Just Love

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 21, 2008 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Lesbians & Gays

Sr. Margaret A. Farley, an emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School has been awarded the 2008 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion. The award, which carries a $200,000 honor, is given for new ideas. Farley’s belief is that justice is an indispensable part of sexual ethics. She defined the verb  “justice” in her book as, “to render to each her or his due.”farley.jpg

In her 2006 book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, Farley argues that justice is the quality that forms, guides, and protects loving relationships.

When she became an ethicist almost 40 years ago,   it never occured to her that she might write a book about sexual ethics. But after looking at the pained faces of hundreds of lay people and students tussling with the complexities of love, she began to mull over their struggles.

Farley, a Sister of Mercy who lives in Guilford, CT, acknowledges she’s taken a progressive stance on issues like homosexuality, remarriage and masturbation. “Although homosexual genital actions are still judged to be intrinsically disordered, and hence, ‘objectively’ immoral, they can be ‘subjectively’ moral depending on the state of mind and intentions of an individual person,” she writes.

“It is difficult to see how on the basis of sheer human rationality alone..an absolute prohibition of same-sex relationships or activities can be maintained…We have to witness that homosexuality can be a way of embodying responsible human love and sustaining human and Christian fellowship.”

Farley says that gay people have both a right, and a responsibility, to be fruitful through having and/or raising children an that a committed couple has the right to a satisfying sexual relationship.

Her views on divorce and remarriage, same-sex relationships and the ordination of women can be considered to differ with he official positions taken by the current Roman Catholic hierarchy, but Farley said that she proposes such challenges as an ethicist and moral theologian who is “trying to think through some of the troubling issues facing the church and society.”

“I do not just assert my positions,” Farley said, “I work my way to them, paying serious attention to the concrete situations in real lives where questions are raised, and working with significant resources in Scripture and Christian tradition. My conclusions may indeed sometimes differ from official positions, but my effort is to shed light both on new questions, new contexts, and potential new interpretations of the tradition.”

Susan Garrett, who directs the Grawemeyer award program, said Farley’s idea to chew over these issues, rather than believe what society or the church advocates, is essential.

“It’s an important message in light of all the confusion surrounding sexuality today,” Garrett said. “The religious right issues stark decrees while the entertainment industry tells us ‘Anything goes.’   People get confused about what’s right.”

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2 Responses to “Just Love”

  1. Terence Says:

    As long as orthodox Christian/Salvation theology feels obliged to denounce and ban, and otherwise deny the naturally occuring range in human sexuality, there is really no point in trying to bring justice and acceptance forward within the Catholic faith as an institution that fears the really anything but hetero-Catholic procreation… One thing I would like the Cardinals in Rome to answer is why the natural sexual libido–this sacred gift– we are born with is about fifty times–i.e. years– longer and stronger than necessary for simply finding a commited straight partner, and marrying to parent the next generation?

  2. Tom Says:

    “Susan Garrett, who directs the Grawemeyer award program, said Farley’s idea to chew over these issues, rather than believe what society or the church advocates, is essential.” –

    This statement makes no sense in light of the fact that everything the good sister says is in essence what society advocates, and against what the Church advocates.

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