Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Farley Flap

Sr. Margaret A. Farley
[Or..."The Pharley Phlap"?]

Boy (oops)…Wow, those Catholic feminist types just don’t get it, do they!? It’s kind of amusing to observe the antics and contortions they’re going through in defending the liberal, progressive, modernist nunsense of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. And now they are incensed about the Notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that warns the faithful that Sister Margaret A. Farley’s book Just Love is

…in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality … 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.

While many of us applaud that action and statement, the Catholic feminist theological front thinks it’s just another indication that those celibate old men in the Vatican are out to get all the really smart gals female scholars doing important theological work that makes a mockery attempts to clarify Catholic moral teaching in the light of current social trends. Yeah. I think I got that right…

To wit, here are some excerpts from an article by Dr. Mary E. Hunt, “a feminist theologian who is co-founder and co-director of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)” and a “Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement”. Uh huh.

If Margaret A. Farley’s fine theo-ethical work causes “grave harm to the faithful,” Catholics live very graced lives. War, poverty, ecocide, racism, colonialism, and sex and gender injustices of all sorts come to mind in the “grave harm” category. But not in the wildest imagination of anyone other than a Vatican bureaucrat would Dr. Farley’s sexual ethics qualify.

No matter that Dr. Farley’s work is completely counter to Church teaching and will lead people to hell. That’s the “grave harm”, Dr. Hunt. Or wait…maybe the women-church people don’t believe in hell? Well, anyway, Dr. Hunt opines that

Vatican interlocutors … leave the distinct impression that they are oblivious to the fact that postmodern ethical analysis emerges from multi-disciplinary, multi-religious discussions grounded in concrete actions for justice.

Are you kidding me?! I thought ethics and morality were supposed to be based on truth. Silly me. 

Dr. Hunt also thinks that "A scholar of Margaret Farley’s stature must terrify the staff of the CDF".

Yeeeaaah. Riiiight.

Dr. Farley…brings a thorough grounding in the Christian tradition with an emphasis on Catholic thought to her books ...  

Huh?! She turns Catholic moral tradition upside down, condoning sins like homosexual behavior and masturbation!

…[T]he CDF theologians boiled down her opus into five cherry-picked nuggets on sex and marriage that reflect their priorities, not hers.

Umm…I think they did that because Dr. Farley’s “scholarly” work runs completely counter to Church teaching in those areas. And that’s what’s important. Could it be that those are the “priorities” of the Church?

There’s a lot more in the article that would be hilarious, if it weren’t so downright sad. I haven’t the time or energy to mock critique it in the way it deserves. Here’s one last quote, though; Dr. Hunt concludes:

Long after the Vatican’s Notification has been forgotten, generations will recognize that the HIV/AIDS pandemic occasioned a seismic shift in moral theology. Real world experience drives the discussion. Margaret Farley’s name will forever be associated with Catholic moral theology that does justice. Notify that!

All righty, then! Read the whole thing if you want, but it’s only worth reading until the novelty of her ludicrous commentary wears off and you start to feel nauseous and angry.

George Weigel
Compare Dr. Hunt’s rant with an article by George Weigel – well worth reading in its entirety. Weigel comments that the American mainstream media sees “religion” as a “lifestyle choice”, and points out that this perspective leaves little room for the very concept of absolute truth.  That’s why the liberal media has jumped on the bandwagon of those poor, oppressed nuns of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Weigel says:

There is even less room for the notion of “the truth” as both binding and liberating at the same time. Yet that just happens to be the Catholic understanding of doctrine: a “doctrine” is an authoritative truth that invites (indeed compels) assent, and that liberates the believer into the deep truths of the human condition and the divine life. So when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, citing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’s own documents and program, avers that the LCWR has come up short in what was specifically and deliberately called a doctrinal assessment, the Congregation is concerned about truth, not power, and about the integrity of religious vocations, not misogyny.

Regarding Sr. Margaret Farley’s book, Weigel observes:

There is not a whole lot in dispute about Just Love’s contents. Not to put a fine point on it, but Just Love makes claims about sexual morality — on just about every imaginable question, from the morality of homosexual acts, to contraception, to masturbation, and on to the nature of marriage, etc. — that are the polar opposite of what is settled Catholic teaching…Still, the author is admirably candid about her views. There is no to-ing and fro-ing here: Sister Margaret Farley does not teach what the Catholic Church teaches about the matters she discusses and does not pretend to do so. What she does claim is that she is a Catholic theologian.

Weigel’s explanation of what theology is and isn’t makes a good conclusion to this discussion:

Theology, as the Catholic Church understands it, is an ecclesial discipline: It is not religious studies, which can be done anywhere. Theology, rightly understood, can be done only within the Church. That Church, through its duly constituted leaders, the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome, defines the boundaries of what is and is not authentically Catholic. That, and nothing else than that, is what lies behind both the Vatican attempt to reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Church’s official critique of Just Love.

There is ample room for exploration on Catholic theology; for if theology is not religious studies, neither is it catechism. But for that exploration to be authentically Catholic — and thus of use to the Church — it has to take Scripture and Tradition as its baseline, and it has to begin from the premise that the doctrinal boundaries of the Church, rooted in Scripture and Tradition, point exploratory theology in the right direction.

I think Dr. Farley and Dr. Hunt could both learn something from that.


  1. She, her generation, and those of her ilk are dying out. Thanks be to God. In their place are some fine, brilliant, true Catholics whose star is just beginning to rise in the sky. Hope springs eternal

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  3. I would like to add one more to your parade of horribles. Peter Kreeft tells of his "colleague in the Boston College theology department, Mary Daly, who has described her life's work, her summon bonum, as 'castrating God the father.'" [fixed typo]

  4. Yeah, they seem to be a dime a dozen, don't they?! But the "new breed" is growing - the nuns who wear habits and embrace the teachings of the Church. Thanks be to God!

  5. Papa Benedict does seem to take Unitatis Redintegratio very seriously - I wonder if he worked on that document during Vatican II. There is the Joint Declaration with the Lutherans, the Anglican Ordinariate, and bringing back both the SSPX and the LCWR. Probably more that I don't know about. Let's pray that all these endeavors work to the good of the Church.

  6. When I first became involved in RCIA at St Francis in Bend, I had the experience of working with a sister who had thrown off her habit and donned a skirt. Although she had claimed it was only a joke, she very frequently referred to the Holy Ghost as "she."


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