“Do they know who she is?” My friend, a strongly committed Catholic law professor from the Midwest, almost burst out as we strode down 10th Ave. last night on the way to dinner. Did they know she is one of the most influential and most respected intellectual leaders in the America church? Do they realize the effect it has among enlightened Catholics when a condemnation comes out of the blue from Rome, when the target is revered by a network of students and professors from Africa to here? Especially in the wake of the feedback to the knuckle-rappng delivered to America nuns.
The she of course is Sister of Mercy Margaret Farley, former professor at the Yale Divinity School and author of Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (Continuum, 2006), whose book, as reported in the New York Times (June 5) and National Catholic Reporter, has been denounced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as “not consistent with authentic Catholic theology and should not be used by Roman Catholics.” Their argument is that the theology of the book does not conform strictly with the theology of the magisterium. Farley would reply that she does not purport to present strictly Catholic theology, but to employ years of social and cultural, as well as Christian theological, research in order to strengthen the marital commitment by applying principles of justice.
Last week, I called attention to, but did not write about, an important article by former Ambassador Thomas Melady and the Reverend Richard Cizik, a prominent evangelical leader. The two men wrote about the need for Christians to oppose efforts in Uganda to criminalize homosexuality, including life-time prison sentences and even death as penalties in certain cases. I think Melady’s and Cizik’s article is very important.
Many gay men and women see the Christian Church as unjust and bigoted towards them. For purposes of this article, I will only consider the situation of the Catholic Church. Just today, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in publishing its notice about Sr. Margaret Farley’s book on sexual ethics, reaffirmed the teaching that: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” It is not difficult to see how gay men and women could find these words hurtful and even demeaning, even though the CDF precedes this bit about “intrinsically disordered” by affirming the fact that the Church also teaches gay men and women “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
I should like to see the Catholic Church, and the broader Christian community, do more to focus on the teaching about “respect, compassion and sensitivity” and think Melady’s and Cizik’s article does this. It does not ask the Church’s leaders to do something they do not think they could, i.e., change the Church’s teaching. It does not ask the Church to reverse its views on marriage. Instead, the call to oppose unjust discrimination against gays in Uganda asks the Church to do what it can.
Michael Sean Winters
-full post at National Catholic Reporter