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CDF Notification: Sr. Margaret Farley, R.S.M.

NEWS

Today at Roman Noon the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a Notification about the book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (New York: Continuum, 2006) by Sr. Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M. (Read Luke Timothy Johnson's review of the book here.)

For those who dont already know about her, here are some highlights from the Yale Divinity School website: A Sister of Mercy, Farley was the first woman appointed to serve full-time on the YDS faculty and shared with Henri Nouwen the distinction of being the first Roman Catholic faculty member at the Divinity School. She is widely published and the recipient of the John Courtney Murray Award from the Catholic Theological Society of America. She has served as president of both the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Society of Christian Ethics. Respected not only as a scholar but as a teacher as well, she appeared on the cover of the Yale Alumni Magazine in 1986 in connection with a feature article on great teachers. She began teaching at Yale Divinity School in 1971 and earned her Ph.D. from the University in 1973. She retired as professor emerita in 2007.

The process toward the Notification began on March 29, 2010, with a preliminary evaluation indicating the doctrinal problems present in the text. According to the CDF, Sr. Farleys response of October 28, 2010 did not clarify these problems in a satisfactory manner. Then, following an evaluation by a Commission of experts, the CDF confirmed on June 8, 2011, that the book contains erroneous propositions, the dissemination of which risks grave harm to the faithful. On July 5, 2011, a letter was sent inviting Sr. Farley to correct the unacceptable theses in her book.

On October 3, 2011, the response of Sr. Farley was forwarded to the CDF, and this response, having been examined by the Commission of experts, was submitted to the Ordinary Session of the CDF for judgment on December 14, 2011. The resulting Notification results from that meeting.

The Notification casts judgment on Sr. Farleys book in five specific areas: masturbation; homosexual acts; homosexual unions; indissolubility of marriage; and divorce and remarriage. It also accuses the book of these general problems: Sr. Farley either ignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionally mentioned, treats it as one opinion among others. ... "Sr. Farley also manifests a defective understanding of the objective nature of the natural moral law, choosing instead to argue on the basis of conclusions selected from certain philosophical currents or from her own understanding of contemporary experience."

In the end, the Notification concludes that the book is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Consequently it cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

In her response to todays Notification about the book, Sr. Farley does not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching. She explains 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.

Growing out of my work as a Professor of Christian Ethics at Yale University Divinity School, she writes, this book was designed to help people, especially Christians but also others, to think through their questions about human sexuality. It suggests the importance of moving from what frequently functions as a taboo morality to a morality and sexual ethics based on the discernment of what counts as wise, truthful, and recognizably just loves. Although my responses to some particular sexual ethical questions do depart from some traditional Christian responses, I have tried to show that they nonetheless reflect a deep coherence with the central aims and insights of these theological and moral traditions. Whether through interpretation of biblical texts, or through an attempt to understand concrete reality (an approach at the heart of natural law), the fact that Christians (and others) have achieved new knowledge and deeper understanding of human embodiment and sexuality seems to require that we at least examine the possibility of development in sexual ethics. This is what my book, Just Love, is about.

ANALYSIS

At this initial moment, here are a few comments from my perspective as a scholar of the Bible and a historian of Christianity.

"Philosophical Currents."

The Notification denigrates the books method for arguing on the basis of conclusions from certain philosophical currents. Certainly the Magisterium understands that all of our Christian worldviews have been to some degree governed by philosophical currents, whether by Platonism and Stoicism in antiquity, Aristotelianism in the middle ages, or the epistemologies of Descartes and the Scientific Revolution later. Which philosophical currents are under suspicion, and why? The relationship between theology and philosophy is not a "general problem." It must be some specific philosophical current that is the problem, but the Notification doesn't explain this.

"Experience" and Theology.

The Notification rejects the books recourse to contemporary experience. As a historian and biblical scholar, I find this puzzling. Christian theologians and ethicists have been drawing from contemporary experience from the time of Jesus onward. For example: In the first century, Jewish-Christians reflected on their experience of getting to know Gentiles -- in order to ultimately decide how to include them in Gods love and plan. Or consider how, in the 20th-century, Gentile-Christians reflected on their experience of relating with Jews -- and decided not to persecute them and even to elevate them in esteem (an insight later enshrined in the magisterial document, Nostra Aetate). These are examples of how Catholic thought -- including official teachings of the early Church and later of the hierarchical Magisterium -- has changed over time based on relationships of personal experience. If personal experience no longer constitutes part of an adequate basis for theology and ethics, why not? What is the argument? When did this change?

Who gets to say what?

Sr. Farley's book is quite clear to point out when her own opinion differs from magisterial teaching, and so it is hard to see why her book should be singled out. She makes careful use of the phrases my own view or my own position on matters of disagreement with official Catholic teaching. She's not the only prominent theologian to do so. Pope Benedict XVI -- writing under his scholarly name, Joseph Ratzinger -- has published two books on Jesus of Nazareth. In the introductory pages and throughout the text, he makes clear that he speaks in these pages as an individual scholar, searching for the truth as a man of fides quaerens intellectum. By his favorable quotations of the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas or his questioning of the historical veracity of Matthew's Passion Narrative, will faithful Christians be led astray?

If even the Pope -- whose every word and move is watched globally -- is permitted to step out of his office and write as a spiritual seeker and theologian, what about a woman religious with a Ph.D. and forty years' experience in the classroom? The Pope draws from contemporary philosophical currents (historical criticism derived from an Enlightenment consciousness) and contemporary experience (of anti-Semitism and its horrific effects) in the course of his presentation of Jesus. Just as with the Pope's books on Jesus, attentive readers of Sr. Farley's book on ethics know that she clearly states when she is speaking her own opinion about the principles of just relationships. Its hard to imagine how Catholic readers would be in danger of mistaking her assessments for those of the Catechism. And after over forty years as a professor at a prominent seminary, Sr. Farley knows that she is not giving the faithful questions that they don't already have. The faithful know what the Catechism says, and if we don't, it's easy to find out.

But the faithful also have close, personal experiences with faithful Christians who, for example: divorced a spouse because the relationship was unjust and causing grave harm; lived in a relationship of vastly unequal power and wanted to end it but couldnt; or were raised from childhood to be men or women of stalwart faith and morality by their faithful parents, who happened to be of the same sex. Sr. Farley's book results from years of study and witness to the questions raised by men and women who tried to live their Christian lives with faithfulness and righteousness.

UPDATE:

A roundup of responses from other academics can be found here. Farley's statement is here. And here's the statement from the president of her community, Sr. Pat McDermott.

Related: CTSA statement on St. Margaret Farley, by Grant Gallicho
Lisa Cahill on Margaret Farley and the CDF, by Michael Peppard
Cherchez la femme, by Mollie Wilson O'Reilly
What's Justice Got to Do with It? by Luke Timothy Johnson

 

About the Author

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.

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Sr. Farley's own response suggests why her book was singled out for censure. Helping people "think through" to conclusions that are in direct conflict with perennial moral Teaching is a disservice. It's like sending someone who asks for directions down a wrong road, or teaching a child to be ignorant. Her position in the academy only exacerbates the difficulty of justifying this kind of teaching.The comparison with Jesus of Nazareth is inapt, because that book does not challenge perennial Teaching (the conclusions of Chalcedon, for example). Inviting criticisms regarding method or argumentation or conclusions is not the same as admitting, as Farley does, that they"depart from some traditional Christian responses."

Michael Peppard discusses Pope Benedict's recent books that were published under his name as a scholar, Joseph Ratzinger. Ratzing/Benedict is not a biblical scholar by training. Peppard correctly points out how contemporary currents of thought influenced certain parts of his books. True enough.Peppard mentions historical criticism in biblical studies. But historical criticism in biblical studies was famously endorsed in an encyclical by Pope Pius XII in the 1940s, I believe. So Ratzinger/Benedict is drawing on an approach to biblical studies that has been sanctioned by a pope's encyclical. In short, Ratzinger/Benedict is not breaking new ground.Peppard also mentions contemporary experience of anti-Semitism and its horrific effects. But the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) issued a famous declaration regarding anti-Semitism and its horrific effects. So Ratzinger/Benedict is echoing church-approved themes. In short, Ratzing/Benedict is not breaking new ground.

Luke Timothy Johnson reviewed Farley's book for Commonweal in 2007: read his review here.

Michael - thanks for this information and your analysis. I note that your analysis doesn't address the five specific areas that the CDF found problematic in this book: "masturbation; homosexual acts; homosexual unions; indissolubility of marriage; and divorce and remarriage". It's not clear from your post whether you've read the book; if you have, or if other folks here have, can we have a summary of why this specific content is problematic?Also: is the Notification itself published on the web somewhere?In addition: as your post notes, the CDF has judged that "the book contains erroneous propositions". And,for her part, "Sr. Farley does not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching." Is this, in a sense, a public agreement rather than a public disagreement? Finally, I have a number of questions to which I'd appreciate your insight and the insight of others: Is it fair to presume that a theologian of Sr. Farley's stature would have known, when she wrote the content of the book, that she was exposing herself to the risk of this sort of censure? Is "censure" the right descriptor for what this notification constitutes; could it be thought of, less as a punishment, and more as, quite simply and literally, a notification to readers, catechists, teachers, and so on that whatever is in this book doesn't get the CDF's equivalent of the Good Housekeeping seal of approval? Does the CDF have different expectations/standards for clergy and religious theologians than for lay theologians? And does this incident have any impact on the state of the relationship between Rome and American religious sisters?

Michael,Margaret Farley and I entered the Yale Graduate School together in Fall 1967, part of the first wave of Catholics studying for doctorates in theology at non-Catholic universities after Vatican II.We also served together on the Board of the Catholic Theological Society of America.I endorse many of the comments made by colleagues (in the link you provide to NCR) regarding her dedication and generosity as teacher and mentor.A considerable merit of your post is that you carefully distinguish "News" and "Analysis." For, crucial to this, and other issues, is the understanding of the task and responsibility of Catholic Theology.In this regard two brief comments regarding your "Analysis:"1. You write that "all our Christian worldviews have been to some degree governed by philosophical currents." I'm glad you said "to some degree;" but I wish you had not said "governed." They are ultimately governed by God's revelation in Jesus Christ who "must always be the Measure and not that what is measured" (as "Called to Be Catholic" puts it). 2. Thus the appeal to "personal experience" must always be measured by the normative revelation in Christ. "Experience," as you know, is one of the most difficult philosophical notions, and widespread invocation of "my experience" is (or at least should be) only the beginning of an ecclesial discernment that recognizes that "not every spirit (or experience) is to be trusted."

The Vatican notification, in English, is here:http://press.catholica.va/news_services/bulletin/news/29292.php?index=29...'s response is here:http://notesfromthequad.yale.edu/statement-margaret-farleySister Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas (Farley's community) responds here: http://www.sistersofmercy.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=...

Mollie: Margaret Farley's book has been reviewed not only in COMMONWEAL but also in AMERICA and elsewhere. At Amazon.com, the entry for Farley's book includes selected short quotations from a number of reviews and at the end of each quotation the reviewer's name and the name of the publication in which the review was published are given.Would it be possible for you to provide links to a number of reviews of Farley's book?

Sister McDermott writes, "I know that I speak for our membership...," which seems like quite an unusual thing for a leader of a complex organization to say. I guess in England, leaders speak like that, but it's unusual in the U.S.

http://www.amazon.com/Just-Love-Framework-Christian-Sexual/dp/0826429246...'s 147,982 now on Amazon. What will it be by this time tomorrow?A good book to read along with Margaret Farley's book would be The Social Conquest of Earth, by E. O. Wilson. http://www.amazon.com/Social-Conquest-Earth-Edward-Wilson/dp/0871404133/... that:"But the logic of Humanae Vitae is wrong. It leaves out a vital fact. An abundance of evidence from psychology and reproductive biology, much of it obtained since the 1960s, has revealed that there is another, additional purpose to sexual intercourse. Human females have hidden external genitalia and do not advertise estrus, thus differing from females of other primate species. Both men and women, when bonded, invite continuous and frequent intercourse. The practice is genetically adaptive: it ensures that the woman and her child have help from the father." P. 253.

Since I have not read Margaret Farley's book I will not comment on this specific matter. But I will say that my experience of her was that she is a wonderful teacher and an extraordinarily kind person and even though I disagree with a number of her positions I am saddened by this turn of events. My only hope is that this notification will be the end of the matter.

Her response is charming:"Hence, I fear the Notificationwhile clear in its conclusionsmisrepresents (perhaps unwittingly) the aims of my work and the nature of it as a proposal that might be in service of, not against, the church and its faithful people."

Just Love's Amazon ranking went from 147,982 to 15,586 in a matter of minutes. Congratulations, CDF.

A similar bump happened for Elizabeth Johnson's book when the CDF critiqued it.I keep sending my stuff to Cardinal Levada, but haven't heard anything. Dang.

Jim Pauwels raise more questions than I am going to attempt to answer.But, yes, Sister Margaret Farley would know about Ratzinger/Benedict's war on Catholic theologians.She is old enough to remember that the Catholic University of America fired the Catholic priest and moral theologian Charles Curran. (Fr. Curran is still a priest in good standing in his home diocese. For years, he's been teaching in the school of divinity at Southern Methodist University in Texas.)For further information about Ratzinger/Benedict's decades-old war on Catholic theologians, see Matthew Fox's fine book THE POPE'S WAR: WHY RATZINGER'S SECRET CRUSADE HAS IMPERILED THE CHURCH AND HOW IT CAN BE SAVED (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2011).

I would guess that Amazon's general readership is not the CDF's target audience, but rather the students in Christian Ethics 201 at any number of Catholic colleges and universities.

Maybe this quotation from the pope's address to clergy yesterday points up some of the differences at the heart of the Farley affair:"The shining light of pastoral charity and a unified heart is sacerdotal celibacy and enshrined virginity."http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/06/poseur.html

Yes, Grant and David G., Continuum Press will have another surprising payday (they published Elizabeth Johnson's Quest too).

When I was in the Jesuits, I did my theological studies at the Jesuit theologate that is part of a graduate consortium at the University of Toronto.In a course in moral theology that I took from a Jesuit professor, he remarked one day in class that the Vatican authorities do not care what philosophy you may draw on in your moral reasoning as long as you do not reach any conclusions other than the established moral doctrines taught by the church. He was quite serious about this, and he was clearly exasperated with Vatican authorities.

Thanks to David for the last post.Also, at America right after a thread on this at "In All Things" is a post on "Is Common Ground posible?" I believe with a strong push for civility by Sr. Goetmiler in a talk a at CU.I'm sad to say that I think it's impossible now, civility or no, in the CDF model Church we operate in.Definitive(magisterial) Catholicism trumps all from the top down.The level of growth/dialogue possible in that context is dying in loyalty oath, 'careful what you say" "fall in line or face problems" Church.Then there's this: in the world of modernity, the Chgurch faces serious issues around the sexuality and the place of women. Mere restatements of magisterium aren't going to resolve these!This will be seen not only as a"bump" for the book but another lurch backward. Church.

