After a two-year-long investigation, the Vatican strongly condemned a 2006 book on sexuality written by a prominent American nun. The Vatican’s doctrine office said Just Love by Sister Margaret Farley reflects a “defective understanding” of church teaching on issues including masturbation, homosexuality, marriage and divorce. Sister Farley taught Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School for more than 30 years. She said her book was not intended to be an expression of official Catholic teaching, but rather an “exploration of contemporary interpretations.” With this week’s news, the book has shot up the bestsellers charts. Many lay Catholics around the country have been rallying in support of US nuns. Last week, the umbrella group representing the majority of American Catholic sisters pushed back against a Vatican rebuke of them. In April, the Vatican accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) of having “serious doctrinal problems” and ordered the group to place itself under the authority of Seattle’s archbishop. Conference leaders will go to Rome Tuesday (June 12) for a meeting with church officials to discuss the situation.
Meanwhile at the Vatican, the investigation continues in the so-called “VatiLeaks” scandal in which private papal documents have been leaked to journalists. The pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was formally questioned this week. Under Vatican law, he faces up to six years in prison on charges of aggravated theft of the documents. But after Gabriele’s arrest, more documents were leaked, along with an anonymous note threatening still more unless certain church officials resign, including Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state. Bertone, who has been targeted in many of the leaks, accompanied Pope Benedict XVI to Milan last weekend for a huge event””the World Meeting of Families. An estimated one million people attended a special Mass there. Benedict announced the next World Meeting of Families will be in Philadelphia, in 2015. He said he looks forward to taking part “God willing.” He’ll then be 88 years old.
Amid all of this, the US Catholic bishops will be holding their semi-annual meeting this coming week in Atlanta.