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