St. Joan of Arc, Pray for UsJune 5, 2012 at 10:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
Tags: "Give Us This Day", "Just Love", Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Jamie Manson, Sister Margaret A. Farley, St. Joan of Arc
Well, the Vatican assault on women, especially Catholic sisters, continues. On June 4th, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a condemnation of Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, a book by the highly regarded Christian ethicist and Yale Divinity School professor emeritus, Sister of Mercy Margaret A.Farley. Laurie Goodstein and Rachel Donadio offer an overview of events in the New York Times, while Jamie Manson, Farley’s former teaching assistant at Yale, explores the implications of the Vatican’s attack on Farley’s work in an especially insightful way.
A number of commentators have noted the legalistic nature of the Vatican notification and particularly its conclusion that the book is “not in conformity with the teachings of the Church.” Farley herself replies 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.”
What strikes me about this conclusion, though, is the notion that in this increasingly and extraordinarily complex, multilayered world, it would even be possible to write a three-hundred-page book that accords with the “Church’s teaching” on almost anything. If each member of the College of Cardinals went off now and wrote such a book, would they all agree with one another or with “the Church”? I begin to envision the “Church’s teaching” especially, of course, on sex, as an electronic template, presented to each Catholic at baptism, that can be used to print the truth on paper, computer screens, walls, etc. The alternative, of course, is that we would talk with one another, read, think, pray, and come to some agreement, for our time, at least. Farley’s book might be of considerable use in this process.
In closing, I’d like to point out that a few days before the Vatican issued its reprimand of an internationally recognized Catholic ethicist, the church celebrated the feast of St. Joan of Arc. Joan is my confirmation saint, so May 30 is always a happy day for me. In his commentary on Joan on May 30 in the daily prayer book that I use, Give Us This Day, Robert Ellsberg recalls that Joan was condemned in 1431 by an ecclesiastical court (a Roman Catholic court, that is) and was burned at the stake. But in 1456 she was found innocent of the charges against her, and in 1920, canonized. Ellsberg concludes:
“Among canonized saints, she enjoys the unusual distinction of having been previously condemned and executed as a heretic. Thus, she may legitimately be claimed not only as a patron of France but of all those holy men and women vilified in their own time in the hope of eventual vindication.”
Saint Joan of Arc, pray for Sister Margaret Farley and for us all. Amen.