I'd be interested in hearing what folks think was at stake here: there has been a real focus in Benedict's papacy on stressing a traditional Christology (the Beth Johnson and Roger Haight and Peter Phan cases, it seems). Farley's case seems of a different order. Certainly the optics -- she is a sister, her writing focuses on sex, the Vatican v the LCWR etc -- will make many focus on a gender bias, and that can be part of it, no doubt. Or is it about authority? Or just drawing lines? Or maybe Cdl Levada sees retirement in the offing and wants to tie up some loose ends?

Leaving aside the actual issues of ethics and eccelsiology involved (which we've all been over eleventy billion times...though that doesn't make them less important), I have to agree with Lisa Cahill that "the timing of this intervention is incredibly and ironically bad." Are we missing something here? What could the strategy have been in releasing it now? *Was* there a strategy? Does the CDF consult local bishops about how to create the conditions for the possibility of their message actually being heard? Given that both the CDF and the USCCB are now even more than usually interested in making effective public arguments (given the concerns about religious liberty and the New Evangelization), that (what at least appears to be) so little care was used in thinking about how best to release this report is deeply sad and disheartening.

When are syllabi for the fall semester ordinarily turned in to the Dean's office?

Kathy,Due to (very stupid) new federal and state laws concerning textbook orders, we had to have our book orders for the fall semester in by around the end of March. So the Vatican is (no surprise, really) a bit late.

"When are syllabi for the fall semester ordinarily turned in to the Deans office?"Kathy - inasmuch as book orders already have been placed: for an undergraduate-level theology course, do you think this notification should disqualify this book as a textbook? At the collegiate level, shouldn't the teacher and students be able to discuss and critique Farley's arguments? What about pairing it with a book that presents cogent arguments for a more traditional Catholic sexual morality? It seems to me that could make for an interesting and illuminating course.

Margaret Farley is a deeply respected scholar who has devoted her career to pursuing questions of pastoral as well as academic importance. Just Love is notable for its consideration of the under-appreciated question of justice as it pertains to questions of sexual ethics. It's a marvelous work. What the CDF seems to have done (again!--this was key to the attack on Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler's work The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology as well,) is to assume that any deviation from current magisterial teaching on sexuality MUST be in error. The effect of this approach is to regard teachings that are nowhere in magisterial teaching defined as irreformable as de facto irreformable. But magisterial teaching on sexual issues does, in fact, change. It does so in part as a result of careful and faithful scholarship like Farley's. Further, this kind of notification creates the impression that theological argumentation informed by the best available human knowledge--theological, scientific, artistic, experiential--is irrelevant to magisterial teaching. It implies that questions once settled, and argued in light of now-obsolete understandings of the human person, are settled forever. Thomas Aquinas spins in his grave.

#634 now.

Charlie, if only there were such a coordinated strategy. FWIW, I think if there was a motivation behind it, it might have been the rather obstinate one that p.r. be damned, we will say what we want when we want -- in season and out. Yeah, that's a nice principle, but it can be a self-justifying and self-soothing approach that ignores how something will play out in the pews and the public. But really, look at the history of the Vatican, and the documents that have emerged from the leaks scandal. Peter doesn't know what Paul is doing, and the curia is more like Babel than Pentecost under Bertone, not that it was ever a smooth operation. Also, the CDF does what it likes when it likes -- La Suprema also enjoys the support of its previous head, now Supreme Pontiff. Last thing is that this is a bit like the Supreme Court -- handing down decisions before the summer exodus.

It seems in my very humble opinion that not only have the windows been closed in the Vatican since Pope JP II's papacy---but during Benedict's pontificate---even the doors are closed as well. And now with Cardinal Levada assuming Joseph Ratzinger's old post as head of the CDF---no oxygen is permitted. Only gasses are permitted that will preserve was WAS (in times gone by).Sister Margaret Farley, was in double jeopardy with her book. 1) She is a woman theologian and 2) she is an American woman religious of a community that belongs to LCWR. Given the accusations brought against the LCWR---Sr. Margaret's book would be under the microscope as far as "orthodoxy" is concerned. The CDF is only capable of seeing issues in black/white----any shades of color are totally out of the question. Scientific development and theology (as in the case of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson) or psychological development, personal experiences, and interreligious dialogue (as in the case of Sr. Margaret Farley)----are foreign and suspect areas of reference as far as the CDF (and its American counterpart---the Doctrinal Committee of the USCCB) are concerned. Sadly, most of those sitting on the CDF or the Doctrinal Committee have not kept up on their own studies in these areas. Secondly, Sister Margaret asked when has the area of personal experience been dismissed as a valid point in theology. The Vatican (since JP II) only accepts universal, objective, and neutral perspectives that correspond with papal teachings and doctrinal teaching. Because personal struggle and experience results in an individual arriving at a truth from a certain perspective----this is rejected by Pope Benedict as being a branch of relativism. And Relativism is the monster under the bed as far as Benedict, the CDF, et. al. are concerned.Someone asked it there is a strategy involved here? It is well known that there are not staff meetings in the Vatican. Benedict is not an administrator. William Levada and a few cronnies in the Vatican may, certainly get together to discuss a few issues with the Pope---but Benedict is often left out of things.As the papers that have been stolen out of the Vatican and published in the Roman newspaper "La Repubblica" by the "Leakers" have shown that a number of cardinals----and right now especially the American cardinals---are power-hungry and scheming. I see them as devious. Nobody, especially priests or American Sisters, are going to be able to write anything that even hints of going outside the narrow confines of black/white orthodoxy. Forget about any search for Truth and forget about attempting to dialogue with anyone utilizing diverse means. Everything from the Vatican is imposed from top down---or else!

It has become increasingly obvious to me in recent years that obedience is for the RCC and the right-leaning catholics is the first order of faith. "Hear Oh Israel, there is one pope, he is infallible...You shall love the magisterium with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength" has replaced the Shema and "We believe in one supremem pontiff...and in all the bishops he appoints..." is more important than the creed. The Gospels means whatever the Vatican says it means on any given Tuesday. This of course is nothing new. That has been the faith for centuries. It is now quite clear to me. I can't believe that I convinced myself otherwise. Anyway, the sex scandal has shown us the fruit of that creed. I hope this will compel catholics to ask serious questions like, what does it mean to be a follower of Christ and is there some basis for seeking truth other than authority? Books by catholics conservatives called "by what authority?" have all told us that the way to know truth is to have it told to you by the magisterium. Everyone with a basic familiarity with logic knows that argument on the basis of authority is the weakest kind. But authoritarianism has long been a defining feature of the Church. If there was a window after Vatican II when it looked that was going to change, that was actually an aberration. It is now back to business as usual--scandals, political intrigues, and an opaque justice system rule the day.For all my criticism of the Catholic right, I wouldnot describe myself as the Catholic left. This is not a right left issue. For me, it's how much intellectual and moral suicide can I commit? So, I am out but for those of you committed to staying, if no where else can be home, I beg you to do something for God's name is blasphemed among the nations as a result of this scandalous institution.Peace in Christ,Carolyn Hyppolite

No one should be surprised. Sister Farley writes a book deviating from Catholic teaching and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith duly notes that the book "is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Consequently it cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue." Simple, clear, logical, and accurate.

DIGRESION --From the Reuter's, more on the butler scandal. http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=38535920&msgid=674312&act=YWTW...

Please not the exact phrasing Thorin quotes. No prohibition of use in a classroom as a theory of just love, just that it is not an expression of Catholic teaching (which it was not designed to be). The CDF's conclusion has very little in the way of teeth, thought it may excite the donatistic parties that threaten the catholicity of the Catholic Church

An article just appeared on NCR written by Rober McClory. It is entitled "Major Vatican Assult Coming in October, says former Maryknoll Provincial".This says it all.

From Luke Timothy Johnson's 2007 review in America"Just Love does not provide all the answers concerning sexual ethics. But it does lay out a serious and solid framework for thinking about them. It is perhaps too much to hope that this fine effort can escape the sort of polarized responses that the temper of the times seems to elicit."

Terry: If Margaret Farley's book "was not designed to be an expression of Catholic teaching," as you allow, then what exactly has prompted the CDF, presumably with Pope Benedict's approval, to make a public proclamation that the book is not an expression of Catholic teaching?Are there some people who have concluded incorrectly that the book is an expression of Catholic teaching?I would also suggest that the CDF document released by the Vatican may not be the end of the actions that the CDF plans to take regarding the book and its author.

"The effect of this approach is to regard teachings that are nowhere in magisterial teaching defined as irreformable as de facto irreformable.'Lisa --Your point sums up beautifully the worst failing of the CDF. It treats all teachings as if every teaching were part of the Nicene Creed. It seems to me that at this point in Church history this is the general problem which Catholic theologians need to be spending the most effort on: why dissent is sometimes not only permissible but necessary.At least Sister Farley, unlike Sr. Johnson, was notified of being under review and given a chance to respond before the criticism was made public. That's not much, but maybe somebody at CDF saw the injustice of Sr. Johnson's case.Thanks.

Kathy inasmuch as book orders already have been placed: for an undergraduate-level theology course, do you think this notification should disqualify this book as a textbook? At the collegiate level, shouldnt the teacher and students be able to discuss and critique Farleys arguments? What about pairing it with a book that presents cogent arguments for a more traditional Catholic sexual morality? It seems to me that could make for an interesting and illuminating course.Jim,I'm trying to think of a situation in a Catholic setting where this would be beneficial. If we're talking a largish regional or national Catholic school drawing from all sorts of high schools, I think reading a book that "thinks through," and concludes that immoral acts are "just," would just be confusing. If we're talking a small Catholic college where the students are mostly well-catechized homeschoolers, it probably wouldn't hurt to read a book like this, but why not read something solid instead, as doubtless the students and teachers would prefer anyway.At the graduate level, sure, of course, people should be reading and critiquing all sorts of things.It's often said that teaching theology is not catechesis. I don't know if that's true, regarding college freshman and sophomores, in our times. But in any case, there really doesn't seem to me to be any good reason for drawing this antithesis too starkly. Catholic theology doesn't have to contradict catechism, does it? I would go further: Catholic theology shouldn't contradict the perennial teaching of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Frankly I don't know why this even has to be stated.

It is hard for me to consider this as anything other than healthy debate. Thank you Sr. Farley. I hope that, ultimately, the Bishops and the Vatican will engage rather than simply pronounce.

Gerelyn --Thanks for the E. O. Wilson point. It makes good sense within a teleological natural law theory (it points out the goal of intercourse when the woman cannot conceive), and it validates concern for the species/group/community . This is the sort of argument that might make sense to the CDF (if their minds could be pried open).

JIm P. --In the traditional understanding of academic freedom *BOTH* Sr. Farley's opinions *AND* opposing opinions (that of the official Church) *MUST* be taught together. It is a violation of academic freedom to present only one side of an issue.

This is becoming a badge of intellectual integrity and honor. Any theologian who isn't being smacked down by the CDF isn't doing her/his best!"perennial moral Teaching?" This church has a history of disavowal or quiet abandonment of many teathings that were once considered to be "perennial moral Teaching."Repetition of error and nonsense does not give them credibility.

Does anybody have any information regarding whether or not Margaret Farley's book has been used in undergraduate courses in Catholic colleges and universities in the United States?For example, how many courses has it been used in as one required textbook in the course? Of those courses in which it has been used as one required textbook, what was the level of the course (e.g., upper division course) and the level of the students in the course (e.g., seniors, juniors, etc.)?

I am a little bit mystified. Once you accept the idea of the Magisterium and the Catholic Church being the definitive authority on what is true and what is not, how can you complain when an authoritative body says, "This is true and this is not true"? And what kind of defense is it when a theologian (and member of a religious order) says, "Well, when I said masturbation, homosexual acts, and homosexual unions were good things and marriage wasn't indissoluble, I made it clear I was expressing my own views"? These are views that Catholics aren't allowed to have!Certainly one can question the way these things are done, or the timing, or any number of aspects of particular cases. But if you accept the Catholic Church as the authoritative "decider" of what is true and what is not true, how can you bemoan the fact that they wield that authority? Isn't subjecting oneself to that authority part of what being Catholic is all about? It would be one thing if a Catholic theologian were putting forth a complex theory of some doctrine which it took other theologians to interpret, and differing theologians had differing opinions. But from the examples given, Sr. Margaret Farley rather blithely takes positions diametrically opposite those of the Church, and on hot-button issues, which any Catholic who doesn't already know what the Church teaches can look up in the Catechism to verify that Sr. Farley is contradicting the Church. It doesn't take a panel of theologians to see Sr. Farley's opinions differ dramatically from Catholic teaching. All that's needed is the ability to read at about the 8th grade level. Of course, based on the (very) little I have read, I'm inclined to think that Sr. Farley is more inclined to be right than the Catholic Church, so my sympathies are with her. Speaking of books, I am currently reading Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization by Charles Camosy, which is brand new, fascinating, and free of all doctrinal error!

"It is a violation of academic freedom to present only one side of an issue."Actually, there are two schools of thought on this...

#138

David N., you have a very blinkered view of theology and church history and the development of doctrine. Or perhaps you are just creating mischief? No, you wouldn't be so disingenuous, would you?

If there were Vatican strategy aware of the world outside, the Pope in Milan might have delayed highlighting Philadelphia until the criminal jury there finished deliberating on Msgr. Lynn.The increasingly familiar official critique approach was captured in a nutshell by the USCCB Committee on Doctrine in concluding their 15 Sept 2010 critique of Salzman and Lawler's "The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology": "The issues treated in The Sexual Person are indeed vital matters for the life of the Church in our time. They should be thoroughly studied and discussed by theologians as part of their service to the Church and to society. The efforts of theologians, however, can only bear fruit if they are in fact carried on within a hermeneutic of continuity and in the framework provided by the Catholic theological tradition and the teaching of the Church." (p.23) Constraining the fruits of present-day thorough study to fit within a pre-provided framework of tradition and past teaching reflects a sadly limited view of human capabilities available now to examine what are referred to as _vital_ matters for the life of the Church - in our time. Only a conviction that the past lies ahead would seem to justify imposing such limits. http://old.usccb.org/doctrine/Sexual_Person_2010-09-15.pdf

jbruns: The pope and the Vatican do not see themselves as engaged in a debate. In their view, the church's magisterium has a monopoly on correct moral reasoning regarding sexual morality. As a result, there is nothing to debate. Jack Barry: A hermeneutic of continuity is code-speak. It means that the church's magisterium already has worked out the correct moral reasoning regarding sexual morality. So to be in continuity means to repeat the church's correct moral reasoning regarding sexual morality. No rupture. Just continuity.

