Bend over, Vatican


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I'd like to give a nice golf clap — heck, let's make it a round of applause — for Sister Margaret A. Farley, a theological scholar who wrote the book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.

This book would have never even come close to hitting anywhere near my literary radar if it weren't for the Vatican, in all its wisdom and glory, censuring it from all true Roman Catholic eyes. So, maybe I should give a little clap for it, too — or maybe a metaphoric slap would be more appropriate.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith publicly came out and denounced Farley in an official "Notification" to the Catholic community this past Monday, saying the usual things any tyrannical group of individuals would say when something (like a better idea) is a threat to its power.

"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expresses profound regret that a member of an institute of consecrated life, Sr. Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M., affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality," the statement explained. "Furthermore, the Congregation wishes to encourage theologians to pursue the task of studying and teaching moral theology in full concord with the principles of Catholic doctrine."

What a load of crap.

Typical, I know: A young, semi-liberal, and immensely handsome college male coming out against the Catholic Church. It seems cliché, I'll admit, but let's not make this about me. Let's make this about the book, Just Love.

Peel back the cover and any guilt-ridden Catholic like myself will find some solace in a different and oddly freeing interpretation of human sexuality: First, by admitting that it's there and it's nothing to be ashamed of, which for any hedon who had a proper Catholic upbringing is more than a huge deal.

The book presents several contemporary, theological interpretations to ethics concerning same-sex marriage, divorce, remarriage, and the all-too-taboo act of masturbation — all closely considered and measured against traditional Christian law by this correspondent and, assumedly, by most young college students in their morally formative years.

"It [the book] 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," Farley said in a responding statement to the Vatican's reprimand.

Farley goes on to say in her statement that Just Love"was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching" but rather was written to aid people when they "think through their questions about human sexuality."

Remember back when the demi-gods banned The Da Vinci Code? It wasn't such a big deal because, whatever, it's not the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church that Jesus knocked up Mary Magdalene — but this is a big deal. Someone in the Church is trying to have an honest to God, open debate about human sexuality, and the Vatican replies it's too dark and too disgusting to even touch, further demonizing it in the minds of young Christians.

It's not so much the censorship but the demeaning and repressive message sent to people struggling with personal sexuality in contemporary society: You think about sex in a healthy way, huh? Well, have fun in Hell.

Too bad, kid-who-has-questions-about-his-identity, keep repressing those thoughts until they put you in therapy. So sad, married-couple-in-a-committed-relationship, don't take birth control because then you won't get pregnant.

But what the Vatican can't stop is the idea this book represents: the tilt at the windmill, and the comfort in hoping that maybe, just maybe, you are all right.

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