It didn’t take long for the New York Times to report a statement issued by Sister Margaret Farley, RSM, whose 2006 book concerning sexual ethics was deemed unfit for Catholic consumption.
In her statement, Sr. Farley wrote:
I can only clarify that 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.
Sr. Farley is a crafty thinker. Note her use of the phrase “official Catholic teaching.”
Invoking that phrase, Sr. Farley communicates something subtle: She was not intending to write a book that would reflect what the Vatican teaches.
What Sr. Farley is distinguishing between is what the Vatican teaches about sexual ethics and what she believes is an authentically Catholic sexual ethics.
At the same time, however, those who serve on Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) also happen to be clever. Its members possess decades of experience in spotting such crafty linguistic games.
The Motley Monk thinks this distinction earned Sr. Farley a slap on the wrist. After all, the CDF’s instruction makes clear there is no authentic Catholic teaching that is not official Catholic teaching.
In contrast, Sr. Farley would like others to believe that her book is eminently suitable for Catholics, even though it does not present official Church teachings. That’s unacceptable to the CDF.
Consequently, if Sr. Farley wants to write ecumenical theology, she remains free to do so. But if her theology does not square with the teaching of the Magisterium, then Sr. Farley should expect that the CDF will not allow Sr. Farley—or any Catholic theologian who plays the same crafty linguistic game—to pass her speculations off as suitable for Catholics.
In short, “Just Love” is not suitable for Catholics to use to form their consciences.
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