Or perhaps you are just creating mischief? No, you wouldnt be so disingenuous, would you?David Gibson,I don't accuse others here of being disingenuous, so I would appreciate not being accused myself. I am used to the charge over at First Things, but I don't expect it here. I think there is a difference between "developing doctrine" and flatly contradicting the Catholic Church. It seems to me (admittedly based on the very little evidence we have) that Sr. Farley is quite obviously doing the latter. This is not to say that someday there may not be development on doctrine involving masturbation, homosexuality, same-sex unions, and the indissolubility of marriage, but I hardly thing say, "Well, this is my opinion . . . ," constitutes an effort to bring about development of doctrine. I went to Catholic school through the 12th grade, and I like to think in the many, many years since then I have kept myself very well educated about Catholic matters. However, I really can't claim to be a Catholic, because I simply don't believe in the idea of an infallible Magisterium, and I don't accept many of the teachings of the Church. I am probably much more inclined to agree with Sr. Farley (especially on these matters) than with the "Magisterium." But I don't see how I can do so in good faith and claim to be Catholic. Perhaps being educated in the 1950s and early 1950s skewed my idea of what is required of a Catholic, but I really don't see how one can reconcile rejecting the authoritative teachings of the Church as blithely as Sr. Farley does, and say, "I was just giving my opinion."Is there no minimum standard for being a Catholic? I hated it in school when we were told we "had to believe" this or that. I can't accept the concept of being obligated to believe something. But that is why I don't claim to be a Catholic. There are things I don't believe, and whereas I suppose I could speculate that there will be "developments of doctrine" at some point in the future that will bring the Church into conformity with what I believe, I can't bring myself to do that. I know enough about being a Catholic to know that even non-infallible teachings of the Church require religious assent. Certainly I believe that if someone wrestles long and hard with a particular teaching and cannot accept it, he or she has a certain liberty of conscience. But I don't see who a member of a religious order writing a book can ignore the obligations of religious assent that I understand to be part of Catholicism.I would be more than happy to have it pointed out to me where I am wrong. If I don't "have to believe" all the things I was taught in my Catholic education that I "have to believe," perhaps I can call myself Catholic again. I sometimes think that I am not a Catholic because I take Catholic teaching more seriously than a great many Catholics.

David G, I thought David N was being perfectly sensible. Blinkered? Free! Free to believe what is true!I've had a few experiences lately where I've explained to a "simple believer"--someone who has lived a Catholic life in a very credible way but hasn't studied theology--some current theological controversy. What is refreshing is how their faith just cuts the Gordian knot, free as it is from confusing arguments and solid as it is from "the obedience of faith," to use St. Paul's expression. As the expression goes among the eastern Churches, "The best theologian in the Church is the little old lady in the fourth row."

#138---- If everyone reading this thread buys a copy, it could hit #1! Send it to the pope as a gift for the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei! (June 26th.)His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVIApostolic Palace 00120 Vatican City

"I am a little bit mystified. Once you accept the idea of the Magisterium and the Catholic Church being the definitive authority on what is true and what is not,.."David Nichol, Most Catholics do not accept the magisterium opinion on contraception, for example. There are many others. We acknowledge that the bishops have a right to lead and more weight should be given. The hierarchy has been wrong on issues. Do we have to go over this again. So take a rest with your refrains.

David Nickol, you wrote: "But from the examples given, Sr. Margaret Farley rather blithely takes positions diametrically opposite those of the Church, and on hot-button issues, which any Catholic who doesnt already know what the Church teaches can look up in the Catechism to verify that Sr. Farley is contradicting the Church." What do you know about Farley's disposition in disagreeing with certain church teachings? She has been teaching sexual ethics for decades. Do you really believe she takes these positions lightly? What an ugly little slap.

On the matter of development of doctrine in the area of homosexuality, James Alison has written about what he thinks it might look like, and I think quite plausibly he believes whatever development there is will be an addition that does not reverse old teaching but has some acceptability as an alternative to it. I simply don't see a development of doctrine in the area of the indissolubility of marriage. John P. Meier (if I am not mistaken) takes it to be one of the indubitably authentic (and unique) teachings of Jesus. I really don't see the Church deciding some time in the future that it's a positive thing for women to masturbate. I did order a copy of the book, though. :-)

I don't plan to read Sr. Margaret's book (or, indeed, any books about sexuality for the remainder of my natural life).However, I can see where her book might raise legitimate concerns for the inquisitors simply because Sr. Margaret is a nun, and whatever she says might be construed by readers, Catholic or not, as representative of Catholic teaching.So it seems completely prudent for the CDF to issue a statement about the book clarifying that it does not reflect Catholic teaching. The fallout of the CDF's statement, of course, may have unintended consequences, as Grant has made clear. I'm not sure I buy the notion that the book is dangerous for those of us who have not been homeschooled or catechized properly. Most Catholics I know are acutely aware of the "rules" about sex; they just choose to ignore some of them.

It is interesting to not that the bishops rarely, if ever, shout out to Catholics about contraception. They hypocritically say it should be handled in the internal forum. Which in effect means that they agree with Catholics that contraception is moral. It is only when they want political benefit is this issue trumpeted. But as others have noted there seems to be no benefit for this announcement....

But as others have noted there seems to be no benefit for this announcement.-----------Except that it keeps the attention on feminists and off masculinists.

The CDF may be taking cues from several recent letters that gained widespread approval among Catholic academics.1) To John Boehner:Mr. Speaker, we urge you to use the occasion of this years commencement at The Catholic University of America to give fullest consideration to the teachings of your Church. . . To assist you in this regard, we enclose a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Published by the Vatican, this is the catechism for the Churchs ancient and growing teaching on a just society and Catholic obligations in public life. . .Catholic social doctrine is not merely a set of goals to be achieved by whatever means one chooses. It is also a way of proceeding, a set of principles that are derived from the truth of the human person. In Pope Benedicts words: Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way... the word love is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.2) To Paul Ryan:"Welcome to Georgetown University.. . . we would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching . . .. . . you are profoundly misreading Church teaching. . .Along with this letter, we have included a copy of the Vatican's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, commissioned by John Paul II, to help deepen your understanding of Catholic social teaching."

David N.'s point (as I willfully misunderstand it) is right again: why hasn't the CDF censured James Alison?

Grant Gallicho: Jamie Manson studied under Sister Farley at Yale Divinity School. Jamie Manson has an informative article about Farley at the NCR website. If you have not already read her article, I would urge you to read it.

#138If Just Love doesn't make the top ten, I won't blame the CDF for not trying. This reminds me, despite very different subject matter, of the time that Cardinal Spellman made one of his rare climbs into the pulpit of St. Patrick's Cathedral to denounce the movie Baby Doll, forbidding Catholics to see it "under pain of sin," and turning a box office ho-hummer into a must-see sensation.http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1798&dat=19561217&id=4AUdAAAAIBAJ&... suppose the good folks at CDF feel they have to do these things. I just wonder if they have a public relations person. If not, I would like to apply for the job. I am utterly unqualified, of course, but I think I can make a difference.

David Nickol writes:

It seems to me (admittedly based on the very little evidence we have) that Sr. Farley is quite obviously doing the latter. This is not to say that someday there may not be development on doctrine involving masturbation, homosexuality, same-sex unions, and the indissolubility of marriage, but I hardly thing say, Well, this is my opinion . . . , constitutes an effort to bring about development of doctrine.

Very little evidence? How about very little effort that you've put in to learning how this theologian has developed her arguments before declaring their conclusions blithely reached? Do you actually believe that saying "this is my opinion" is what makes for development of doctrine? Doctrinal development is not a chemical formula. It involves discernment, often dissent, a good deal of conflict. Have you read A Church that Can and Cannot Change? You might give it a look. I uploaded our review of it here: http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/sites/default/files/wordpress/blog/wp-...

She has been teaching sexual ethics for decades. Do you really believe she takes these positions lightly? What an ugly little slap.Grant Gallicho,Admittedly I am going on very littlejust quotes from the Holy Office and the news media. I have ordered the book and can give a more solid opinion after I have seen it. While I have no doubt that Sr. Farley takes her own positions very seriously, I would have to say that (from the very little I have seen) she states her own opinions blithely, or breezily, or casually, or in some such manner. For example:

My own position is that a marriage commitment is subject to release on the same ultimate grounds that any extremely serious, nearly unconditional, permanent commitment may cease to bind. This implies that there can indeed be situations in which too much has changed one or both partners have changed, the relationship has changed, the original reason for commitment seems altogether gone. The point of a permanent commitment, of course, is to bind those who make it in spite of any changes that may come. But can it always hold? Can it hold absolutely, in the face of radical and unexpected change? My answer: sometimes it cannot. Sometimes the obligation must be released, and the commitment can be justifiably changed.

Now, I think it is a perfectly defensible positionone that I would take myself, but starting with the very words of Jesus himself on up until this very minute of June 4, 2012, that has not been the teaching of the Catholic Church. These are very weighty matters she is giving her opinions on. Now, of course, these may be carefully selected quotes taken unfairly out of context. But I don't think anyone here has read the book, so I don't think I am making my judgments on any less information than anyone else.

Who else called her conclusions blithely reached?

Another point: "Breezily" is no better. If Farley had such a casual attitude toward these matters, why would she have bothered engaging in a prolonged conversation with the CDF, one that spanned a few years? Wouldn't someone who was so blithe about disagreeing with church teaching tell the CDF to take a hike? Instead, Farley, along with her superior, took the matter with utmost seriousness. The latter traveled to Rome to discuss this with the CDF in person. So you'll have to forgive me for finding your characterization of Farley's attitude to be contrary to the evidence, at best, and uncharitable, at worst.

conclusions blithely reachedGrant Gallicho:My (preliminary) opinion is that the conclusions are blithely stated, not blithely reached. For example, "Masturbation usually does not raise any moral questions at all."I might be inclined to agree, but that totally undercutsas far as I can seeall of Catholic teaching on sexuality. "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." It seems to me that is about as bedrock a Catholic position on sexuality as it is possible to state. Now, when I get the book, I may find that she has a long build-up to that assertion and a lengthy justification following it. I'm just going on what's available now.

David Nickol: Are you serious? You have worked as a book editor, have you not? In what universe would a brief excerpt from a book in a document designed to condemn it constitute sufficient evidence to dismiss the statement as blithe? And, here is what you said at first: Farley "rather blithely takes positions diametrically opposite those of the Church." Are you now amending that to: "states positions"? Because that's different. Also, in my view, baseless and silly. But still significantly different.

David Nickol: How about rewriting some of Farley's supposedly blithe statements for us, so that we can understand what you have in mind as a nonblithe way of stating the point?Farley's blithe statement #1:Nickol's revision #1:Farley's blithe statement #2:Nickol's revision # 2:And so on.

David N, I allowed that you may be uneducated about such things, not just disingenuous. So I will indeed give you the benefit of the doubt. Given such ignorance, though, perhaps you would consider refraining from being so uncharitable toward Sr. Farley and others.

Mr. Nickol is discovering the wages of dissent from the magisterium of the professoriat. Not only is that magisterium infallible (unlike the magisterium of the Popes and the other benighted hierarchs, who must be dragged kicking and screaming into the bright, liberating light of modernity by the brave professoriat), but every opinion held by a member of the magisterium of the professoriat was reached only after careful and thoughtful considertation, and is expressed only in the most serious way. No member of the magisterium of the professoriat reaches opinions blithely or expresses opinions breezily. Such a truth may be definitively held by all the faithful.

#74

Isn't the question that David Nickol is raising (however artfully or inartfully is obviously open to debate), not whether Farley's book contains opinions contrary to official Church teaching, but rather the response to this fact (which she herself admits in her statement), and perhaps the role of such dissent in the Church? The question of the development of doctrine is much more interesting, as it often has been that theologians with perceived contrary opinions have been "censored," and they have traditionally complied with those actions, trusting in the Church. M.D. Chenu, J.C. Murray, Rahner, dee Lubac - all received critical comments and actions from the Holy Office, and all were "silenced" only to be rehabilitated later. I think in light of this history, Nickol's point is relevant: what are the respective duties and obligations between the hierarchical magisterium and a theologian? There seems to have been a shift from the experience of the ressourcement theologians in the 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. and today's world of press releases and media appearances. What does that mean for our Church?

David N. -- Try reading out loud in a basso profundo voice with very heavy emphasis on adverbial words and phrases the paragraph of Sr. Farley you quote. You may be surprised at the absence of blitheness you notice.

If I should ever use the word blithe in here, I shall make sure not to do so blithely! Holy mackerel.

Grant Gallicho,I have worked in the publishing industry most of my adult life, and I am aware that material can be taken out of context to make a book look bad. I do not know for a fact, yet, whether the CDF has done this, because all I have seen is their document, not the book. But Sr. Farley's response to the charge that her book is not an accurate statement of Catholic teaching is that it was not meant to be. There seems to be no disputing that she takes positions that contradict Church teaching. She acknowledges this. So based on what we know so far (which I fully acknowledge is very little), it really is her position that masturbation rarely presents moral problems, or that marriage really isn't indissoluble. Not that I am telling theologians how to write their books, but it seems to me one can explore matters that aren't teachings of the Church or even matters that are against the teachings of the Church without getting the CDF on your case by not saying, "My answer is . . ." You can explore the indissolubility of marriage or the possible morally neutral nature of some masturbation by discussing the arguments pro and con, and not saying, "My opinion is . . . ."

I have read the commentary above but do have a question for those who have a professional interest in moral theology: is this book any good? and for those who simply have opinions: do you think the book was singled out because it may well be used as a textbook for undergraduates? I do not ask these questions contentiously but for some sense of what is going on here.

Lawrence: It's not my favorite book of all time -- I agree with a couple of Luke Timothy Johnson's qualms in his review -- but it's incredibly useful in insisting that justice and love are not separable concepts, but must be mutually integrated in real life. As several of the commentaries have pointed out, the CDF basically ignores that most of the book is about the prevalence of sexual coercion and sexual violence in the world. The people I know who use or plan to use it in undergraduate-level classes are primarily interested in having young men and women think about what a healthy (or just) relationship, one where neither party was using/abusing the other, might look like.

Lawrence Cunningham:You ask: "Is the book any good?"You may be interested to learn--if you don't already know--that the book won the 2008 Grawemeyer Award in Religion:http://grawemeyer.org/religion/previous-winners/2008.htmlMichael Perry

David Nickol: Have you ever looked at Thomas Aquinas's famous unfinished introductory textbook in theology known as the SUMMA THEOLOGIAE?In question after question, he comes to the part where he begins with the words, "I say . . . ."In light of this famous example, I see no problem with Margaret Farley saying "My response . . . " or "My opinion . . . "

David Nichol,I have read the book. I have an autographed copy. I've known the author for more than 30 years. She is not presenting any conclusions without substantial background for her point of view. To say blithe is an undeserved put down. To say "all we have" is the Vatican statement and her 2 page response is just false. She has written other books and articles, she has given numerous public addresses. What you mean to say is that all YOU know is what you've just read this morning. She has indeed spent decades studying the subject and is a formidable scholar not some blithe naf.

Thomas, the comparison with Aquinas is apt. She is very influenced by him.

David N.: Yet the constant concern of the CDF is that theologians not misrepresent their own views as church teaching. It's that habit of critique that is partly behind theologians' attempts to carefully distinguish their own views from official church teaching. You made it sound like Farley had casually disagreed with the teachings in question. You shouldn't have.

David,The notification apparently is meant to prevent the kind of writing you propose. Farley uses "My own view..." or similar, and is being told that publishing that is unacceptable. It is very confusing, IMO. I have not read the book, but my impression is that she starts with principles of social justice and explores how these very Catholic principles lead to conclusions contrary to the conclusions of the magisterium. She is not fabricating positions out of thin air, but pursuing fundamental Church teaching to see how it 'fits' with other teaching.

