an apparently theologically-biblically clueless Caucasian Irish-American nun, retired from Harvard.”

    I agree. So then don’t go making jabs and innuendos about Bush, the 2nd War in Iraq, conservatives, red-necks, etc. If you do, then expect to be questioned on it. I am sick of this kind of passive aggressive “we all know conservatives are wrong” attitude. It was you who used descriptors and examples not germane to the topic just to get a dig in at conservatives.

    So yes, back to the libweral progressive Democrat nun who thinks that the following are OK: (1) the sexual perversion of homosexual sodomy, (2) the murder of the unborn and (3) the contraception of new life to permit adultery and fornication without consequence.

    Liberal. Progressive. Democrat.

    Not red neck. Not conservative. Get it now?

    PS, George W. Bush II was pro-life, this apostate heretical nun is pro-baby murdering.

  20. Drop it, including your own labelling of Sr Farley. BTW: Mr Bush was against abortion,” pro-life” is a broader biblical topic and cannot be usurped by any Party or candidate. it helps to have a sense of humour and not take oneself or one’s cause too seriously.

  21. @LoneTeacher:

    Liberals don’t like labels because it points to who and what they really are. That’s why I referred to this apostate and heretic nun in the way that I did. But the liberal response is what that man said to Blessed Jose in the movie, For Greater Glory, when he admonished him to say death to Cristo Rey: “They’re just words. They don’t mean anything.” Words and labels, however, mean everything as Blessed Jose knew so well. (Why is it that a child knows what a self-proclaimed teacher cannot fathom?)

    But I do agree that pro-life cause can’t be usurped by any one party. That’s why I prefer the Constitution Party whose platform is closest to Church teaching. No liberal would ever support such a thing. But while the pro-life cause can’t be usurped by any one party, the Democratic Party has fully adopted Satan’s policy and program of death and sexual perversion. Thus we have Sr. Margaret A. Farley, RSM – liberal, progressive, Democrat, a public supporter of the murder of the unborn and the sanctification of the filth of homosexual sodomy.

    Words and labels mean everything.

  22. And PS, LoneTeacher, your label that this person is a “…Caucasian Irish-American nun” is irrelevant. Her skin color and her national origin are not germane, but you thought to include that label anyways while admonishing others not to use labels.

    What is, however, germane is the liberal progressive bent of her philosophy and theology. And that bent makes her heretical.

  23. Aw lighten up, It’s springtime, primavera. See my pattern of comments and decide IF I am being racist, politically incorrect or prejudiced OR if I am being all sarcastically for some and taking the mickey out of serious comment-ators.

  24. Farley’s book should be immediately removed from all Catholic schools and university libraries and book stores or what would be the point of the prefect’s letter. After they are removed another announcement should be made. The findings of the Congregation should be read from the pulpits across the country so everyone hears this news forget the media–they barely carried the Catholic lawsuits against HHS).
    Next they should focus on the heresy of Raymond E. Brown (see Traditional Catholic Scholars Long Opposed Fr. Brown’s Theories).

  25. Unfortunately, in our American system of education, Lone Teacher is not unique…nor is her morality or ethic…!!! The Church’s basic teachings on these issues have survived centuries, wars, heresies, and martyrdoms…!!!

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