Catholic Theologian Expresses Hope for Pope Francis’ Pontificate


Sister Margaret Farley

Sister Margaret Farley

Sister Margaret Farley, whose groundbreaking theological book:  Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics was condemned by the Vatican last year, spoke publicly recently in support of marriage equality, women’s equality in the church, and hope that Pope Francis will listen to discussion on these and other matters.

According to The Detroit Free Press, Sister Farley spoke to a group of 400 people at Mercy Center, Farmington Hills (a suburb of Detroit), at an event sponsored by “Elephants in the Living Room,” an organization of Detroit priests, lay people, and religious who provide forums for various contemporary topics.

Sister Farley’s theological work allows for approving committed sexual relationships between two people of the same gender, one of the reasons that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith censured the book in May 2012.

During her recent talk, she expressed hope for change in the pontificate of Pope Francis:

 “ ‘He seems teachable,’ she said, and hoped he will listen to the many Catholic women who call for change.

“ ‘I think that women at this juncture are in some way key, because, for example, we do have the problem that there are not enough priests,’ Farley said. ‘I think that eventually it will be necessary to ordain married men and women, married or not. But how that development will finally take place, what the evolution will be, I don’t know.’ “

Sister Farley commented on her ability to speak on sexual ethics topics after having been censured by the Vatican:

“You just can’t back down and say, I apologize, because it would contradict one’s integrity. I didn’t decide never to talk again about the things that were problematic.”

Although she stated that the censure of the book was “minor, minor, trivial in a way,” she did acknowledge that it sends a discouraging message to other theologians. The Detroit Free Press  article stated:

“The book’s censure perpetuates an atmosphere that stifles debate and ignores how changing human experience shapes the views of Catholics, she said.”

During her talk, she explained how her gay nephew, now deceased, was a role model for her:

“I have a beloved nephew who was all those things — wise, holy. And I’m absolutely certain that he was all those things because he grew up in our family. Our family could never have condemned him.”

Despite the Vatican’s censure of her book, Sister Farley was supported by an enormous outpouring of public statements from prominent Catholics.  You can read about these statements here here, here, and here.

Sister Farley has been a frequent supporter of New Ways Ministry, having spoken at three of our national symposiums and having given several workshops/retreats over the years.  In 2002, New Ways Ministry presented her with its “Bridge Building Award” which recognizes people whose scholarship or pastoral leadership help to promote dialogue in the church on LGBT issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


8 replies
  1. billdemello
    billdemello says:

    Sister Margaret,
    You are a Saint. My brother Anthony deMello would have been very supportive.
    Keep up the good work for the case of a united peaceful human race. Let’s set aside our prejudices and past conditioning and welcome everyone.

  2. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    I also am hoping that Pope Francis will be able to make headway on several topics regarding who can do Eucharist for the church and also in the field of human sexuality. Being in my gay relationship with my spouse for 32 years attest to the fact that committed gay union can be holy and life-giving.

  3. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    There are similarities in the issue of gun control in America and sexuality in the Catholic church. The vast majority of Americans think we should have gun controls. Yet the majority also believe that no gun legislation will happen because those “in charge” will never pass the needed laws. In like way, the vast majority of Catholics know that the official teachings (dictates) on sexuality do not adequately address this complex issue. We know that our LGBT brothers and sisters deserve the same compassionate support as straight couples. Yet many Catholics also believe that the church is rigid and unyielding in its response, and do not expect a change. Americans cannot give up on the gun control issue. Catholics cannot give up on the issues of equality and justice. We must keep speaking truth to power. Together, with the Holy Spirit, we will make change happen.

  4. Lydia Lombardo
    Lydia Lombardo says:

    You are all “whistling Dixie.” It’s over; the church will not change, so, at long last, at 80, I am turning in my scapular. I have expressed my feelings, I have written, I have joined organizations, I have signed the letter to Pope Francis and today reading about the “non-sexual” bondage of a priest who was “counseled” and sent back into ministry was the proverbial last straw. Sister Farley, I admire you and all the other good nuns because you truly went out and heard the poor and marginalzed and got royally slapped…and your book was censured. I disagree with Hans Kung; at long last, I truly beleve it is finished, and the people who believe we can have two churches in one–a conservative faction and a progressive faction…are wrapped in a myth. Christ died for preaching what all these wonderful groups are fighting for and ultimately their hopes will die just as He did. No, Virgnia, there really IS no Santa Clause. Now I have to make last arrangements because I refuse to be buried from such a corrupt, hypocritical church which continues to hurt the innocent and make excuses for errant clergy.

  5. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    Lydia, I understand your frustration and sense of betrayal. I would like you to know that no matter what decision you come to regarding the Catholic church, I consider you to be part of MY Catholic church. When I went to the funeral of my 85 year old aunt, I saw my other aunt, a Holy Cross nun (87) and her friend, another nun (also in her 80’s). I asked what they thought of the ultra conservative bishops who were censuring books and calling them “radical feminists.” My aunt’s friend said, “Well, that is not MY church.” My aunt (the nun) said, “They just like to act macho instead of doing Christ’s work.” End of conversation. These wonderful nuns do not feel diminished because of the pontificating of closed minded, power hungry men. These nuns represent the Catholic church I believe in.

  6. Friends
    Friends says:

    For a much needed infusion of mystical faith and hope, I would heartily invite folks to Google the name of Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB. Just read his life story. It is his vision and his understanding of the Communion of Saints which manages to sustain my own faith in the Church. Indeed, WE ARE the Church — each and every one of us!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the road than his predecessors, and miles ahead of the U.S. bishops.  It’s no wonder that Sister Margaret Farley, a renowned theologian of sexual ethics, has said that she feels this pope can be reached on LGBT […]

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