And Thorin: Your most recent comment is utterly gratuitous. If you want to grind your anti-academia ax, find another thread. If you want to engage the subject matter at hand, have at it.

"Who else called her conclusions blithely reached?"Well, the teaching office of Church concluded that:Sr. Farley either ignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionally mentioned, treats it as one opinion among others. "How is that so far from the much-dreaded "blithe"?

Thanks, Michael, for picking up some very serious issues in the Vatican's response. You're right to focus on the double standards at play, and I value your insight as a New Testament scholar into Benedict's own scholarship. I find it, in light of your commentary, startling that M. Farley has to try to explain the concept of a different "genre" to describe theological work which is neither flag-waving for the established official position nor gun-slinging against such a position. Surely most of the work of most decent theologians in our lifetimes, including that of Benedict, would qualify as belonging to such a genre. Certainly my own research in situations of sectarianism suffers over and again when, as a Catholic, I am expected to be one of those "you're either with us or against us" sort, whose actual existence I constantly question, until days like today when I see nuanced, careful, constructive, pastoral, searching theology reduced to such terms by, not the imaginary "other side", but our own supposed leaders.

I am just reading Christina Traina's review in Theological Studies, and there are a few very interesting things:1) Traina writes, " F.'s argument is self-consciously consistent with her earlier works, such as Personal Commitments (1986) and "An Ethic for Same-Sex Relations" (in A Challenge to Love [1983])" I haven't read either in their entirety, but it is a matter of some confusion as to why the CDF would have not responded to these earlier works, if "just Love" is consistent with them.2) Traina suggests, "the most likely objection to the book...will be that it is too short." Sadly, Traina ended up being wrong on this count.3) This is the conclusion of the review, and responds well to Prof. Cunningham's earlier question: "For F., to do sexual ethics is to outfit her readers with a framework applicable to all questions of sexuality and to point them toward the important primary and secondary literature in the field that will enrich their own reflection on particular cases. In this, she succeeds marvelously. Her broad norms and caveats are clear and convincing; copious footnotes guide the reader to all the major sources and controversies in the Western history and ethics of sexuality, and to many global ones. The book is highly recommended for scholars in the field and for graduate students as an introduction to ethical method generally."It is particularly interesting that Traina recommends the work specifically for graduate students. I agree on this point, not because it is controversial, but because it may address areas that are a bit dense for undergrads (or certainly myself as an undergraduate). However, it is unlikely that the CDF would deem this substantial fare even for graduate students. When Prof. Haight received a notification for his book "Jesus Symbol of God," he was later removed from the graduate theologate in which he taught. As a graduate student myself, I am not only concerned for my own future in the academy, but I am also saddened that such careful scholarship has been trashed. I am grateful, however, that most graduate programs and individual Catholics will continue to study Farley, et al.

I did not mean to belittle in any way the work of person of Sr. Farley, and I apologize if I have done so. But . . . It seems everyone who has responded to me has more or less evaded the issue that concerned me. There is a body of Catholic teaching to which Catholics are required to give religious assent. It seems to me it does not matter all that much how well Sr. Farley supports her dissenting views. Unless the statements in the CDF document are total distortions (and they seem perfectly clear), she takes positions on sexual morality and marriage that clearly contradict Church teachings.I would like to hear some comments on what role religious assent to the teachings of the Magisterium plays in the life and work of theologians and of people who read and teach theology. Are Catholic theologians more free to disagree with Church teachings (and write books expressing that disagreement) than ordinary individuals? What is the role of the official Church in dealing with Catholic theologians, particularly those who belong to religious orders?Jeff Landry has put it well: "What are the respective duties and obligations between the hierarchical magisterium and a theologian?" I would a further question about what are the obligations of any Catholics who publish their opinions to give religious assent to the Magisterium." Perhaps, as David Gibson suggests, I have "a very blinkered view of theology and church history and the development of doctrine" and am as ignorant as he so kindly suggests. Enlighten me, then.By the way, I own a copy of Noonan's Church That Can and Cannot Change and have read large chunks of it. The same is true of By What Authority?: A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful by Richard R. Gaillardetz, which was recommended to me by someone here (or maybe on Vox Nova). There's a very legitimate issue here, I don't think it should be ignored. I do not accept Bill Mazzella's dismissal of the issue (06/04/2012 - 3:06 pm) as being in line with the duty of Catholics to assent to teachings of the Magisterium. The CDF does not have to speak infallibly in order to demand assent. (Actually, I don't think the issue here is so much what the CDF said as when and how they said it. Is anyone here questioning the statements they made regarding Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage?)

Tobias Winright has an interesting piece titled LAffaire Farley and the Ongoing Chill Factor in Contemporary Moral Theology over on Catholic Moral Theology. I can see why this kind of thing is distressing to theologians. But it seems to me there is an irresolvable tension between the idea of an authoritative (and sometimes infallible) Magisterium and the role of theologians. For example, there is always someone (like Pope Paul VI) who can authoritatively decide an issue one way (contraception) even when expert opinion is overwhelmingly opposed.

David N asked: Is there no minimum standard for being a Catholic?Lets ask the #1 man in the magisterium (or has there been a development in doctrine since this time?):"When Pius X died, the conclave of 1914 elected Benedict XV, who immediately issued an encyclical (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_Beatissimi_Apostolorum) calling on Catholics to appease dissension and strife" so that "no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith. There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism, he concluded. It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname David Gibson, Who Is a Real Catholic? The Washington Post, Sunday, May 17, 2009 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/15/AR200905... now we will be told that some popes are more Catholic than other popes?

" I might be inclined to agree, but that totally undercutsas far as I can seeall of Catholic teaching on sexuality. "Uh ... YES! Glad you caught that. Way to go, Margaret Farley. Maybe she deserves "the emperor has no clothes" award for this one.

David N.I am bewildered that you do not comprehend simple English. The Farley matter is not new ground. Most Catholics disagree with the church on contraception. So many of us disagree with the CDF on this and other points. The same on infallibility. Many of us disagree with the magisterium and do not find it binding when it goes against our conscience. I know that you disagree with the magisterium while you amuse yourself by splitting hairs here. If we believed we must agree with the magisterium we would pack up and go over to EWTN. Of course there is a tension and the magisterium has been wrong in enough important cases. To put it more plainly to you, Catholics have first the duty to follow thier own conscience. We do want to give the magisterium some respect because we all want order. But when Peter was wrong Paul opposed him. So we have a tradition of dissent. But the magisterium, of course, will not allow this. I guess you agree with the magisterium.

'It is a violation of academic freedom to present only one side of an issue.'"Actually, there are two schools of thought on this"Kathy ==Who belongs to that school? What are the arguments he presents in favor of this position?The Church sanctioned and even required presenting all side of an issue in the universities for many hundreds of years.the scholastic method for hundreds of years. Beginning in the early middle ages, the method produced major works even into the 16th century in theology, philosophy, political philosophy, and even the beginnings of economics (if I"m not mistaken). Do you know of any reasons given by the official Church for abandoning this method, as it pretty much did after the 16th century? Did the Council of Trent (1500s) perhaps have something to do with the abandonment of the method?

49 in books#1 in gender-sexuality#2 in theology

Im surprised that the hammer has fallen on Just Love as opposed to either "Compassionate Respect: A Feminist Approach to Medical Ethics and Other Questions (Madeleva Lecture) or Feminist Ethics and the Catholic Moral Tradition (Readings in Moral Theology). Attacking either/both of these books would be more in line with the current CDF focus. Or are they next or have they already been slammed?

If guilty of anything, Margaret Farley is guilty of following the advice of this vaguely familiar woman:"Disagreement can only be meaningful when it takes place within a framework of agreement. One cannot really feel apart unless at some level one still feels joined. Dissent is possible only when it acknowledges accountability to something outside itself - to a teaching, an authority, a tradition, a history, a people, a revelation. Distinguishing between responsible and irresponsible dissent, between dissent in the service of communion and dissent destructive of it, is less than we often suppose a matter of intellectual propositions, and more often a matter of conduct, of attitude, of affection, and of heart." Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, Dissent & Communion (article), Commonweal (75th Anniversary Issue), 11/18/94.

#49

Sister Margaret Farley was a signatory of the Catholics for Free Choice ad that was placed in the NY times on October 7, 1984. The second paragraph of that ad reads -"Statements of recent Popes and of the Catholic hierarchy have condemned the direct termination of pre-natal life as morally wrong in all instances. There is the mistaken belief in American society that this is the only legitimate Catholic position. In fact, a diversity of opinions regarding abortion exists among committed Catholics."Sister Margaret has a hole in her soul.

Roma locuta est, causa finita est.

Frank, you bring up a touchy point. That petition and its religious signatories were all investigated by Rome, and Margaret's name was cleared. What she actually signed was a petition asking for dialogue in and among academics; what was printed in the newspaper was much more than that. Aside from your presumptuous judgment about other people's souls, which is unwise and uncharitable in any case, your tendency to jump to conclusions here is a real problem. The "attack machine" has never forgotten this ad, but the truth behind what happened there has indeed been forgotten or conveniently overlooked. People wish to rush to judgment. You have judged wrongly. It is inappropriate. Margaret has never supported abortion. She has supported dialogue.

Good heavens, while we are talking, let's not forget the 'Sister to Sister' All-Africa Project. A major initiative to address the AIDS pandemic in Africa, founded by Sr. Margaret Farley with religious sisters from Africa.

#44#1 in gender-sexual ethics#1 in theology

Jeff -Fine questions. But I don't think they can begin to be answered until some fundamental epistemological questions are answered clearly first: where is theological truth to be found? how is theological truth to be found? can there be degrees of theological truth? are there limits to theological authority? is dissent ever permissible? if so, when?

To put it more plainly to you, Catholics have first the duty to follow thier own conscience. We do want to give the magisterium some respect because we all want order. But when Peter was wrong Paul opposed him. So we have a tradition of dissent. But the magisterium, of course, will not allow this. I guess you agree with the magisterium.Bill Mazzella,This is not my understanding of the relationship among the Magisterium, theologians, and the faithful, as just refreshed from re-reading parts of By What Authority? A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful by Richard R. Gaillardetz. He speaks of a rather different understanding of these issues than I learned prior to Vatican II, but he does not imply that Catholics give the Magisterium "some respect" because they all "want order." When Paul confronted Peter, it was not over a matter of doctrine, Peter was not "pope," and Paul was an apostle himself. I don't believe it is correct to say the Catholic Church has a "tradition of dissent."

"I dont believe it is correct to say the Catholic Church has a 'tradition of dissent.'Of course there's a venerable and deeply tradition of dissent inbuilt in Catholic practice, David.Why else is an advocatus diaboli demanded in proceedings for canonization?It seems to me that the custom of letting the devil have a dissenting voice in many Catholic discussions is quite old and of long-standing tradition.

Apologies for the type in sentence two: the phrase "deeply tradition" should be "deep tradition."

Bill L. --There *used to be* a devil's advocate. The position has been abolished. Some say JP II thought it advisable to get rid of it so he could canonize more people. But it seems to me it has been a disaster. It allowed Jose Escriva (sp?) to be canonized prematurely, and the same will likely happen with JP II himself. Sigh.Yes, it did represent an ancient and revered office. But the Vatican has become so sure of its infallibility it was thought to be no longer necessary. Gimme that ole time religion.

Ann, thanks for the reminder. I did remember, somewhere in the back of my mind, that the devil's advocate has . . . disappeared . . . from the canonization process. And, of course, I wrote my comment partly tongue in cheek. For my money, Bill Mazzella makes a very sound argument for dissent as constitutive and inbuilt in the Catholic tradition from its foundational documents forward, as he points to the example of Paul's dealings with Peter, when Paul successfully challenged Peter's precisianism--a word I have to use, because I've just encountered it twice in Geraldine Brooks's marvelous new novel about New England Puritanism.And as you yourself point out earlier, what would Aquinas's theology be without the tradition of inbuilt dissent, as he argues with his own self and other venerable theological authorities--illustrating, as he does so, how broad and inclusive the Catholic tradition has been all along, and how comprised of multiple strands of thought, belief, and practice.Now THAT old-time religion I wouldn't mind bringing back. Instead, it seems we're intent on reviving that other venerable tradition from Aquinas's era: the condemnation of his theology by the bishops of Paris and Oxford.

Michael, thoughtful and charitable perspective. Your rational perspective is missed in Denver. Thanks! jbk

RE: book sales. Retired Sisters of Mercy are probably thrilled -- it all goes to pay the bills!

Ann,Do you really think "it's a violation of academic freedom" to only present one side of an issue? Do you think creationism or ID should be taught in schools along with evolution, and if it's not, then academic freedom has been violated? Do you think Ptolemy should be taught alongside Copernicus? Do you think phlogiston theory MUST be taught in schools, because that is the "other side" of atomic theory? In science, if one theory has won general acceptance, then the "other side" doesn't have to be presented anymore. In the Church, some things have won general acceptance. That is, they are defined in perennial teaching, and/ or in the extraordinary teaching of popes and Councils. It's not a "debate" any more, like a medieval university throwdown, or even like the Summa. It's sure, it's accepted. Can you imagine St. Thomas A. coming down on the opposite side of a teaching that had been defined? The Immaculate Conception had not been defined. It was open for debate, and Thomas was wrong. But for those things that had already been defined, do you think that he, a religious, would help people "think through" to conclusions opposed to those that had been defined?

When we look at the Magisterium there are two things to keep in mind. One it is really a creation of the fourth century when the bishops really lost their way and not only permitted but encouraged the killing of other Christians. There was plenty of largesse by the emperors and the bishops took full advantage. Secondly, and more importantly, the church became mediocre largely through the encouragement of Augustine and this is seen in the church today,particularly with Chaput who considers being Cathlic more important than following the gospel. IOW that it is more important to follow the bishops than to follow the beatitudes. The people do not have charisms. Just the clergy.The point of mediocrity has two eminent historians, Markus and Brown, holding that view. They are so right. The religious orders are primarily movements to get the church back on mission. You can quote Francis and Ignatius all you want on the magisterium but they were primarily about living the Christian life and handled the hierarchy diplomatically. Marcus calls the fourth century the" Age of Mediocrity" and this is very evident in the American bishops today who are more into power, money and cover-up than the gospel.Those who place their salvation in the hands of the bishops will not be exonerated thereby. It is the beatitudes which hold supreme. Not the magisterium.

Rita Ferone,I judge no one's soul in eternal terms. The term a "hole in their soul" means that one has no heart and that their humanity is lacking. By ending her name to the CFFC ad, Margaret Farley diminished herself. While some of the signatories recanted after signing the ad, Sister Farley maintains that she did not. Do some research on the matter. Did Commonweal have anything to say about Congress' recent decision to allow abortions based upon gender to continue to be a "right?" Has Commonweal spoken against Planned Parenthood's willingness to advise on how to procure an abortion if the child happens to be a girl? Does Commonweal get upset when Christians are murdered for their faith? But when the Church corrects a theologian that Commonweal agrees with then the real "attack machine" starts clicking on all cylinders.

