* Sister Margaret Farley is professor emeritus at Yale
* Vatican says her 2006 book is at odds with Catholic
* Vatican says masturbation is "gravely disordered action"
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, June 4 The Vatican criticised a
popular American nun on Monday, saying her book on sexual
ethics, including topics such as masturbation and homosexuality,
contradicted Catholic teaching and must not be used by Catholic
The Vatican's doctrinal department, the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, issued a stern "notification" about
Sister Margaret A. Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy and
a professor emeritus of Christian ethics at Yale University.
The Congregation sharply criticised Farley, saying her
writings manifest a "defective understanding of the objective
nature of natural moral law".
Two months ago the Vatican issued a stinging report saying
the umbrella body representing most American Catholic nuns
promoted radical feminist ideas and sometimes challenged
Monday's notification, signed by department head Cardinal
William Levada, an American, and approved by Pope Benedict,
sharply criticised Farley's award-winning 2006 book "Just Love,
a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics".
Specifically, the Vatican rejected her views on four
subjects, masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions and
remarriage after divorce.
Farley writes that masturbation, particularly in the case of
women, "usually does not raise any moral questions at all" and
that it "actually serves relationships rather than hindering
The Vatican said the Church teaches that masturbation is "an
intrinsically and gravely disordered action".
Farley writes that "same-sex oriented persons as well as
their activities can and should be respected". The Vatican
notification reminded her that while homosexual tendencies are
not sinful, homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered (and)
contrary to the natural law".
GAY MARRIAGE REDUCES REJECTION
Farley writes that homosexual marriage can help reduce
hatred, rejection and stigmatization of gays. The Church opposes
The Vatican said Farley's positions "are in direct
contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual
morality" and warned the faithful that her book "is not in
conformity with the teaching of the Church".
It also banned the use of the book by Catholic educators.
When the book was published in 2006, America, the weekly
magazine of the Jesuit order in the United States, called its
contents "an important message in a time in which sexual abuse
and violence are rampant and the Catholic Church has failed to
protect children from sexual exploitation".
In 2008, the book received the prestigious Louisville
Grawemeyer Award for books on religion.
Nuns in the United States are still feeling the sting of a
report by the same Vatican department in April that criticised
them as being feminist and politicised.
It was issued after a Vatican investigation determined that
the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), whose 1,500
members represent some 80 percent of about 57,000 American nuns,
had "serious doctrinal problems" and promoted "radical feminist
themes incompatible with the Catholic faith".
That report, which also criticised the LCWR for sometimes
challenging bishops, shocked most American nuns and led to an
outpouring of popular and editorial support for them and their
work among the poor, and in schools and hospitals.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Tim Pearce)