June 14, 2012 at 10:07 am EST | by Kathi Wolfe
Gays and divorce and masturbation! Oh my!

Who needs the Vatican if you have “The View,” I wondered recently while channel surfing.  “The View” ladies weren’t dishing about the latest celeb scandal. They were gabbing about Sister Margaret A. Farley, who belongs to the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, is a renowned Christian ethicist, and a professor emeritus of Yale Divinity School, whose book “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” had just been denounced by the Vatican.

As an alumna of Yale Divinity School and a former student of Farley’s, it’s great to see Farley’s portrait among the pictures of other YDS faculty in the Div School Common Room.  But I never expected to see a picture of Farley behind “The View” co-hosts. Not only that, but “The View” ladies took Farley’s side against the Vatican.

Why did the Vatican censure Farley? Because in “Just Love,” a theological volume, she supports same-sex relationships, says divorce is the better option if a marriage can’t be made to work and argues that masturbation should be “moved out of the realm of taboo theology.”

On June 4, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “Just Love” was “not consistent with Roman Catholic theology.”

“Among the many errors and ambiguities of this book are its positions on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage and the problem of divorce and remarriage,” said Vatican spokesman Cardinal Levada’s statement about Farley’s book.

“Just Love” can’t be used as “a valid expression of Catholic teaching … or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue,” the statement said.

That wasn’t all. “The deliberate use of the sexual facility” outside of hetero married couples with kids (or procreating children) is sinful, according to the Vatican document.

Same-sex? Forget about it! Homosexual acts are “deviant,” insists the Vatican statement.

How heretical — making the theological case for a just, ethical framework for same-sex relationships, divorce and, horror of horrors, masturbation!

The Vatican’s censure of Farley would be funny, if it weren’t so troubling and unjust.  How apt that The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith used to be known as The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition. Its repressive teaching on sexuality and marriage, as evidenced in its denunciation of “Just Love,” is demeaning not only to Farley and Catholics but to all people — believers and non-believers alike. I’m not anti-Catholic.  I’m against Papal repressiveness.

“I do not dispute…that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching,” Farley said in a statement in response to the Vatican’s censure of “Just Love.”

“I can only clarify that the book was not intended to be an expression of official Catholic teaching,” the statement continued, “It is a different genre altogether.”

It’s impossible to envision Farley as a champion of “deviancy.” She has a sense of humor and loves poetry. Yet though “Just Love” is groundbreaking in its theology, it’s not a beach book, let alone something you’d turn to if you were into porn or engaging in sexuality within an unethical framework.

Farley, the first woman to achieve tenure at Yale Divinity School, has been working for justice for nearly 50 years. Same-sex marriage “can…be important in transforming the hatred, rejection and stigmatization of gays and lesbians,” Farley wrote in “Just Love.”

Yes, Farley is a heretic!

Fortunately, the Vatican’s censure won’t stop Farley from doing her work, and as a result of being censured, Farley’s book (published in 2006) is now an Amazon bestseller.  If only the Vatican would denounce my poetry chapbook.

Joking aside, let’s hope that one day the Vatican will change its thinking and emerge into the 21st century. As Whoopi Goldberg said on “The View,” the Vatican should “grow up, God did.”

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