Vatican Denounces Nun Over Book on Sexuality

The Vatican’s doctrinal office on Monday denounced an American nun who taught Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School for a book that attempted to present a theological rationale for same-sex relationships, masturbation and remarriage after divorce.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that the book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” by Sister Margaret A. Farley, was “not consistent with authentic Catholic theology,” and should not be used by Roman Catholics.

Sister Farley, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar, responded in a statement: “I can only clarify 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.”

The book, she said, offers “contemporary interpretations” of justice and fairness in human sexual relations, moving away from a “taboo morality” and drawing on “present-day scientific, philosophical, theological, and biblical resources.”

The formal censure comes only weeks after the same Vatican office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a stinging reprimand of the main coordinating organization of American nuns, prompting many Catholics across the country to turn out in defense of the nuns with protests, petitions and vigils.

The nuns’ organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said on Friday that its board had declared that the Vatican’s accusations were “unsubstantiated,” and that it was sending its leaders to Rome to make its case. Three bishops have been appointed by the Vatican to supervise a total overhaul of the nuns’ organization.

The censure of Sister Farley, who belongs to the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, is the second time recently that a book by an American nun has been denounced by the church’s hierarchy. In 2011, the doctrine committee of U.S. bishops condemned “Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God,” by Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, a professor of theology at Fordham University in New York.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office, led by an American, Cardinal William J. Levada, has spent more than two years reviewing Sister Farley’s book, which was published in 2006. The office first notified Sister Farley’s superior of its concerns in March 2010, and said it had opened a further investigation because a response she had sent to the Vatican in October 2010 hadn’t been “satisfactory.” It said her book had “been a cause of confusion among the faithful.”

The dean of Yale Divinity School, Harold W. Attridge, a Catholic layman, and the president of the Sisters of Mercy, Sister Patricia McDermott, issued statements in support of Sister Farley. So did 15 fellow scholars who, in a document released by the divinity school, testified to Sister Farley’s Catholic credentials and the influence she has had in the field of moral theology.

Cardinal Levada’s statement about the book, dated March 30 but released on Monday, said, “Among the many errors and ambiguities of this book are its positions on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage and the problem of divorce and remarriage.”

He said that the book “cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.” The statement said Pope Benedict XVI had approved its contents and ordered its publication. It comes as the Vatican struggles to contain a controversy over leaked documents that have shown infighting and mismanagement in the papacy of Benedict XVI, who on Sunday concluded a three-day meeting in Milan to promote family values.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican had not called for any sanctions against Sister Farley and was not expected to do so because she has retired from teaching. He added that it was “quite normal” that documents signed by Vatican offices are published much later than when they were signed, according to “internal bureaucratic and organizational needs.”

Sister Farley’s book finds moral and theological justifications for same-sex marriage, which aside from abortion, has become the major galvanizing political and moral issue for American bishops. The statement took Sister Farley to task for writing that same-sex marriage “can also be important in transforming the hatred, rejection, and stigmatization of gays and lesbians.” She wrote that “same-sex relationships and activities can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships and activities.”

“This opinion is not acceptable,” the Vatican statement said. It said that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that homosexual acts are “acts of grave depravity” that are “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law.” It said that Sister Farley’s assertion that sometimes divorce is a reasonable option for couples who have grown apart contradicted church teaching on the “indissolubility of marriage.”

The statement quoted liberally from some of the racier passages in “Just Love,” including ones in which Sister Farley writes that female masturbation “usually does not raise any moral questions at all.” She adds that “many women” have found “great good in self-pleasuring – perhaps especially in the discovery of their own possibilities for pleasure – something many had not experienced or even known about in their ordinary sexual relations with husbands or lovers.”

The Vatican said that this assessment contradicts church teaching that “the deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.

Complete Article HERE!

US nuns reject Vatican criticism and reform efforts

The largest US organisation of Catholic nuns has fought back against a Vatican review criticising the group.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious said the review contained “unsubstantiated accusations”, after a three-day meeting.

