The board of the College Theology Society (CTS) has issued a statement in support of Sister Margaret Farley in the face of the Vatican’s recent censure of her book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. The CTS statement also calls on bishops for further dialogue with theologians on the issues of that Farley case raises about theological research and discussion.
In June, Sister Farley was cited in a Notification from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for holding positions on various sexual matters, including same-sex relationships, which differ from the magisterium.
The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) reports that the statement of the board of CTS, the second-largest association of Catholic theologians in the U.S., notes that while Farley’s ideas are
” ‘different from those currently taught by the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church,’ theologians ‘communicate their findings not only to members within the Church but also to many others seeking to live justly in the pluralistic societies in which they live’ .”
” ‘In committing themselves to the theological task of faith seeking understanding, theologians frequently pose difficult questions in light of the lived experiences of the people of God,’ the statement continues.
“The statement also notes that ‘among the most challenging aspects of exploring such questions’ are ‘the deep divisions which plague not only our society but also our Church.’ ”
” ‘To heal the divisions in our polarized Church, we urgently encourage Catholic bishops and theologians to improve the ways in which they communicate with each other, and to collaborate in developing better structures and more transparent procedures to discuss theological differences in a more just and respectful manner,’ the statement concludes.
” ‘We, the Board Members of the CTS, have identified this important task as a priority in the coming year and look forward to discerning constructive ways forward.’ “
You can read the full statement, along with the names of the 12 signatories on the CTS website.
The NCR story notes that the CTS statement is the second one from an association of U.S. Catholic theologians in support of Sister Farley:
“On June 7, the board of the other membership society for theologians, the 1,500-member Catholic Theological Society of America, released a statement supporting Farley, saying the board was ‘especially concerned’ that the Vatican’s criticism of the theologian presents a limiting understanding of the role of Catholic theology.
“The statement was later endorsed by the society’s entire membership at its annual meeting June 8 in St. Louis.
“The statement said the Vatican’s move regarding Farley’s book ‘risks giving the impression that there can be no constructive role in the life of the Church for works of theology’ that attempt to:
- ‘give voice to the experience and concerns of ordinary believers';
- ‘raise questions about the persuasiveness of certain official Catholic positions'; or
- ‘offer alternative theological frameworks as potentially helpful contributions to the authentic development of doctrine.’
” ‘Such an understanding of the nature of theology inappropriately conflates the distinctive tasks of catechesis and theology,’ that statement continues.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry