In fact nuns have been employing their nun powers of understanding, charitable works and generally livin’ for Jesus very much in the present. Sister Margaret A. Farley (I will say this is rather a disappointing nun name) wrote Just Love in 2006. In the book Farley discusses marriage, sex, divorce and masturbation. Farley draws on the Kama Sutra, Foucault and Islam, besides Catholic teachings, to get her points across.
Just Love deliberates over the change in discussions of sexual mores and morality, in responsible reproduction and prevention of sexual abuse and proliferation of the sex industry. “We are concerned as never before about the consequences of sexual violence, the proliferation of sex industries, sexual harassment and gender domination, the breakdown in committed relationships, and an apparent widespread powerlessness in a search for intimacy. Although some individuals and groups seem certain of the answers to these questions and the remedy for these concerns, many are not.”
The Vatican has condemned the content of this book because Pope Benedict XVI believes it "ignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionally mentioned, treats it as one opinion among others". One might argue in a book that uses such varied sources and philosophies that that is the point. Surely it is implied by the author being a Catholic nun, that the Magisterium is not considered by Sister Farley to be just one opinion.
The main subjects causing distress in the Vatican that Farley tackles are masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions and remarriage after divorce. Farley suggests gay marriage could reduce hatred and stigmatization of gay people. The book urges its readers to respect homosexuality.
The sin of Onan has long been a subject brought up with Christian youth workers in hushed conversations by their teenage flock. Because in the Bible the word ‘fornication’ seems to mean a rather wide range of activities it is hard to conclude whether or not masturbation is a sin, Paul suggests marriage to ease “burning with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:2-9) but he does not condemn the passion. Farley voices the opinion that, now we have rid ourselves of the pseudo-scientific belief that ‘self-abuse’ can lead to insanity, blindness or hairy palms, masturbation “does not raise any moral questions at all…[masturbation] actually serves relationships rather than hindering them”.
Farley highlights that “…the rise in self-consciousness among women…has been a significant factor in the loosening of traditional sexual ethical norms. Women’s new self-understandings have had an extraordinary effect on the perception of sexual norms. Long centuries of the kind of failure of vision that allowed sexism to flourish in spite of the seemingly best moral insights of major religious and philosophical traditions have made women doubt the validity of almost all past teachings regarding the morality of sex”.
Instead of heeding this as a warning and the possibilities of a new direction, the Vatican have banned the use of this award-winning book in Catholic teaching and stated that: “Sister Farley manifests a defective understanding of the objective nature of the natural moral law. This approach is not consistent with authentic Catholic theology.”
Sister Pat McDermott, Farley’s superior, is among her many defenders and said she was deeply saddened over the Vatican’s decision.