Vatican critical of US nun's book on sexual ethics

Snow falling over St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on 3 February 2012 The Vatican has banned the use of the book by Catholic teachers

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The Vatican has sharply criticised a book written by a US nun and theologian on sexual ethics.

The Holy See's orthodoxy office said the 2005 book, Just Love, by Sister Margaret Farley posed "grave harm" to the faithful.

It said her ideas on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions and remarriage were in "direct contradiction" with Catholic teaching.

Sister Farley said her ideas were coherent with theological tradition.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal department, said her writings revealed a "defective understanding of the objective nature of natural moral law" and were "in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality".

The notification was signed by department head Cardinal William Levada and approved by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican has also banned the use of the book by Catholic teachers.

The move came after a Vatican report criticised the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, whose 1,500 members represent some 80% of about 57,000 American nuns, saying that they were becoming feminist and politicised, promoting radical ideas and challenging bishops.

'Criteria of justice'

In her book, Sister Farley writes that "same-sex oriented persons as well as their activities can and should be respected".

The Vatican statement said that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" and "contrary to the natural law".

She also advocates homosexual marriage as a means of reducing hatred and stigmatisation of gay people.

But the Catholic Church believes that marriage can only be the union of a man and a woman.

In a statement on Monday, Sister Farley said she had aimed to propose a framework for sexual ethics that "uses a criteria of justice" in evaluating sexual relations.

"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 said.

Sister Farley has received 11 honorary degrees over her lifetime, is a past president of the Society of Christian Ethics and the Catholic Theological Society of America.

A member of the Sisters of Mercy and professor emeritus of Christian ethics at Yale University, Margaret Farley won an award for her volume in 2008.

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