AS AN AUTHOR whose book sales have, shall we say, peaked, I took particular interest in the rising popularity of Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, by Catholic Sister Margaret Farley. Until recently, her book had enjoyed only modest success, the predictable result of a title that gets the public’s blood racing with “sexual,” then quickly disappoints with the word “ethics,” the marketing equivalent of taking a cold shower while wrapped in a wet blanket. Toss in the word “Christian” and your sales possibilities are further reduced to a half dozen seminary students still looking for a thesis topic.
All of which violates the advice my grandmother gave me years ago: “Put sex in a book title, honey, and it’s money in the bank.” At least I think it was my grandmother.
But then a miracle happened. When officials at the Vatican read the book—between pensive walks in long robes (that’s what they do in the movies)—they were shocked and stunned, and immediately (six years later) declared it scandalous. This caused sales of Just Love to skyrocket. (Which proves the other thing my grandmother said: “No wait. I got it wrong. Have the Vatican criticize your book and then it’s money in the bank.”)
Vatican officials objected to Sister Farley’s frank theological exploration of modern sexuality which, anyone could have told her, is just not done when affiliated with a powerful religious institution that thinks “modern” means “the most recent part of the Middle Ages.” And back then, people didn’t talk about gay marriage or masturbation or any of the other issues Sister Farley thoughtfully ponders, not without enjoying the church’s hospitality sitting in wooden stocks for a few days.