Every Catholic You Know Is “Intrinsically and Gravely Disordered”

Sister Margaret Farley, however, does not think you're disordered.

Don’t take my word for it. Just ask the Vatican, which, in its condemnation of Margaret Farley’s book, Just Love, reminded its flock that masturbation is an “intrinsically and gravely disordered action.” Which means that about 95% of the Catholics in the pews this Sunday will be guilty of the heinous sin of self abuse.

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican on Monday sharply criticized a book on sexuality written by a prominent American nun, saying it contradicted church teaching on issues like masturbation, homosexuality and marriage and that its author had a “defective understanding” of Catholic theology.

The Vatican’s orthodoxy office said the book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics by Sister Margaret Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy religious order and emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School, posed “grave harm” to the faithful.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that in the 2006 book, Farley either ignored church teaching on core issues of human sexuality or treated it as merely one opinion among many.

Farley said Monday she never intended the book to reflect current official Catholic teaching. Rather, she said, she wrote it to explore sexuality via various religious traditions, theological resources and human experience.


The Farley critique, signed by the American head of the congregation, Cardinal William Levada, comes amid the Vatican’s recent crackdown on the largest umbrella group of American sisters. The Vatican last month essentially imposed martial law on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, accusing it of undermining church teaching and imposing certain “radical feminist themes” that were incompatible with Catholicism.

It ordered a full-scale overhaul of the group and appointed three bishops to carry it out.

The crackdown on Farley, a top American theologian, will likely fuel greater resentment at Rome among more liberal-minded American sisters.

The Vatican examination of the book began in 2010 and involved seeking Farley’s responses to its concerns. After her replies failed to satisfy the Congregation, it moved to a full-fledged “examination in cases of urgency” that concluded Dec. 14.

Pope Benedict XVI approved the decision last March and ordered the decision published.

In its statement, the Vatican singled out specific problems in Farley’s book which it said “affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality.”

Farley, for example, writes that masturbation doesn’t raise any moral problems and can actually help relationships rather than hinder them. The Vatican asserted that according to church teaching “masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”

Farley wrote that homosexual people as well as their activities should be respected. Church teaching holds that gays should be respected but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

On gay marriage, Farley said legal recognition of gay marriage can help transform the stigmatization of gays. Levada wrote back that approving gay marriage would not only signal approval of “deviant behavior” but would obscure the value of traditional marriage between man and woman in society.

“The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions,” he wrote.

In her statement, Farley said she had aimed to propose a framework for sexual ethics that “uses a criteria of justice” in evaluating sexual relations.

She acknowledged that her responses to certain issues do depart from traditional doctrine, but said they nonetheless were coherent in theological and moral traditions.

“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,” she wrote.

via Vatican criticizes US nun’s book on sexuality, contains ‘defective understanding’ of doctrine | StarTribune.com.

  • Pax

    95% sounds low. A disordered desire is just a temptation to sin. I don’t know any Catholics who claim to be sinless or immune to temptation.

  • Sandra

    The Catholic Church should count itself extremely blessed to have inspired, intelligent, respected people like Sister Margaret Farley in its ranks. Unfortunately, it seems to want to rid itself of such valuable assets.

    I look forward to the day when Catholics on a large scale can reclaim the beauty of their rich traditions, organizing and defining themselves apart from the Pope and the Vatican. I believe that’s a necessary step for the mental, spiritual and sexual health of society.

  • Luke Allison

    Hmmmm….my experience in marriage has been that masturbation actually puts me in a bit of a daze and makes it harder to connect emotionally with my wife. Because, let’s face it, I’m not thinking about her when I do it.

    So….not sure I disagree with “disordered” within the context of marriage, in a situation where only one person is involved in the masturbation.

    That said, yeah, teenagers are going to masturbate. How do we help them not let it control their every waking moment?

    • BabyRaptor

      The fact that you don’t think about your partner is your issue, Luke. Don’t use that to condemn everyone else. Better yet, stop worrying about anyones’ sex life but your own.

      And if you think jacking off controls a teenager’s “every waking moment,” you need to meet some teenagers.

      • Luke Allison

        Ha ha. I work with teenagers for a living. I have yet to talk to a young man who is not dealing with an uncontrollable desire to “jack off” to pornography. So….

        Also:
        1. Where in my post did I “condemn everyone else?” Don’t let your allergic reaction always be “you’re condeming!” when you disagree with someone.
        2. You sound rather sanctimonious and (dare I say!) judgmental when you speak as though I’m some kind of aberrant pervert for masturbating without thinking about my wife. I have the guts to talk openly about it, and suggested that maybe it wasn’t the best idea for married folks. Isn’t that what blog posts are for? Opinions, suggestions, honest discussion, etc?

        Actually, your whole post is one big accusation/criticism of me as a person. This irony is not lost on me.

        So I’m assuming you don’t masturbate? Or else when you do you think about your significant other/spouse/imaginary future spouse?

  • ME

    Misleading headline. The quote said that behavior is a disordered action. It did not say that a person who does that action is gravely disordered.

    When I covet my neighbor’s stereo that is a disordered action. That does not make me a disordered person.

    Another example, when Tony misrepresents someone else position that is a regrettable action. That does not make him a regrettable person.

  • http://fpcaustin.org terrence

    Ah yes, the natural theology of Saint Thomas. The Vatican truly is still in the Dark Ages. Sex is for procreation only and truly–that is how GOD so ordered things. Therefore, any sex that does not intend to be procreative is unnatural/disordered and an anathema to the Creator. It is better for me to have an affair without birth control than it is to have a monogomous sex with my wife with birth control. (Look it up; the former is a venial sin, the latter is a mortal sin.) Crazy, huh?

    And for those of you defending “disorderliness,” that is the excuse the Vatican uses to internally reorder (reassign) pedophilia priests and child rapists.

    • Pax

      You have been misinformed. If you’re interested in what the Catholic Church teaches, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is available for free on the Vatican’s website.

      You’ll note that the Church does not teach that all sex must be intended to be procreative (see CCC 2370 – http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm).

      Your characterization of adultery as a venial sin is also not a Catholic teaching. In fact, if you look at the definition of mortal sin in the Catechism (see CCC 1857-1858 – http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a8.htm), adultery is one of the few examples given immediately (assuming full knowledge and deliberate consent as with any mortal sin).

  • IntoTheWest

    And, to Terrence’s point, it’s genuinely, truly, deeply disordered to not be so appalled and repulsed by child molestation that you call the police and have the perp. arrested immediately. Aiding and abetting known child molesters is ten thousand times more intrinsically disordered than either masturbation or mature, healthy gay relationships.

  • Christi

    @Sandra: There IS not a Roman Catholic Church apart from the Pope, the Vicar of Christ that Jesus put in place. *That* is the beauty of rich tradition, 2000 years old.

    If the Church counseled me that I was leading others astray with teachings contrary to the beliefs of the universal Roman Catholic Church, I would be obedient, not openly defiant. The Church does not conform to my opinions. If you have problems with obedience, there are certainly thousands of other Christian denominations that would welcome you.

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  • http://heretichusband.blogspot.com Heretic Husband

    Ah, memories. When I had to choose between masturbation and Catholicism, the choice was clear:

    http://heretichusband.blogspot.com/2012/03/chapter-3-in-which-i-become-anxious.html

    I’ve never looked back.

  • reynard61

    “Let’s just say that I never have to shave my palms more than twice a day…” – Anonymous comment made by student in a High School sex education class, when asked how often said student mastrubated.


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