I think that David Nickol is expressing at least one widely-held intuition that also seems to be at play in the whole "religious liberty" controversy: What are the minimum requirements for being "Catholic"? The religious freedom argument seems to be that Catholics need to be free to follow the teachings of their faith, which, one would think, is represented by, at least, the Catechism and maybe the Bishops and the Pope. Yet, when something like this happens, there seem to be a lot of responses that suggest that "official teaching" has little to do with being "Catholic." So, it's not surprising that it seems strange to "outsiders" that being "Catholic," for governmental purposes, involves being able to scrupulously follow the official teaching of the Church (e.g. on contraception), but when the leadership of the Church gets involved, suddenly Church teaching is somehow tangential to being "Catholic." So, what is the role of "official" Church teaching in defining the limits of "Catholic" identity? And if it is as annoying as it seems to be in cases where the CDF is investigating theologians, why should it be so important to preserving "Catholic" identity in the public sphere?

Unfortunately, many comments here assume you can take statements from the Vatican at face value and in good faith. The just ended Philly criminal trial of Cardinal Rigali's former top aide makes very clear this is a unacceptable asumption. For clear evidence of the Vatican and US hierarchy's approach here, please read, "Philadelphia Criminal Trial Has Now Fully Exposed Catholic Leadership Worldwide", accessible at:http://www.bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2012/06/gerald-t-slevin-philadelphia-...

Frank Gibbons,Maybe we should award you with the "Defendor of the Faith" emblem so you can stand there with Henry VIII and Charlemagne. So your "hole in the soul" diatribe may indicate more than you realize as in "ex ore tuo te judico."

Maybe we should award you with the Defendor of the Faith emblem . . . Bill Mazella,While I don't necessarily want to associate myself with Frank Gibbons's comments, it does seem to me that when claims are made that Catholicism is about following one's conscience, giving "some respect" to the Magisterium for the sake of order, and dismissing the Church from the fourth century onward as "mediocre," somebody needs to defend the Faith.

David, is that how you see yourself? A non-Catholic defender of the faith? An armchair anthropologist who just can't quite understand these funny Catholics who have trouble accepting every Catholic teaching, who still have something invested in this dusty institution that maintains a distinction between doctrine and dogma? Color me dubious.

Just Love is at 19 this morning on Amazon.Congratulations to Professor Emerita Margaret Farley! It sounds like a LOVEly book.

"What are the minimum requirements for being Catholic?"What I find most annoying about being Catholic is that we've made our religion so hugely complicated that apparently even expert theologians can't get it right.I went through 12 years of Catholic schools, am a fully initiated Catholic who goes to Mass every week, am generally as bright as the next person, and I still don't understand the reasoning behind half the things the Vatican says.I've heard conservative Catholics complain about "poorly catechized Catholics", but on the other hand, what's the point of a religion that's inaccessible to most of us?

Do you think phlogiston theory MUST be taught in schools, because that is the other side of atomic theory? Agree, Kathy, that phlogiston and all similar nonsense (like religion) should be dropped. The "medieval university throwdown" which some look back on fondly, was often nothing more than an exercise in Jew-hatred, an opportunity to burn Talmuds. (See, e.g., http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0019_0_195... )As you say, In science, if one theory has won general acceptance, then the other side doesnt have to be presented anymore. Margaret Farley agrees with you. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/05/us/sister-margaret-farley-denounced-by... that: The book, she said, offers contemporary interpretations of justice and fairness in human sexual relations, moving away from a taboo morality and drawing on present-day scientific, philosophical, theological, and biblical resources. In The Social Conquest of Earth, the great scientist E. O. Wilson includes a chapter on The Origins of Religion.From that:"No religious leader ever urges people to consider rival religions and choose the one they find best for their person and society. The conflict among religions is often instead an accelerant, if not a direct cause, of war. Devout believers value their faith above all else and are quick to anger if it is challenged. The power of organized religions is based upon their contribution to social order and personal security, not to the search for truth. The goal of religions is submission to the will and common good of the tribe." Page 259.

David, is that how you see yourself? A non-Catholic defender of the faith? Grant,Occasionally. Not just here defending Catholicism against the left, but over at First Things defending it against the right. It seems to me there is such a religion as Catholicism. I feel confident in saying that I know more about it than the average Catholic (though not the average contributor or commenter here), and I am qualified to discuss what Catholicism is and is not in a forum like this. I may not always be right, but I am not ignorant. Now, there have been a lot of snide personal remarks made against me by you, David Gibson, and Bill Mazella. But several people have framed the issues well, most recently Eric Bugyis, and I see next to no discussion of it here. An armchair anthropologist who just cant quite understand these funny Catholics who have trouble accepting every Catholic teaching . . . I have a great deal of sympathy for Catholics who struggle with specific Catholic teachings. But I am also familiar with Catholic concepts like the well-formed conscience, religious assent to the teachings of the Magisterium, and the indefectibility of the Church. I am aware enough of Catholic thought to know that a statement like, "Masturbation usually does not raise any moral questions at all, dramatically undermines virtually all Catholic teaching on sexuality. (Now, I don't agree with Catholic teaching on sexuality, but I know what it is.) I know how firmly held the Catholic view on the indissolubility of marriage is. who still have something invested in this dusty institution that maintains a distinction between doctrine and dogma? I am not quite sure what you mean here, but if you are implying dogma is not questioned here but doctrine is fair game, that is not my understanding of Catholic teaching. (It seems to me the indissolubility of marriage may be dogma, by the way.) I am more than open to learning where you think I am wrong, and acknowledging I am wrong when I am, but you don't seem to be making a case against me. You just question my integrity and sincerity.

"RE: book sales. Retired Sisters of Mercy are probably thrilled it all goes to pay the bills!"Indeed! The way it's rocketing up the charts, I'm thinking the movie deal can't be far behind :-)

I'd like to see some consideration of the issues raised by Fr. Robert Imbelli. I think he raises, albeit in a more typically philosophical manner, the same issue David Nickol has raised, namely, to what extent Catholics must allow their "personal experience" to be measured against the normative revelation/experience in Jesus Christ. These are knotty issues, and more interesting fodder for thought than beating up on a regular commenter. Given Fr. Imbelli's own substantial theological chops I'm surprised to see no attempt to wrestle with his questions.

But defending Catholicism against the left and the right to what end?The well-formed conscience. It is a concept. An extraordinarily fuzzy one. The church teaches that one's conscience may lead one into conflict with ecclesiastical authority. The ranks of the canonized provide ample evidence of how even a well-formed conscience can set one against church authority. But in some of your comments here (and elsewhere) I detect binary thinking. You know that there is such a thing as Catholicism. You reject the idea that one's own opinion is sufficient to effect development of doctrine (and you were wrong to suggest that's how Farley thinks about development of doctrine). And who would disagree? But how do you think doctrine gets developed? How do you think the church goes from teaching that Catholic majorities ought to spell Catholicism as the state religion to defending religious freedom? From teaching against usury to not? At one point those marked Catholicism. Those were doctrine. And now they're not. Currents of thought changed. Human experience played a role. Common human reason too. And, Catholics pray, the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But discernment is hard. Prophets rarely want to prophesy. It's messy. Painful. When you chide Farley for blithely coming to conclusions that depart from church teaching, not only are you insulting her intelligence and her commitment to the church, you are showing a strange lack of sensitivity to the process of doctrinal development. It always involves argument. You know how firmly the church holds to the indissolubility of marriage. How do you account for the epidemic of annulments on these shores--all granted by church authority? As for masturbation: You haven't read the book. Neither have I. One difference between your approach and mine is that I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to believe I had the slightest justification for deriding someone for a statement excerpted in a document whose sole purpose is to condemn the larger work. One of the reasons I have reacted so strongly to your characterization of Farley is because I respect your intelligence.

Catherine O wrote: "... the CDF basically ignores that most of the book is about the prevalence of sexual coercion and sexual violence in the world. The people I know who use or plan to use it in undergraduate-level classes are primarily interested in having young men and women think about what a healthy (or just) relationship, one where neither party was using/abusing the other, might look like."That the CDF didn't deal with those portions of the book seems to suggest that the CDF doesn't have any issues with those portions. Wouldn't that be the default assumption?I agree with David Nickol (as I agree with quite a few of his comments here - David, I just feel like you need a vote of support, although you're holding your own quite well :-)) that one of the primary problems seems to be that Sister Farley inserted those personal conclusions that have been called out in the notification. Presumably, if those personal conclusions had coincided with magisterial teaching, the notification would have passed over them.I can't go back and find it now, but a commenter earlier commented on the 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' aspect of these personal conclusions. I agree, based on what has been presented here, that she was very careful to bracket those personal conclusions, to make it crystal clear to a reader that those conclusions are just that - her opinions. I suspect that, if she hadn't done that bracketing - if she had just included them, in her authoritative theologian narrator's voice, as the inexorable conclusions of the premises and foundations she's provided - well then the CDF would see that as even worse! It's almost as though the reader is supposed to detect that the bracketing language ('my own personal view is ...') signals a change in that narrative voice; it's as if the the author has been temporarily transported from the lectern in the front of the classroom, and is now sitting in a booth in a bar with a beer in front of her and the reader sitting across from her, and they're kicking around some ideas, with Bob Seeger blasting in the background. I think the CDF is skeptical that readers would detect that change of narrative voice. And perhaps there is some justification. Because in fact - and I'm speaking now as one who downed a few suds with professors in my student days - even if she's sitting there in the booth with me, when we're talking about her field of study, she's still a professor, even when she's on her off hours, and her opinions carry more weight with me than my roommate's or my frat brother'sSo I agree with David N that the only options seem to be to only include those personal conclusions that happen to coincide with church teaching, or to hold back completely on inserting personal conclusions into books like this. Personally, I don't have much of a problem with holding back on personal conclusions that deviate from magisterial teaching. Preachers, istm, need to do something analogous in their homilies. The parallel isn't perfect, but there is a similarity.The CDF seems to have an expectation- and with David N, I think it's a reasonable expectation - that theologians should teach with the church.

How long have we talked about "maximal magisterialism" and conscience?The beat goes on and in this brave new world(and it is new) of definitive teaching/dissent/thinking with the Church it is just more divisive and retrogressive!Aagin , the new evagelization will underscore the evils of modernity.I say, pace Jim ., bravo to theologians who express contraries basedi n new learning/experience rethought in gospel tradition.That's how we've grown in the past.Now we diminish.So be it.

How does one "teach with the Church" when the Church is inconsistent?Sr Farley has spent her life working on social justice issues. In that context she has concluded that violence is perpetrated by teaching the indissolubility of marriage. How can it be wrong to point that out? Should she simply allow the violence to continue? Work for change within the system as Msgr Lynn claims he was doing?The response to her concerns should be a demonstration that violence is not facilitated by the teaching on indissolubility, but that is not what the CDF offered. Perhaps she herself should have offered an answer to her concerns, but she has no answer. Setting the question, and giving it to people who will explore it, is arguably her role as a theologian; the Church will make up for what is lacking, and by that I mean the people in the Church who struggle with the apparent violence connected to the teaching.Does she have all the answers? I am sure she does not think so. So expecting her to write as if all the answers can be found in the Catechism is unrealistic. There is still work to be done in understanding God, the world and everything if we are to live in a way that ends violence.Or should we accept that the Vatican is against just love?

Just want tp add that maybe we need a thread on the former Maryknoll provincial's notion that the is a year of assault 9on women religious) and we've only seen the opening salvos about what BXVI consider a "hermenutic of rupture."For a long time, i saw Beenedict as a tragic figure caught up in his own history.I fear now he, with his CDFers, will be the Pius IX of the 21st century.

"Currents of thought changed. Human experience played a role. Common human reason too. And, Catholics pray, the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But discernment is hard. Prophets rarely want to prophesy. Its messy. Painful. When you chide Farley for blithely coming to conclusions that depart from church teaching, not only are you insulting her intelligence and her commitment to the church, you are showing a strange lack of sensitivity to the process of doctrinal development. It always involves argument."But it also involves the right of the hierarchical magisterium to say "X is out of bounds," and there was a time when a theologian who was supporting position X was told "you are out of bounds" and such theologian complied, trusting that, over time, doctrine does develop. I don't take David Nickol's point to be in contravention to this history of the development of doctrine. Rather, I think he is raising the issue of the change in the story with respect to the view that theologians now seem to operate vis-a-vis the magisterium. Just to respond "you don't understand the doctrine of development" seems to sweep under the rug the actual history of the development of doctrine, including the right of the magisterium to take certain actions with respect to theologians, and the theologians response to those actions.

Why is it that theologians have to call out Church teaching, anyway? I mean, why can't we have strong ethicists (as a woman I would love to see this) who apply themselves to things like goodness in relationships, who make strong statements about the ethics beyond the rules--and leave the rules alone. Is this impossible? I don't think so, not at all. At the risk of sounding sexist, women really do have things to say about relationality that might really inform men. I'm thinking of Sondra Wheeler's family ethics, and Cindy Crysdale's ethics of risk, for example. And for that matter, why couldn't Roger Haight have aggressively advocated for humility in interreligious dialogue, without encasing that advocacy in hugely problematic Christology?I don't believe that these important human values "beyond the rules" need to contradict the rules in order to be coherent.

David N.I think you have highlighted a major issue in the Church and appreciate your efforts. This article deals with a similar issue.http://www.eppc.org/publications/pubID.4753/pub_detail.aspAs I interpret the Catechism, it requires a strenuous effort on the part of all Catholics to accept all teachings of the church but allows them to follow their conscience. However, following their conscience should be a very last resort done IMHO with sadness and humbleness, and perhaps even an extreme reluctance to discuss it. That reluctance to resort to the 'conscience exemption' results because it is extremely difficult for any human to discern Truth and extremely easy for us to 'hear ourselves talking' in our conscience. What I think is prevalent in many 'Catholics' today is something far different. Conscience presents a quick safe harbor from teachings which one doesn't like and dissent is worn as a badge of honor. I think Sr. Farley's use of 'In my opinion...' fits this pattern. And I agree with you that if and when she shares these diametrically opposite views, the CDF has the appropriate expectation that she be very circumspect with whom and how she shares them.

"What I think is prevalent in many Catholics today is something far different. Conscience presents a quick safe harbor from teachings which one doesnt like and dissent is worn as a badge of honor. I think Sr. Farleys use of In my opinion fits this pattern. And I agree with you that if and when she shares these diametrically opposite views, the CDF has the appropriate expectation that she be very circumspect with whom and how she shares them."These 2 sentences seem contradictory. In your first, you seem to asserting that there is no room for dissent from certain teachings, and that the use of the conscience is merely window-dressing for this inexcusable behavior. In your second, you seem to allow that in some circumstances, dissent or question is allowable, but the question is then the appropriate fora, etc. I think David Nickol's question concerns the latter.

