FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, contact:
Francis DeBernardo, (301) 277-5674
Statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director,
New Ways Ministry
The Vatican's decision to silence Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father
Robert Nugent is clearly misguided and patently unjust. For close to 30
years they have represented the compassionate face of the Church to
gay and lesbian Catholics, affirmed by thousands of Catholic leaders
and faithful, including bishops.
Though the Vatican has said they have received complaints about
their work, these complaints represent a minority view in the Church.
Their model of ministry has been used across the U.S. as a successful
way to respond to gay/lesbian people and their families. Complaints
come from people who are not happy with the fact that the Church is
trying to include gay and lesbian people as full and active members.
Anyone familiar with their work has seen the good fruits it has
produced knows that their presentations are rooted in Church
teachings. The difference with the Vatican seems to be one of
emphasis: the Vatican sees pastoral ministry as highlighting the
immorality of homosexual activity; while Sister Gramick and Father
Nugent do not discount or deny this teaching, their approach has been
to emphasize other teachings of the magisterium, namely that gay and
lesbian people "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and
sensitivity." Their approach acknowledges that gay/lesbian people
have needs and concerns other than sexual activity. This approach of
first seeking common ground has been ratified by the U.S. bishops
conference in their 1997 statement: "Always Our Children" and in
previous documents. Dozens of diocesan and parish ministries to
lesbian/gay people have also followed this approach.
Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have been the conscience of the
Catholic Church by calling its people and leaders to live up to their
best ideals of inclusion and justice. This action proves that it is
sometimes difficult to listen to one's conscience.
Silencing Sister Gramick and Father Nugent will not succeed in ending
the discussion of how to reach out pastorally to gay/lesbian peole. In
fact, it will further strengthen the resolve of those who work towards
their full inclusion and integration in the Church. This decision is
further evidence that Church leaders need to be listeners, as the U.S.
bishops suggested in "Always Our Children."
People who stand in solidarity with oppressed and persecuted groups
often experience the same sufferings and unjust treatment. Catholic
missionaries in Latin America have been kidnapped, tortured, and
murdered when they stand in solidarity with peasants. In being
silenced, Sister Gramick and Father Nugent are now experiencing the
same suffering of gay and lesbian people whose voices have been
silenced in the Church for centuries.
This decision will certainly anger many people, but we hope that their
anger will be turned into constructive and productive measures which
will move their bishops and Church leaders to reverse this unjust
decision. We also hope that it will motivate people to continue with the
outreach to gay/lesbian Catholics and their families which Father
Nugent and Sister Gramick have inaugurated.