The Vatican investigation said the group had “serious doctrinal problems” and ordered a leadership overhaul.

In recent years the Leadership Conference has diverged from the Holy See on a range of issues.

The Vatican report concluded in April that the Leadership Conference had taken positions on issues ranging from homosexuality to the all-male priesthood that undermined Catholic teaching.

It proposed replacing the leadership of the group with three bishops that would have the authority to rewrite the organisation’s statutes, meeting agendas and liturgical texts.

“Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency,” a statement from the Leadership Conference said.

“Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfil their mission.”

The nuns said the Vatican’s report has “caused scandal and pain throughout the church community and created greater polarization”.

Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference, and executive director Janet Mock also said they would travel to Rome to meet Cardinal William Levada and Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain – the US clergyman tasked with reforming the Leadership Conference.

The organisation, whose members represent about 80% of nuns in the US, has also said it intends to hold a conference in August to further discuss its response to the Vatican.

Public opinion has rallied behind the nuns as the dispute with the Vatican unfolded. Vigils have been held across the country, including in many major US cities, in support of the nuns.

Complete Article HERE!

No Wonder The Boys In Purple Have A Problem With Their ‘Sisters’


A nun who was sexually abused as a minor by a predator priest called out Monsignor William J. Lynn Thursday from her perch on the witness stand.

It was a dramatic confrontation as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial wrapped up its seventh week of testimony. Lynn is on trial for allegedly conspiring to endanger the welfare of children by allowing abusive priests to continue in ministry

All along, the defense mantra has been that the monsignor was just a cog in the wheel down at archdiocese headquarters on 222 N. 17th St., and that the ultimate villain in the case was the guy who wielded the ultimate power in the archdiocese, the conveniently dead Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.

But the nun on the witness stand refused to play along.

It started when Thomas Bergstrom, a defense lawyer for Msgr. Lynn, tried to get the nun on cross-examination to agree that Msgr. Lynn did not have the power to remove a pastor who had sexually abused her and at least 10 other young women.

“He [Lynn] had the power to suggest it,” she said, referring to the removal of the pastor. And then on redirect, when the prosecutor asked her about the power Lynn had as the archdiocese’s secretary for clergy, the nun said that Lynn had the simple power of just saying no.

Instead of going along with the power structure, the nun said, “You can also say, I cannot do this.”

It was a simple, but powerful declaration coming from a nun who herself was an administrator down at archdiocese HQ, and also as a young woman, a victim of sex abuse from a pervert priest.

The nun, who did not want to be identified, wasn’t finished.

“I would think that his [Lynn’s] recommendation would be heard,”she told Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington. And if it wasn’t, Lynn could have told the cardinal, “I cannot go on; if it isn’t done that way, I can quit.”

The nun’s firm but understated conviction about the need to simply do the right thing sent a ripple of excitement through courtroom spectators, which included victims of sex abuse, and activists hoping for the impossible, reform in the Roman Catholic Church. It also raised an age-old question, namely why do the women in the Catholic church usually have more balls than the men?

Before she called out the monsignor, the nun told her story about how she had been abused by the notorious Father Nicholas V. Cudemo, a serial rapist who used mind control and guilt to dominate his victims.

The nun, dubbed “Sister Irene” in the 2005 grand jury report, was Father Cudemo’s second cousin. The priest also abused the nun’s sister, and a younger cousin, in addition to at least eight other young women.

The witness was 15 years old when Father Cudemo took her to baseball and basketball games at Archbishop Kennedy High School, where the priest was a teacher. While driving her home one night, Cudemo pulled over, and started kissing her passionately. “He got on top of me,” the nun testified. “His hands were literally all over me.”

The witness told the jury that she had dated boys before, but had never experienced such “intense passion or strength.”

Then, when she was 16, it happened again. Father Cudemo drove her home, this time with a carload of other kids. While driving, he took her hand and “placed it on his penis strongly,” she said, and then he just held her hand there.