"Sr Farley has spent her life working on social justice issues. In that context she has concluded that violence is perpetrated by teaching the indissolubility of marriage. How can it be wrong to point that out? Should she simply allow the violence to continue? "Jim McK - probably you've read the book; I haven't. If you have, then you have the advantage over me on being immersed in her specific arguments. But regarding the indissolubility of marriage, here is the snippet that the notification presents to us: "My own position is that a marriage commitment is subject to release on the same ultimate grounds that any extremely serious, nearly unconditional, permanent commitment may cease to bind. This implies that there can indeed be situations in which too much has changed one or both partners have changed, the relationship has changed, the original reason for commitment seems altogether gone. The point of a permanent commitment, of course, is to bind those who make it in spite of any changes that may come. But can it always hold? Can it hold absolutely, in the face of radical and unexpected change? My answer: sometimes it cannot. Sometimes the obligation must be released, and the commitment can be justifiably changed"This passage doesn't say anything about violence. It says that she believes marriage can be dissolved if the partners change, or if something else changes. And I can see why the CDF would have a problem with that line of argumentation. I don't know specifically what connection she traces elsewhere in the book between violence and the indissolubility of marriage, but I'm guessing it's that an abused spouse shouldn't have to stay in an abusive relationship. And in fact, the church agrees. It wants the spouse to be and to feel safe; it recognizes the importance of civil divorce to protect the victim; and marriage tribunals and Rome have proven to be quite sensible and generous in granting annulments when the circumstances warrant it. Perhaps she covers all of that in the book (which in my view would be an example of teaching with the church), and the CDF is guilty of selective quoting.

Bingo! Read the book and you will see that the CDF is indeed guilty of selective quoting.

Mr. Gibbons,Yes, Commonweal gets upset when Christians are murdered for their faith. (See here, for example.) And no one here approves of aborting children because of their gender, as you shouldn't need to be told. It would have been good if one of our independent blog contributors had written something about the legislation that would have banned such abortions, but the fact that no one did tells you exactly nothing about the magazine's position on the subject or about its priorities. There are a lot of important subjects that don't get covered at dotCommonweal. I don't recall seeing anything here about the massacres in Syria, for example, but do you suppose that means Commonweal is quietly in support of the Assad regime? Do you think we're also indifferent to the plight of rape victims and children forced to serve as soldiers because we didn't publish anything about Charles Taylor's recent conviction by the International Criminal Court? Commonweal is a Catholic magazine published in America, so you should not be surprised to find that it gives special attention to stories involving an American Catholic theologian.

@Abe Rosenzweig: Thanks for that! :-)

Kathy --I'm sorry if I didn't make it clear from the contest that I was speaking about presenting all sides of disputed basic ideas or those of particular importance at some time.Take phlogiston. At one time it was an important idea in physics, but with the adoption of new theories it became irrelevant. But now, with certain new theories (having to do with gravity, dark matter, or whatever that stuff they're talking about it), it has returned. The basic idea is that anybody can make mistakes, and we can all benefit from the serious thinking of other people. It's why dotCommonweal welcomes conservative thinkers as well as liberal ones and everybody in between. Do you think that Grant should disinvite you from the site just because you disagree with him?

I find it laughable that the monarchists here are defending David N because he agrees with them. Jeff, I have addressed the issue and assert that the magisterium must be disobeyed when it gives a false direction or pays more attention to dogma than behavior. In the fourth century there was a paradigm change. The supporters of pope Damasus murdered over 100 people who supported his rival. The bishops advocated killing other Christians. And being Catholic was no longer an act of courage but secure selection to be protected by the status quo. There are serious problems with the magisterium/leadership of the church. They stampeded the Legionairres of Christ onto the Catholic world along with Regnum Christi. They are trying to clean it up now but the reality is that the Legionnaires remain a very flawed organization. Beside the cover-up of abusive priests, add the neglect of Hispanics in this country as well as the spiritual assasination of Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day and other Catholics of conscience.Don't forget this is a hierarchy that played scared at Nazi Germany and was solicitous mostly for converted Jews. This is an egregious disobedience to the Lord's directive that everyone is our neighbor.There are definite problems with a Vatican who is materialistic, power conscious, has its own country, sends papal legates around the world and signs concordats. Theologians attempt to work things out with the Vatican because the structure is there, albeit with major deficiencies. The saints did the same. They were not fans of the Vatican, deppite all the quotes. They tried to deal with it the same way Francis tried to relate to the Sultan. Furthermore, people can dissent without having their heads cut off--a practice certain monarchists in the church want to restore.The age of the Vatican and bishops issuing directives is over. The time for example and humility is here. Not people with absurd red robes and miters who have become as political as the churches before the 20th century.

Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith has some pertinent thoughts on this matter: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2012/06/05/the-vatican-i.... Lucie-Smith wrote a review of the book, found the book to be grossly deficient, and applauds the action of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which really did no more than say about Sister Farley's book than she has said herself: it does not agree with the teaching of the Catholic Church.

These 2 sentences seem contradictoryJeff,I consider the behavior misguided rather than inexcusable. But regardless, there has to be some place for discussion otherwise there is no real chance to correct the error. It just not any public forum like a book.

My apologies for taking a break from this long and lively conversation. Many topics discussed so far would have been discussed differently if all had access to the book. (Im sure the presses are humming with activity as we speak to fulfill all the orders.) The overall scope, plan, and concerns of the book are not well depicted by the Notification. As some of you have noted (Jim McK; Lisa Fullam; etc.), the book is about discerning principles for just relationships, and they are codified late in the book as Norms for Just Sex: Do no unjust harm; free consent; mutuality; equality; commitment; fruitfulness; social justice. If and when some of you read the book, I think youll be surprised by how thorough and principled it is. Recall also that the authors work developed in no small part from working in parts of the world in which Christian women are not customarily granted many of the norms for justice that most of us take for granted. To me, that is a crucial aspect but one that it is easy to forget when residing in a different legal and cultural framework.Another recurring issue here concerns how experience ought to be used as a source of moral discernment. The book is not relativistic on this matter, and it builds upon her previous work on the topic. Pages 190-196 deal directly with the question of experience, and it is a balanced presentation of the topic. Its not the authors own personal experience of sexuality that is a source of discernment, of course. Its clear that she refers to her experience of recurring topics in sexual ethics over a lifetime of teaching and leadership, from her AIDS project in Africa to the quotidian visitors to her office hours at Yale. When one hears of tragic lapses regarding consent, mutuality, equality, and commitment, and when one hears these in diverse contexts over decades of leadership, one might feel compelled to explore and propose principles of just sexual relationships. Christians knew the rules, but the rules werent working in their lives, sometimes with tragic consequences, usually for women. Those experiences matter -- at least they ought to.Another topic here, as often, has been the development of doctrine, and I think John Noonans book is instructive on the matter, as has been noted above. I feel compelled also to point out, though, for those not aware, that the New Testament itself is quite famously inconsistent on the question of the permissibility of divorce. Many intro classes on the NT use this as a case study in the challenges of applying the Bible directly to contemporary ethics. We even have jargon to go along with it: Matthean exception (Mt 5:32) and Pauline privilege (1 Cor 7:15). To wit, Paul even uses the in my opinion method of reasoning through tough questions in sexual ethics (1 Cor 7:10-15). Regarding the tension between the Magisterium and theologians, which David Nickol calls irresolvable, I would suggest that intra-Church tensions have sometimes been productive in the past and can be productive in the future. The tensions between different authorities in the Church have always been there, and the examples of different forms of authority held by Peter, Paul, James, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Origen, and others are still instructive for us. Later tensions between the martyrs / confessors and some bishops were sometimes productive and sometimes not. Tensions between wilderness ascetics and urbane civic leaders were sometimes productive and sometimes not. And so on throughout our history. With each generation, its up to faithful Christians to decide whether tensions will be productive or destructive -- whether they lead to charity or enmity. Its up to us.

"The age of the Vatican and bishops issuing directives is over. The time for example and humility is here. Not people with absurd red robes and miters who have become as political as the churches before the 20th century."The choice is so simple when put in such Manichean terms, ain't it? I'm grateful our Church rejected Manicheanism centuries ago, and still means, "Here comes everybody!" Even in the red robes and mitres. I've been called many things, but "Monarchist" takes the cake. You give me the impression, Mr. Mazzella, of the grumpy Brits standing on the sidelines of the Mall this morning watching people cheer and sing "God Save the Queen" with your arms folded, mumbling "Bloody waste of money."

Whether Sr. Farley is sincere or not (both hypothesis fit the facts), is only of historical, psychological interest. The central question is: is she right? Wholly right? Partially? Not at all?

Ann,When someone openly disputes perennial teaching, s/he doesn't disagree with me. S/he disagress with us. As Catholics, liberals, conservatives, whatever, we agree (albeit with woefully deficient catechesis causing invincible ignorance in many cases) on certain fundamental teachings regarding faith and morals. We do. We all do.

Jesus did not have a place to stay. If Mr. Landry wants to call that Manicheanism his problem is with the Lord. The RCC is monarchical. If you support that structure you are a monarchist whether you desire or not. It is the last feudal society. At least in the developed world.

If you support that structure you are a monarchist whether you desire or not.Bill Mazzella,Is the pope the Vicar of Christ? It's my understanding that it took some time for the papacy to develop, and I would never maintain that Jesus appointed Peter the "first pope." (Others might, though.) And the title "vicar of Christ" was not used for centuries. However, we must always be aware of the development of doctrine.

Has Sr. Margaret "openly disputed" teaching on faith and morals? Which ones? Has she raised questions about any of those teachings? Which ones? Or has she merely been tolerant of other Christian viewpoints that don't tally with all aspects of Catholic teaching? I don't know the answer, but I think that if Sr. Margaret is going to be held to account for the content of her book and its possible dangerous effect on the ignorant faithful, those who are criticizing it should be held to account for the accuracy of their characterizations as well.

In a world in which there is so much injustice the Church of Dogma is really irrelevant. Invincible ignorance is more likely in Rome or in academia, as Jesus promised the revelation to the uneducated. "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants." So it is the unwise and unintelligent who should be doing the catechesis.

As some of you have noted (Jim McK; Lisa Fullam; etc.), the book is about discerning principles for just relationships, and they are codified late in the book as Norms for Just Sex: Do no unjust harm; free consent; mutuality; equality; commitment; fruitfulness; social justice. If and when some of you read the book, I think youll be surprised by how thorough and principled it is. Michael Peppard,I hope you can lead those of us who have ordered the book in a discussion once we have our books. (Who knows when that will be, however, since Amazon says the books ships in 1 to 3 weeks, and the deluge of orders may affect that.) I am wondering if the books is being misrepresented because, in some way, it is making a limited claimthese are the results of looking at relationships purely from the point of justice. For example, if you look at marriage purely from the point of justice, you might conclude it was not indissoluble. Or if you looked at the issue of masturbation purely from the point of justice, you might conclude it was rarely a moral issue. In reading Biblical scholars such as Raymond Brown, you will sometimes see it said that based on the weight of textual evidence, the evidence points to, say, the brothers and sisters of Jesus actually being his brothers and sisters . . . . BUT, Church tradition tells us Mary remained always a virgin, and consequently Catholics must take that into account. (Or John P. Meier in his ongoing work who deliberately does not try to accommodate Catholic tradition in interpreting the Bible.) It seems a theologian would be on safe ground limiting his or her inquiry in that way. If that is what was being done in the book, then certainly the CDF quoted it unfairly.

IGNORE the hierarchs! Any attention only encourages them. Catholics should take matters into their own hands and create the church of the future that they need: LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!The hierarchs know they can't silence women's voices, like Margaret Farley. They know they are on the losing side of history, intellectually and spiritually bankrupt. The hierarchs abandoned their leadership of their flocks a long, long time ago. That is why they elected B16 - it's what his whole career has been about. The hierarchs are only talking among themselves as they mutually climb up the clerical ladder. From their point of view, hopefully most Catholics will take the bait and leave in even greater numbers. In that way, as even the hierarchs' numbers continue to diminish over time, the hierarchs can live off their fat investment portfolios for a century or two.Face it, the hierarchs think they have figured it out - at least they hope so - that they don't need the great majority of the people anymore - especially women. [In the game of evolution, Nature has the final move.] Catholics should acknowledge the hierarchs' abandonment and rejection of the peoples' faith and lives, and move on without the hierarchs. If the hierarchs are choosing death, the let them die out.In the Book of Deuteronomy it is written: "I place before you the blessing and the curse ...CHOOSE LIFE!

Bill Mazella,If you are saying, "Let's throw out nineteen centuries of accreted speculations (Church doctrine and dogma) and go back to the Jesus of the first century and the Gospels," I might have sympathy for your position, and yet I am not sure I would call it Catholic. So much of what (it seems to me) being a Catholic entails did not develop until centuriesor a millennium or moreafter Jesus. The whole concept of the development of doctrine implies to me that Catholics of the 21st century are in some way more "advanced" than Catholics of earlier ages. We believe, for example, that we have a better take on religious freedom after Vatican II that we did prior to that. Or a deeper understanding of our relationship to the Jews. We have many sacraments now that existed only in the most nascent form for hundreds of years after the Crucifixion. It seems to me that you reject all of this development as not being really Catholic, or being mediocre, and wish to identify Catholicism as something that was truest and best before Constantine and St. Augustine intruded.

#16But the last few places will be the hardest.

The age of the Vatican and bishops issuing directives is over. The time for example and humility is here. Not people with absurd red robes and miters who have become as political as the churches before the 20th century.Bill,IMHO, this paragraph lacks example and humility too.

-- I dont believe it is correct to say the Catholic Church has a tradition of dissent. -- Some leaders of the church had a healthy and supportive appreciation for dissent:Every consideration, the fullest time should be given to those who have to make up their minds to hold an article of faith which is new to them. To take up at once such an article may be the act of a vigorous faith; but it may also be the act of a man who will believe anything because he believes nothing, and is ready to profess whatever his ecclesiastical, that is, his political party requires of him. There are too many high ecclesiastics who think that to believe is as easy as to obey - that is, they talk as if they did not know what an act of faith is. One who hesitates may have more of the real spirit of faith than one who swallows ... Our theological philosophers are like the old nurses who wrap the unhappy infant in swaddling bands or boards - put a lot of blankets over him - as if he were not healthy enough to bear wind and water in due measures. They move in a groove, and will not tolerate anyone who does not move in the same ... You cannot make men believe by force and repression ... A Catholic is kept from skepticism, not by any external prohibition, but by admiration, trust and love. While he admires, trusts, and loves our Lord and His Church, those feelings prohibit him from doubt; they guard and protect his faith; the real prohibition is from within. But suppose those feelings go; suppose he ceases to have admiration, trust, and love, of our Lord and His Church; in that case, the external prohibition will not suffice to keep him from doubting, if he be of an argumentative turn. J. H. Newman from a letter that he wrote shortly after Vatican I in which he complained at the way I. Doellinger was being treated by his bishop because he refused to declare his agreement with the definition of papal infallibility.

Jean,You can look inside her book, either at Amazon or at Google Books, and read what she has to say about those topics mentioned. I spent a little time yeaterday at Google Books seeing what she had to say - it made sense to me :)http://books.google.com/books/about/Just_Love.html?id=qjbY_Nb2NrYC scroll down the page for the table of contents and index

Mr. Mazzella -To the extent that you and your comrade Jim Jenkins seek to divide the Church up into the good and the bad, the "people" versus the "hierarchs", the pure versus the corrupt, the poor versus the rich, the monarchists versus the republicans (?) - your view is decidedly Manichean. Reality, fortunately, is blessedly not as simple. I shudder to think what the result would be if we let some of you re-fashion the Church in your own image. The blessings of a hierarchical Church are, as Fr. Imbelli implicitly suggests, none of us is free of the "other", and each remains accountable to the normative revelation in Jesus Christ, which condemns -yet also frees- ALL.

