Wayfaring nuns

4 Jun

This week the Vatican, in the midst of its Vatileaks scandal, found some time to denounce American nun and former professor at Yale Divinity school, Sister Margaret Farley, for her 2006  “Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/05/us/sister-margaret-farley-denounced-by-vatican.html?hp

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that Farley’s book is antithetical to the ideology and practice of the Catholic faith, and that the book cannot be used as a “valid expression” of Catholic teaching. Perhaps most egregious were Farley’s arguments concerning love and sexuality: “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.”

In short, Sister Margaret Farley is a heretic.

In its official statement, the Vatican avows that homosexual acts are “acts of depravity,” finding them contrary to the “natural law;” Farley’s arguments in favor of acceptance, love and positivity were contorted to solely represent a wayward, non-Christian position intent on sowing “confusion among the faithful.”

Farley and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious are just a token sampling of the female targets recently singled out by the Vatican. The LCWR have been noted as having “serious doctrinal problems,” their focus straying to resolutely non-Catholic ideas concerning female priesthood, homosexuality, and universal health care. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/us/vatican-reprimands-us-nuns-group.html?_r=1

Network, a social justice non-profit organization headed by nuns, was also listed in the investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; censured for its focus on poverty and social justice, rather than the demanded concentration on opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

The “Visitation,” a far-reaching Vatican investigation into all U. S. women’s religious orders and communities, was concluded last December, its conclusions ominously await.

It’s very tempting for me here to wax sarcastic about women not knowing their place, or losing their habits on the way to the homeless shelter. But what’s more troubling and surprising is the fact that these nuns are being condemned for their total commitment to and demonstration of Christian values and virtues. And no, not the ones derived from lurid exaggerations of Sodom and Gomorrah or salacious retellings of Eve’s voraciousness, but the virtues that Jesus Christ himself espoused: love, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, peace.

In 2012, to be adamantly, absolutely, and fundamentally opposed to divorce, remarriage, family planning of any kind, gay and lesbian relationships, and the advancement of women in the religious order is to firmly plant oneself back into a time, era, and structure that no longer exists. To declare and mandate with certainty and ruthlessness that followers of a religion must adhere to dogma and rules created by followers of the prophet in question–rules written hundreds of years ago–is to remain in the past, backward, without sense and definitely with a closed mind and heart.

P.S. NYTimes op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about Sister Farley in the June 5th edition: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/opinion/dowd-is-pleasure-a-sin.htmlsrc=recg                                                                                                     

Dowd notes with pleasure how Sister Farley’s book–published in 2006–has recently risen to the tops of bestseller lists thanks to the Vatican’s opprobrium. Rallying against the notion that sex can or should ever be engaged in for anything other than procreative purposes, the Vatican insists that any such position is fundamentally wrong: a sin against the wishes of God and his on-the-ground stewards, the bishops of the Catholic Church. 3 of these titans have been sent to the States to overhaul and indefinitely oversee  all Catholic women’s organizations, especially troublemakers like those in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Presumably, these bishops had nothing to do with keeping the horbes of molesting priests in their parishes.

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