“I just went numb,” she said. Father Cudemo would call up the victim and tell her she was “his favorite cousin,” and he would explain his behavior by saying, “cousins have these kinds of relationships.”

In 1991, Sister Irene found out that Father Cudemo had sexually abused her younger cousin, identified in the grand jury report as Ruth. The abuse of Ruth began at 10, and included an abortion at 11. Sister Irene was shattered by the news.

“I really felt for the first time in my life I was confronting evil,” she told the jury. So the nun, her sister, and her cousin Ruth went to the archdiocese on Sept. 25, 1991, to report the abuse. They told Msgr. James E. Molloy, vicar for administration, and his assistant, Msgr. Lynn, that they wanted Father Cudemo removed from his post as pastor of St. Callistus Church.

Molloy told the victims, “It’s not that easy to remove a pastor at this time,” the nun told the jury. When the victims suggested the archdiocese notify parishioners at St. Callistus about what the priest had done to his victims, they were told it would be “defamation of character” and “calumny.”

Complete Article HERE!

The Tablet: Who Was Behind the LCWR Investigation?

In a Current Comment this week America’s editors asked some questions about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) “Doctrinal Assessment” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). “First, there is the history of the assessment. Catholics in the United States and elsewhere are curious about where it came from. How did it originate? Who were the petitioners?” Now Robert Mickens, the Rome correspondent for The (London) Tablet focuses on this question in the Tablet’s latest issue, in an article entitled “Rome’s Three-Line Whip.” He begins as far back as the 1980s, but the story picks up in the 1990s, as Mickens reports.

By the late 1990s, they [conservative bishops in the US, according to Mickens] began taking their complaints about the sisters to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome. The CDF, under the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, even issued a doctrinal warning against the organisation in 2001, though the last remnant of a more conciliar group of US bishops was able to stave off any direct Vatican intervention.

The saga entered a new phase in 2005 when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope. He quickly appointed the then Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco to his old post as CDF prefect. Significantly, the soon-to-be Cardinal Levada was also chairman of the doctrinal committee of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). According to sources in Rome and Washington, his successor at the conference’s doctrinal office –the then Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut – was the man who formally petitioned the CDF to launch the current doctrinal investigation of the LCWR. Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign as Archbishop of Boston in 2002 because of his perceived mishandling of the clerical sex-abuse crisis, was reportedly the person in Rome most forcefully supporting Bishop Lori’s proposal.

Both Cardinal Law and Archbishop Lori (he was appointed to the prestigious see of Baltimore in March) have long supported women’s religious orders that have distanced themselves from the LCWR. Cardinal Law, 80, staffs his residence in Rome with the Mercy Sisters of Alma (Michigan) and Archbishop Lori, 61, helped set up several traditional communities of sisters during his tenure in Bridgeport (2001-12). All these communities, marked by their loyalty to the hierarchy, belong to the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), which broke away from the LCWR in 1992.

Incidentally, Cardinal Law was a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious when it launched its own visitation – separate from the CDF investigation – of women’s communities in the US. According to news reports, that project was at least partially funded by the Knights of Columbus, a wealthy fraternal order of Catholic men for whom Archbishop Lori has been supreme chaplain since 2005. Under the leadership of an influential Washington lawyer and former Reagan White House official, Carl Anderson, the knights have increasingly backed conservative causes and routinely make sizeable donations to the Holy See. Mr Anderson is a member or consultor of several Vatican offices, and one of the five-man board of directors for the so-called Vatican Bank. His close association with the Vatican and Archbishop Lori, and the archbishop’s own determination to bring the LCWR into line, should not be underestimated.

After appointing Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo (Ohio) to conduct the initial phase of the controversial investigation of the Leadership Conference, the CDF has now asked Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead phase two. He heads a three-man team (which includes Blair) to reform the organization or, in the CDF’s sanitised words, “to implement a process of review and conformity to the teachings and discipline of the Church”.

Complete Article HERE!