Jim P, I apologize if I mistakenly lead you to believe I know what I am talking about. I have not read the book, and I meant to present indissolubility/violence as a hypothetical. It was the most likely scenario I could think of, but it was still something of a guess. I guess as well that Sr thinks she is "thinking with the Church" on all these issues. She is looking from one side while the CDF looks from another, but both are thinking with the Church. Or are we now saying that violence and injustice are compatible with our faith? If the CDF truly disagrees with her, does that mean they oppose loving justly?Jim J, I think you have hit on something. The tools of forceful compulsion are no longer part of our arsenal. Persuasion is how we spread the faith, which means that people do decide. Teachers teach to guide that process, but it is God, whom we encounter within our conscience, who is our ultimate guide.

But the last few places will be the hardest.------------Just Love will not overtake Just Porn.What a triumph to reach #16.

"to identify Catholicism as something that was truest and best before Constantine and St. Augustine intruded."Development of doctrine aside, the conversion of Constantine and the subsequent conferral by Theodosius of official state recognition on the Church were disasters from which she has never recovered. For it was and should have remained a pilgrim Church, whose origin and destination are in another world. Hooking up with secular power and then becoming one itself have defaced and distorted the Church, predisposing it to authoritative pronouncement and dire punishment as means of persuasion, instead of loving counsel and personal example. We are still in the era of do-as-we-say-or-else.

God, whom we encounter within our conscienceJim McK,I have no idea how God is constrained to our consciences. He is in all others, He is the Church and we can encounter Him wherever He wants, even here through dotCommonweal. My guess is that we encounter Him much more elsewhere than in our conscience.

Bill Mazzella and/or John Prior,KEY QuESTION: Given that the Catholic Church went so seriously off track in the third and fourth centuries, is it still the Christian group, with all its faults and flaws, that most faithfully carries on the movement that began with Jesus? Or should we look elsewhere?

The problem with some of her thinking is that it does not represent the teachings of God. She represents her own thinking. But God said:Isaiah 55:8-9 (KJV)8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.It appears to me that mankind has a peculiar way of dealing with the word of God when it is not to their liking. As a believer I already have a "framework for sexual ethics."John 10:27-29King James Version (KJV)27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.Thank you Jesus for your framework.

Yes, David Nickol, I believe that the Catholic Church, like any errant member of it, can be recalled to its true nature and mission. But it will take a great willingness to discard the trappings of royalty and power: the palaces, the finery, the ring-kissing, and the ridiculous titles. God excepted, who should bear to hear himself called "Your Holiness"?And then it will take a great openness to the idea that grace and understanding and renewal can come from any direction, as the Spirit blows where it lists. For all of us, high and low, or rather low and low, more listening and less fulminating.

Jesus has always been with his church despite the monarchists. The promise remains. The people are the church which includes the hierarchs as some of them have done great things in the church. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday , today and forever. " Woe to those who have made the house of God a den of thieves. We are a sinful church striving to move towards God in prayer, suffering and thanksgiving as we strive to love God and our neighbor with all our hearts.

But it will take a great willingness to discard the trappings of royalty and power: the palaces, the finery, the ring-kissing, and the ridiculous titlesJohn,Are you saying God has decided not to come to these people even if they happen also to be the titular leaders of his Church?

John Prior,Thanks for your response, but I am not sure you answered precisely the question I asked. Is the Catholic Church still the Christian group, with all its faults and flaws, that most faithfully carries on the movement that began with Jesus? Is it "the one true Church"? If one considers oneself a Christian first and foremosta believer in, and follower of, Jesusis the Catholic Church the one Christian group to which one must belong? Will the Eastern Orthodox Church not do? Or some small, humble church that focuses on the Gospels and charitable works?

Bill Mazaella,The same question for you as I just asked John Prior. Is the Catholic Church "the one true Church"? Is it the only Church (or at least the best) that a follower of Jesus must belong to?

"John,Are you saying God has decided not to come to these people even if they happen also to be the titular leaders of his Church?"No, Bruce, I am not saying that.______________________________"Thanks for your response, but I am not sure you answered precisely the question I asked."You are right, David Nickol, I did not.

"That the CDF didnt deal with those portions of the book seems to suggest that the CDF doesnt have any issues with those portions. Wouldnt that be the default assumption?"Jim P. --Indeed, one would think that there are such things as default assumptions. However, when one looks at the criticism by the CDF of the LCWR leadership, it seems the CDF made expected no default assumptions about the LCWR. It *accused* them of not talking enough about certain issue. In other words, in the nuns' case silence was *not* taken by default to be agreement. Looks like no matter what certain nuns think or don't think, talk about or don't talk about, they are going to catch hell from the CDF. Wonder why.

Crystal, thanks. I read the short preface, in which Sr. Margaret talks about "creating a framework for sexual ethics" that includes historical and cross-cultural perspectives.Much as you or I might find Sr. Margaret's ideas compelling, does it seem to you that perhaps this would strike Church authorities the wrong way right off the bat given that they would argue that Catholics already have a framework for sexual and social justice "ethics" in the form of Church teachings? And that a Catholic nun would be expected to promulgate that framework instead of developing her own?I guess I'm trying to see why her book being called out by the authorities is a surprise to anyone here. This is the way the Church works, isn't it?

Jean,No I'm not surprised her book was condemned, given that it contradicts some of what's in the catechism. I guess what I don't understand is the real purpose of theology .... is it mearly for elucidating already nailed-down truth ("truth" according to the church authroities) or is it about trying to discover the truth, wheter it agrees with established teachings or not? If the Vatican thinks it's the former, they must believe our understanding of the truth can never be informed by new ways of looking at things, and thart's just nuts because much of the stuff in the catechism was thought up by past theologians often working outside the box - how wigs flipped when Aquinas dragged Aristotle into the theology picture :)

"Is it the only Church (or at least the best) that a follower of Jesus must belong to?"I know Protestants. Muslims, Jews and non-believers who are better followers of Jesus than some Catholics I know.

Oops==should be: it seems the CDF made no default assumptions about the silence of LCWR.

"At the risk of sounding sexist, women really do have things to say about relationality that might really inform men."Kathy -- I don't think this is sexist. Even the male philosophers these days willingly grant that some of the very best ethicians in the last century and this one have been women, e.g., G. E. M. Anscombe, Iris Murdoch, Phillipa Foote, and Martha Nussbaum, among others.

Is it the only Church (or at least the best) that a follower of Jesus must belong to?Uhhhhhhhh ---- NO!Do not confuse largest (at least nominally) with best.

Ann,It makes me wonder whether women's contributions over the centuries have been ignored (when written) because of outright bias, or because there has only recently been a shift in intellectual history that makes the feminine perspective audible.It also makes me appreciate the upcoming Doctorate of St. Hildegaard of Bingen.

I would also like to say, just for the record, I'm not ghostwriting for David Nickol. I suspect Mark Proska...

" As Catholics, liberals, conservatives, whatever, we agree (albeit with woefully deficient catechesis causing invincible ignorance in many cases) on certain fundamental teachings regarding faith and morals. We do. We all do."Kathy --It is obvious from history that people at different times and places have disagreed about what it means "to be Catholic". Is there a certain minimum list of teachings the official Church requires? If I'm not mistaken there is, and it is a very short list, one which even children can understand and assert, but I don't remember what it's called. Certainly not the Catechism. And if kids can be Catholics without believing in transubstantiation, so can anybody. No, "Catholic" is not a family resemblance term of overlapping sets of beliefs with no one belief or set of beliefs which defines all the uses of the term. There are some basics.The problem is that the basics mostly include some very general terms that need specification: They have to do with who Jesus was and what He did for us and what we owe Him and others because of Him. Our disagreements happen because this little set of teachings is often somewhat differently understood by different people. It's the specifications which often give us great trouble, and, sometimes, the very words we all use are ambiguous, which complicates matters. For instance, just what does it mean to say specifically about Him that He was *God* and man, that He founded an "ecclesia", that He "rose from the dead"? The devil is in the details and the ambiguity, and, yes, His apparent contradictions (e.g., about marriage) which require us to admit that sometimes, for effect, He actually exaggerated and so it's hard to interpret some of His basic teachings.Complexity, complexity. We can't avoid it.

Kathy ==I think the reason there has been an intellectual shift is *because* there was a deep-rooted intellectual bias against women thinkers as such and feminism has changed much of that bias. No doubt about it, most men thought most women were not as smart as they were. With universal education -- and lots of schoolmarms! -- and the feminists, that perception is mercifully changing, though I do think the Vatican has a far way to go. Sigh.

Ann, replying to your 8:03--isn't this what makes the Doctorate of St. Hildegaard so important?Replying to your earlier comment, there are of course many things that need more theological work. Moral theology needs a lot more work. But, some things have always been clear. Since St. Paul (rather some years before Constantine!) sexual purity has been a goal and sign of Christianity.

#14, just after The Hunger Games, book 2. Alas, Rush Limbaugh's book is #5; there are mountains still to climb!

As I see it the RCC has done a better job of keeping the Eucharist intact despite the RCC shortcomings. The Separated brethren have done a better job with the Word of God and preaching tho they have shortcomings also. Vatican II got around this quest by saying that other followers of Christ "subsist" in the RCC. The Reformation was positive in that it did help reform the church as it woke up the moarchs. Vatican II was great in that it brought the best of all Christians together. Many were upset at the apparent chaos that ensued. The fact is that a certain amount of chaos helps us get things better and right. Teflon families fall apart as do teflon churches. The church is much better since VII despite the polarizations. Turning back to the Church of Dogma/power is at the root of the polarization. The Church has officially declared that one can be saved outside the church. The official dogma was, at one time, that one could not. This was not a development of dogma. It really was a change at least in the official church. So development of dogma is really a euphemism for changing something to make it more amenable. As the saying goes. The Church has always held....The beatitudes are necessary for salvation. They are mandatory not suggestive. Not allegiance to the pope.

"Indeed, one would think that there are such things as default assumptions. However, when one looks at the criticism by the CDF of the LCWR leadership, it seems the CDF made expected no default assumptions about the LCWR. It *accused* them of not talking enough about certain issue. In other words, in the nuns case silence was *not* taken by default to be agreement."Ann, it's a fair point. Although in the case of the LCWR, the CDF did actually say some positive things about it, iirc (at least a sentence or two). The notification doesn't have any words of praise or appreciation. My assumption - which may or may not be good - is that it talked about the problems and left alone the things that weren't problems.

"I read the short preface, in which Sr. Margaret talks about creating a framework for sexual ethics that includes historical and cross-cultural perspectives. Much as you or I might find Sr. Margarets ideas compelling, does it seem to you that perhaps this would strike Church authorities the wrong way right off the bat given that they would argue that Catholics already have a framework for sexual and social justice ethics in the form of Church teachings? And that a Catholic nun would be expected to promulgate that framework instead of developing her own?"Hi, Jean, I expect that the church wouldn't want to limit her to regurgitating the Catechism. But perhaps they would want the church's traditional approaches given more consideration? The notification states, "In addressing various moral issues, Sr. Farley either ignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionally mentioned, treats it as one opinion among others." It seems to me that Luke Timothy Johnson, in his Commonweal review of the book, makes a similar critique:"Some elements of the ethical structure built up in Just Love are less clearly developed than they might be, especially in light of the Christian dimension of the books subtitle. Farley pays little attention to the ecclesial character of sexual ethics. How does the churchs standard of holiness with respect to the body come into play? How might the church as a community play a role in discerning appropriate codes of personal behavior? And how can this discerning activity (which properly puts emphasis on human experience) negotiate the often difficult declarations of the magisterium? The last is a special issue for Catholics, to be sure, but it is scarcely foreign to other ecclesial bodies struggling with sexual ethics."Farleys effort to describe a person-based sexual ethics that moves easily to a sexual ethics based in justice is certainly consonant with Christian identity; but is it distinctive to Christian identity, or does it arise from what is distinctive in Christian commitment? The answer may be that it need not be distinctively Christian in order to be fully Christian, but I would like to see the point argued more fully. Finally, while I appreciate that Scripture is but one of the resources available for normative moral discourse, I would have appreciated a more robust engagement with both the problems and possibilities offered by biblical witness; Farleys method as a scholar ends up giving more space to the Samoans than to Scripture."These questions, I want to make clear, arise from a deeply sympathetic reading of Farleys argument. I consider Just Love an important resource and spur for further collaboration among Christians and others on the knotty issues of sexual ethics."

Kathy, thanks for the implied plug, but I'm not that good!

Kathy ==I agree that Hildegard's canonization and being made a Doctor of the Church is a milestone. It took over 900 years to get her canonized. I suspect it's Benedict's doing. It's been said that one of his closest advisors is a woman, his housekeeper (!) who has been given some real responsibility on some Vatican board or other. Maybe he learned how capable women can be when he worked in a public university, Regenburg U. You dont' get that sort of experience teaching in a seminary. \

About the Church's sexual ethics --I think it's clear that both liberals and conservatives (not to mention the young) are agreed that the sexual ethics teachings of the Church need deep reconsideration and some changes. With the new understanding of what women are really capable of, it seems to me that a revision of possible marriage structures have to be done. JP II tried to revise what had been seen as matrimonial relationships, and his new view did include greater respect for women, but I think he had a distorted view of women, even though it was generally positive. So I think most Catholics think that what marriage/matrimony relationships can and should be needs to be re-thought. I should add that I think we have also gained a better understanding of men -- of the emotional parts which they used to think they had to keep well hidden. The contraception teaching just makes no sense to most Catholics, and that alone is enough reason to reconsider it. (I think that the bad scholastic arguments against it as well as JP II's arguments need to be dumped.) And the Church needs to do a much better job of persuading the Faithful that abortion is (generally) a terrible injustice. But a lot of this will require a review of the principle that the end doesn't justify the means, and that is perhaps the biggest obstacle to reform.The conservatives are also calling for revisions because like the liberals, so many of them have divorced children and gay ones.As to the young, I agree with Kathy who mentioned purity as a sexual value. I"m not sure just what that means (except miserable abstention :-), but I also think it's a fact that the young do tend to excess, and they need to recognize that sexual abstention does make a lot of sense in many ways and for may reasons. Sure, the hell-fire that the Church kept throwing at them/us was ridiculous too, but there is a lot to be said for self-discipline - of a rational sort.

P. S. I think that this Amazon phenomenon is strong evidence that the Faithful are quite willing to do some hard, serious thinking about these matters. In fact, they seem *anxious* to do some hard thinking -- if it faces the real problems the Faithful face. The bishops (yes, them) underestimate us.

Benedict might not be thinking about changing the rule about divorced persons receiving Communion, but In Milan yesterday his statements about the subject were most sympathetic. No more shunning the divorced, he said, on the contrary, divorced persons should be welcomed in the Church. This seems a step in the right direction to me.http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/homepage/blog-sacri-palazzi-en/deta...

