CNN Again Promotes Dissident Catholic Nun's Book, Takes Shot at Vatican

CNN took some shots at the Vatican on Thursday when touting a dissident nun's book that made the Amazon.com best sellers list. "The nun who wrote a book about sex should be thanking the Vatican for condemning it," anchor Carol Costello quipped.

Exactly why CNN thinks this is news is uncertain, unless it wants to advance a liberal religious agenda. Just the other day, a regular contributor to CNN's religion blog came on and blasted the church for declaring the nun's book "Just Love" to be not in conformity with Catholic teaching – even though the nun herself admitted the book was not an official expression of church teaching on sexual ethics.

What CNN won't report is that the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith contacted the nun twice and informed her of her book's doctrinal errors, inviting her to correct them. When it deemed her responses to be unsatisfactory, the Congregation finally issued its notification that the book contradicts church teaching on key matters – six years after the book was published.

However, CNN painted all this as the "furious" Vatican having "slammed" the book that proposes a "more tolerant" look at sexual ethics. Perhaps those words reflect a certain liberal agenda CNN is pushing here?

And a guest priest provided some context in a CNN article that was lacking in Thursday's video report. Fr. Brian Linnane of Loyola University of Maryland told CNN that “There’s no silencing of Sister Farley in the notification, there’s no threat to her membership in her religious community."

"[I]t’s just about the book," he continued, "which everyone agrees probably shouldn’t be taught in Catholic seminaries, certainly shouldn’t be taught in religious education classes for young persons. Everyone agrees it’s theological speculation."

In the video report, however, that quote was left out. Instead, a clip played of him warning of a threat to academic freedom for theologians.

"There is a sense that the vocation of the theologian is diminished in this notification to where it really is just, just keep repeating what we've already said and don't question it. Don't critique it, don't try to help us make it more adequate. And I think that's troubling," he said in the CNN video.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on June 7 on Newsroom at 9:15 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CAROL COSTELLO: The nun who wrote a book about sex should be thanking the Vatican for condemning it. Sister Margaret Farley's book, "Just Love," is the top-selling religious book on Amazon. It's number 16 overall. And Amazon says it's out of stock right now. This isn't even a new book, it came out in 2006 and was number 143,000 just a few days ago. So, it looks like the Vatican would have been better off not mentioning the book at all if didn't want people reading it. Here's CNN's Sandra Endo.

(Video clip)

SANDRA ENDO, CNN correspondent (voice-over): The Vatican is furious about a book about sex, relationships and masturbation written by a nun. But the church's action is having an unintended effect. It's now a bestseller.

SISTER MARGARET FARLEY, author, "Just Love": And the churches are all too often torn apart --

ENDO: "Just Love" was written in 2006 by prominent Catholic theologian, Sister Margaret Farley. But the Vatican publicly slammed the book this week. In it, Farley proposes a more tolerant view of sexual ethics. The Vatican denounced the book saying it was in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching on sexuality. That public rebuke pushed the 2006 title to the 16th spot on Amazon.com's bestseller list.

Rev. BRIAN LINNANE, president, Loyola University Maryland: Everyone agrees it's theological speculation.

ENDO: The president of Loyola University in Maryland and fellow theologian, Reverend Brian Linnane, is one of Farley's most prominent defenders.

LINNANE: She did not write a book about sexual practices. She wrote a new framework to think about sexual – questions of sexual ethics, which looks at justice rather than procreation or abstinence or other sorts of values that have been in the tradition.

LINNANE: For example, Farley writes that masturbation could be beneficial for women but the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog office denounced the idea, saying masturbation was a gravely disordered action.

Farley also says same-sex relationships and homosexual acts can be just as beneficial as heterosexual relationships. But the church says those acts are contrary to the natural law.

And in her book, Farley explains she doesn't believe divorce and remarriage should be prohibited, where the church says they amount to adultery.

In a statement, Farley says that the book was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching, nor was it aimed specifically against this teaching. It is of a different genre altogether.

With this latest rebuke, Linnane says it could have a chilling effect on religious academic freedom.

LINNNANE: There is a sense that the vocation of the theologian is diminished in this notification to where it really is just, just keep repeating what we've already said and don't question it. Don't critique it, don't try to help us make it more adequate. And I think that's troubling.

(End Video Clip)

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014