Vatican-criticized nun addresses fellow theologians
Jun. 10, 2012
By Joshua J. McElwee
ST. LOUIS — Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley addressed for the first time publicly Friday evening the Vatican’s harsh criticism of one of her books, saying it points to “profoundly important” questions facing the Catholic community regarding the roles of truth and power.
Speaking slowly, and at times faltering for words, Farley, a prominent moral theologian, addressed the issue during a session at the 67th annual meeting of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) that saw some 300 colleagues gather to ask what the Vatican’s critique might mean for the future of their discipline.
Ultimately, said Farley on Friday, the critique of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of her book Just Love, indicates different understandings of the role of theologians in the church and how our tradition changes and grows over time. [They think they have their own “magisterium”. The phrase “Magisterium of Nuns” might apply, as a matter of fact. In any event, Sr. Farley and the CTSA do not determine what the ecclesial vocation of the theologian is. There was a document on this important question. HERE.]
“We clearly have grown in many spheres of knowledge — about humans, about the way the universe runs,” said Farley. “It seems reasonable … that if we come to know even a little bit more than we knew before, it might be that the conclusions that we had previously drawn need to be developed. Or maybe even let go of.
“Because it would be a contradiction to Roman Catholic frameworks for doing moral theology to say that we can’t. That would be to imply that we know everything we can know and there’s nothing more to be done.” [I think what she might be saying, in fact, is that we are all grown up now. We have evolved out of the old human being, and into a new sophisticated modern person who can chose her own morality.]
In her talk Friday, which came during an hour-long session set aside by the CTSA specifically to address the Vatican’s critique, Farley also spoke of her reason for writing her book, which explores how theories of justice might be applied to help create “norms” to guide our sexual actions. [Yahhh…. not so much.]
The Vatican’s critique, released in a formal “notification” June 4, did not mention that aspect of the book, only citing Farley’s positions on a number of specific issues, which are only briefly discussed in the work. [How much of the book has to be dedicated to the errors?]
Among the areas criticized by the Vatican are Farley’s treatment in the book of the morality of masturbation, homosexual relationships and unions, and divorce and remarriage.
“My reasons for thinking its important for everyone to think about these issues,” said Farley, “is because people are suffering. All over the place, people are suffering.” [Is that an argument for the things she defends?]
Ending her talk, Farley asked what she called “profoundly important” questions.
“The issue is, finally, in our tradition, is it a contradiction to have power settle questions of truth? Or to say we all have a capacity to know what we ought to do?” asked Farley. [Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”]
“We can make mistakes, we can disagree — but is it the case that natural law is let go when we really only know the answers because of grace of office? This is a profoundly important question in our tradition today.” [Repeat after me: “Magisterium of Nuns” over and against that of the bishops and Holy Father.]