The Real Taboos


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ABSTRACTThe Real Taboos HOME        ARCHIVES        IN THE NEWS        COMMENTARY        NOTABLE        DONATE | French | Italian | Slovak | Spanish | Portuguese | recent columns The Real Taboos Robert Royal | 6.11.2012 What the SSPX Reconciliation Means – and Doesn’t David G. Bonagura, Jr. | 6.10.2012 Political Withdrawal, Reconsidered Joseph Wood | 6.9.2012 Freedom of Religion and the Fog of Culture War Francis J. Beckwith | 6.8.2012 The “Catholics for Obama” Syndrome (cont.) Howard Kainz | 6.7.2012 Archives news The next pope? Unlikely bedfellows Ideas have consequences More News commentary Just the facts 20,000 at Eucharistic Festival The return of eugenics More Commentary notable The two principles Male and female Greater or lesser hopes More Notables San Antonio Web Design Monday, 11 June 2012 The Real Taboos By Robert Royal    One of the things that most struck me about the Sr. Margaret Farley controversy – the Yale professor emerita whose book Just Love was recently the subject of a warning from Rome for its acceptance of masturbation, homosexuality, and remarriage after divorce – is how utterly tired it is. In fact, the only thing mildly surprising about the case is how long Rome took to get around to dealing with a book published in 2006 – and even that, by Roman standards, is not very noteworthy. If you take out the media spin and put the matter in plain language: a book by a heterodox nun is properly criticized by Catholic authorities as not Catholic in its moral teaching (which she herself partly admits) and, as a result, overnight becomes a cause célèbre in the secular media and is defended by the “Catholic” Theological Society of America (CTSA), of which she is past president. Further, she’s praised by both for “thinking in new ways” about questions of sexual morality, which just happen to be the same old ways that elite and academic opinion has been traveling for decades. But of course, that’s the kind of Catholic nun you would expect to be hired as a professor of Catholic studies at an Ivy League institution like Yale. If you read her defenders, Farley is also supposed to be an elegant writer. If you read Farley herself – and I have to confess that I’ve had the stomach only to dip in here and there – you’ll find a moderate style employed in Just Love to reshuffle the old standbys, by which I mean thinkers and modes of analysis prominent in secular academics about two decades ago: non-Western cultures, Michel Foucault, Catherine MacKinnon, Greek antiquity, Africa, the Kamasutra, cross-cultural perspectives, obstacles to new thinking, and such like. For some purposes, it might be worth doing a careful survey of all these people and things. But if, after an allegedly arduous search and a professed wish not to simplify matters that are very complex, you arrive at a position essentially congruent with the untroubled assumptions of the Zeitgeist, what was this elaborate ceremony all about? You might just as easily have walked out of the library and taken down what many students and faculty at Yale already believe – without benefit of clergy, or professors. And please, none of the usual mendacity about “minority positions” struggling bravely for a hearing. It’s quite difficult to assess such things accurately, but the media had no trouble finding various institutions, including Catholic ones, where Farley’s book has been a staple of courses in sexual ethics since it appeared. This is hardly surprising since anyone who tries to take a contrary position on virtually all college campuses will appreciate quite pointedly the true balance of power. Woman and Man at Yale Indeed, that’s exactly what happened at the very same Yale University where Sr. Farley teaches to The Catholic Thing’s own Anthony Esolen back in February. You probably didn’t see anything about it in the media, nor was Tony defended by the CTSA when he went to Yale to present a standard Christian view of sex and marriage. Instead, he got tagged as a homophobe – you’re clinically ill if you’re a traditional Christian, whatever your reasoning – and had his lecture disrupted by homosexual and heterosexual couples who, on a predetermined cue, came out of the audience and began kissing. Ironically, Esolen’s lecture was part of True Love Week – an event organized by some intrepid Yale students themselves to counteract the grossness and lewdness of what has become a staple on the campus: Sex Week. The university administration seems to have tried to curtail some of the more salacious parts of Sex Week, but has also tread lightly for fear of student and faculty backlash. This year’s organizer of Sex Week told a reporter at.......