Ann,Pope John Paul II said much the same thing about the divorced and remarried in 1997. I have raised the question many times why this does not also apply to same-sex couples.

Maureen Dowd to the rescue!

Vatican getting so hot and bothered . . . . the Vaticans thuggish crusade to push American nuns and all Catholic women back into moldy subservience. . . . The Vaticans Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which seems as hostile to women as the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice . . . .[S]he deals with the modern world as it is. She refuses to fall in line with a Vatican rigidly clinging to an inbred, illusory world where men rule with no backtalk from women, gays are deviants, the divorced cant remarry, men and women cant use contraception, masturbation is a grave disorder and celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages. . . . A breath of fresh air in the stultifying church . . . .Taking on the Council of Trent and a church that has taken a stand against pleasure . . . .The Vatican showed no mercy to the Sister of Mercy . . . .. . . .steeped in Borgia-like corruption and sexual scandals, lashing out at anyone who notes the obvious: They have lost track of right and wrong. . . .

David, thanks so much for pointing to that particularly even-handed bit of journalism.

I ordered the book, just to be supportive.

Though I ordered it from Barnes & Noble, it was a few $$$ cheaper and ships in 3-4 business days.

This post-and-comments is well on its way to being #1 on the dotCom chartsI could not help but contrast Sister Maureen's rant with Sister Margaret's measured Statement:"I appreciate the efforts made by the Congregation and its consultants, over several years, to evaluate positions articulated in that book, and I do not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching."

I don't understand the glee over the amazon.com rating of this book. Controversy and rancor draws people like, erm, sewage draws flies. The upticks the book is getting doesn't necessarily stem from any inherent merits. It's probably more reflective of the extent to which people think the Church, or at least its authorities, are wrong-headed. Which I believe was Grant's initial point.As noted earlier, I don't plan to read nor purchase any more books about sex, including this one, but the theological and political aspects of the controversy have been interesting. Thanks fo my friend Jim P., as always, for his response to me and to everyone else for their comments. My hat's off to couples and individuals who can navigate the landmine of Catholic teaching about marriage, sex, and love, and find joy in the Lord. I'm not one of them. But I will be celebrating Hildegard von Bingen's elevation to doctor. I've been dragging around an LP of her "Feather on the Breath of God" for over 30 years. Dr. Oliver Sachs, who is a non-believer, wrote a lovely essay about her years ago in his book, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." He posited that the designs of her mandelas suggested to him that she might have suffered from migraines. (And if you've ever had migraines with auras, you'll see exactly what he means. Google images with care if your migraine triggers are sensitive!) I don't have the exact quote in front of me, but he esteemed the ability of "a privileged consciousness" to channel the pain of her affliction into creative and joyous expressions. Isn't that what we all strive for as Christians?

Correcting email address.When a person doesn't like Yahweh's standards they make up their own. Nothing new about that. If one wants to understand Yahweh don't ask a theologian. Thank you William Tyndale. We can read it for ourselves.

200 comments! I'm sorry that it was Maureen Dowd that brought us over the edge.

I could not help but contrast Sister Maureens rant with Sister Margarets measured Statement:---A world in which "men rule with no backtalk from women" would be waaay better for . . . .

200 comments! Im sorry that it was Maureen Dowd that brought us over the edge.---A world in which men rule with no backtalk from women would be waaay better for . . . .

I dont understand the glee over the amazon.com rating of this book.Jean,I don't either althoughfull disclosureI ordered a copy of the book myself. The ad campaign could be, "Stick it to the Church! Buy Just Love today!" The assumption seems to be, "This must be a really good (or interesting) book if the CDF criticizes it!" Now, I personally have very mixed feelings about the CDF, but I don't count myself as a Catholic. I can certainly understand why many Catholics might have very mixed feelings about the CDF. But I am not really sure why the "condemnation" of a book by the CDF is taken by so many as an indication that a book is a "must read."

Michael,Maureen often brings us "over the edge:" that's her waaay!

"I am not really sure why the condemnation of a book by the CDF"I think putting "condemnation" in quotes is the right thing here, because I'm not certain that what this notification has done amounts to a condemnation. This is from the document's conclusion:"The Congregation warns the faithful that her book Just Love. A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Consequently it cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue."Regarding the "not in conformity" bit: it seems that Sr. Farley agrees, and has said, in effect, 'I didn't write it to be in conformity with Catholic teaching.'Regarding the "cannot be used in as a valid expression of Catholic teaching" bit: it names two settings for which it can't be used:* Counseling and formation. I'm not sure how broadly or narrowly to construe that. Does that include every theology course and catechetical class at any level and to any audience? I'd read "formation" to refer to the formation of clergy and religious - a pretty narrow construal. I'd read "counseling" to refer to spiritual direction - another relatively specialized use. Can anyone help on how to understand this phrase?* ecumenical and interreligious dialogue: I take this to mean that this book shouldn't be presented/recommended to those of other denominations and religions as encompassing normative Catholic teaching. Fair enough; presumably, Sr. Farley would agree. That the book is soaring on the Amazon charts may not worry the CDF, so long as the book isn't being used for the purposes it has named.One more thought: it's worth noting that nobody has been burned at the stake, or jailed. Nobody has been silenced. Nobody has been fired. Nobody has been disciplined or has had her activities restricted. What the notification prescribes doesn't even qualify as a punishment, istm.

That the book is soaring on the Amazon charts may not worry the CDF, so long as the book isnt being used for the purposes it has named.Jim,I wonder how many people who have ordered the book (and I include myself) will actually read it. If it is really a significant number (and I have my doubts), the CDF should secretly consider "condemning" books they actually want people to read.

A couple of more thoughts:The book was published in 2006, received awards in 2008 and then this now.Why? The screws are being tightened CDF style. And the publicity (not just Dowd) is bad from what I see in the wider media: the media play up wil boost sales -so what?People may moan about Maureen, but her "rant" expresses the anger many feel toward the vatican and its approach today.And they are not dunderheads either.A comment at America's "In All Things" summed up some of that anger I thought:"We might as well close our universities and just run CCD classes."Such is the divide as we move to the smaller purer Church.God help us.

"The ad campaign could be, Stick it to the Church! Buy Just Love today!David N,--Andrew Sullivan had a note about this yesterday about this. The headline said, "Annoy the Vatican. Read Just Love" :-) His support might have had some effect on sales, but it's not the whole story. He posted the headline late in the afternoon after the rocket had launched.

"A comment at Americas In All Things summed up some of that anger I thought:We might as well close our universities and just run CCD classes.Such is the divide as we move to the smaller purer Church."But doesn't this raise some of the very questions that David Nickol has sought to raise regarding the proper place for this kind of critical inquiry? Surveys show that most students in Catholic colleges have woefully inadequate understandings of even the basics of the Catholic faith (my experience as a student at a Catholic/Jesuit college agrees), so should this kind of text be used in a Catholic undergraduate course (I understand that it's purpose is not necessarily aimed at that level, as it aims to be a more theoretical framework)? When students "jump" to introducing texts critical of "official" teaching without adequately forming the context and substance of the teaching, doesn't that lead to the conclusion that "I can just disagree with anything", which, at least until Jim Jenkins is elected Pope, doesn't reflect the Catholic understanding of the faith, even of dissent.Take the quote regarding masturbation (I have read the book, and understand that it is much-too-shortened lifted quote): certainly in a world as saturated now as ours is by the availability of online pornography, the statement made needs serious qualification (even Prof. Farley herself would agree with that). But how good are we at doing that qualification? Reducing debates like this to the "pure" people versus the "corrupt" hierarchs picking on the women seems to me to short-circuit some of that hard work. And this is why I think the history of these debates (particularly of the ressourcement movement that lead to the Council) deserves to be considered and, I think, considered because the current model of "dialogue" via press release and column and blog and blog comment doesn't seem to be bearing much fruit.

The CDF-Amazon linkage serves today, with limited field of view but instantaneous worldwide communication, a function that the Index Librorum Prohibitorum performed until its 20th edition was abolished in 1966. For four centuries, the Index highlighted books to be avoided by the Faithful. It thereby aroused wider curiosity about fascinating subjects than many a book would otherwise have earned on its own. The generalized law of unintended consequences seems to escape the attention of the guardians in this as in other areas (e.g., LCWR).

My favorite part of Maureen Dowd's op-ed in this morning's NY Times (6/6/12):"This latest ignoble fight with a noble nun adds to the picture of a Catholic Church in a permanent defensive crouch, steeped in Borgia-like corruption and sexual scandals, lashing out at anyone who notes the obvious: They have lost track of right and wrong."Dolan and his brother hierarchs must rue the day they ever thought it was a good idea to educate American religious women so they could teach Catholic women like Dowd to read and write.Catholics should add Laurie Goodstein and Maureen Dowd to the Litany of Saints: ... Ora pro nobis!

And the Church needs to do a much better job of persuading the Faithful that abortion is (generally) a terrible injustice. But a lot of this will require a review of the principle that the end doesnt justify the meansAnn,I think this misses the point entirely about abortion. The morality has nothing to do with the end or the means. Rather, its that each and every human being is endowed by our Creator with the inalienable right to life. In other words, no one has the right to take that life away for any reason and furthermore no one has the right to cut-short their own life. Life cant be given away or taken away because its not ours to give or take.

I was just going to note Curran's contribution as well, John.The notions of how we understand Church and our places in it is a bright dividing line today.And modernity questions around sex and women are particularly in the limelight.How "perewnnial" the answers to these are is much in play and assumptions about "truth" and how much we know in received wisdom or not, particulalry in a magisterium questioned by many is broadening the divide.

For the most part I think references to the Amazon tote board are harmless fun, but it does make one wonder if too many theologians, Sister Farley not among them, consider thumbing their noses at the Vatican a useful marketing tool.Gerelyn--I think the missing words you were searching for are "all God's creatures."

People who live in glass houses shouldn't "thumb noses."

Charles Curren's article, referenced above by John Hayes, includes a link to an essay by Sr. Farley on ecclesiology and ethics. Inasmuch as it is a book preview and there are entire pages not available, it's difficult to get the complete picture of her views, but I've just sampled some of it, and her writing strikes me as a model of "teaching with the church".

I appreciate the efforts made by the Congregation and its consultants, over several years, to evaluate positions articulated in that book, and I do not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within it are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching.Sister Margaret's statement was indeed measured. And nuanced. I hope I am not overreading it in seeing an ironic play in the words "current" and "official."

Clifton Maze @ 06/06/2012 - 9:18 am: obviously you are toying with out-and-out disobedience to a Church Directive of the Nth Degree:http://blog.activeparishioner.com/2008/08/13/catholics-to-stop-sayingsin... course, if you are one of those non-church separated brethren or Jewish, sin away at will.

I can just disagree with anythingJeff,I think this is an issue we face throughout US society today. There are many people who make claims, which are highlighted in the press, based on one personal example. And that personal example may have a myriad of other possible explanations which would produce the same outcome. Yet someone with little or no real knowledge or insight is presented as having real knowledge. And our governments fall prey to the same sloppy thinking which tends to delegitimatize many of its activities, even the beneficial ones. I think we see it here regularly under the rubric 'lived experience' as a reason to dissent from the much longer lived experience and thoughtful discernment which backs the teachings of the institutional church.

Istm that the "question behind the question" here, or at least one of them, is this: We all know that authoritative Church teaching on many issues changes. How? Before Vatican II, a number of the Council's bright theological lights had been silenced in one way or another. Invited to the Council as periti (experts), they argued and wrote and shaped the many changes that took place there. They went from outcasts to experts in the wink of an eye.How does Church teaching change in our time? Is it by careful and creative theological work by people like Farley? Or if all subjects of current magisterial teaching are off-limits to theologians, doesn't that in effect claim that there is no such thing as non-irreformable teaching? Given the importance of the changes we've seen, (on slavery, religious liberty, and sexuality too,) why would that be good for the Church? We must regard the hierarchy of truths--that some truths are more central to Christian faith than others--and not think that every aspect of current magisterial teaching is correct in every point. To believe so is hubristic in the extreme. Theologians, especially the really good ones like Farley, do great work at the growing edges of our tradition.

Or if all subjects of current magisterial teaching are off-limits to theologiansLisa,Perhaps no subjects are off-limits, it just incumbent on the theologian to convince the hierarchy of the truthfulness before going to the laity. And if it takes a lifetime before the change occurs, perhaps thats fine. After all, even the famous Galileo was imprisoned for a perceived attack on the pope, not his controversial views of the solar system. From wikipediaGalileo later defended his views in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which appeared to attack Pope Urban VIII and thus alienated him and the Jesuits, who had both supported Galileo up until this point.

Bruce --I am very much against abortion in most cases. However, there are some very uncommon exceptions, as when both mother and child will die unless the child is aborted. It can also be cogently argued that the organism at the very beginning of gestation is not a person. In fact, some of the great medieval theologians, including Aquinas, argued that way -- based on philosophical premises. One can then argue that if it is not a person then it cannot have a person's right to life, given that a right to life is based on the person's being a person.

Tangent:In Freiburg, Germany, 140 priests go on record as giving Communion to remarried dircees, as well as Confession/absolution, and the last rites.http://www.thetablet.co.uk/latest-news/4201I wonder if the German clergy, including some of its hierarchy, is speaking out because an earlier generation learned by bitter experience the consequences of not speaking out on moral issues. Yesterday, a Cardinal also made a surprising statement about gay marriage, but he then "clarified" it. (Can't remember where I read it.) They certainly are leading.

Bruce: " After all, even the famous Galileo was imprisoned for a perceived attack on the pope, not his controversial views of the solar system."Stop already! You're killing me!

All seven male US Franciscan Provincials have just sided with the Sisters against the Vatican's 'A bridge too far' .The Vatican loses Franciscans but gain SSPX.??? Maybe and if the Vatican accepts the SSPX demands the Vatican will declare victory. BXVI will be carried to Philly in 2015 & Cdl Levada retires to Ca or Hawaii ... all is well???.

... [Trackback] ... [...] There you will find 9866 more Infos: commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=19254...

Jimmy Mac @ 06/06/2012 - 3:36 pmThank you Jimmy. I get the drift of what you are saying even though I can't access the link right now. I am not a Catholic, not a Jew, not a Christian. I don't follow (as a member) any set of doctrines by any church. I guess by your standards I would be classified as a non church brethren. But by Allah's standard I belong to Jesus through the Power of the Holy Spirit. The thing about the God of Abraham is that one can refer to him by any name of choice and he will hear if he so chooses. However, can't wait to read the directive you linked. If the directive convicts me of being a sinner of the Nth degree, I probably wouldn't have contempt for the authors. I'll just think about their point of view because there could be some truth in it and maybe I need the correction. I am glad when God uses others to correct me.

... [Trackback] ... [...] Informations on that Topic: commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=19254 [...] ...

I am also prone to sending notifications; sent two, just yesterday: one to Amazon ordering a copy of the book; and one to Sr Margaret letting her know bought it. If the CDF is wriggling and grimacing over it, it's likely to conatin a lot of good stuff. Got a gracious reply from Sr. Maragret, too.

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