On 22 December 1998 I received from the CDF, through my Superior General,a Profession of Faith which I was requested to sign and return within two weeks. I was informed by my Superior General that, although the CDF had found "various positive elements" in my declaration of 6 August 1998, some "ambiguity" remained because it did not express with the necessary clarity my "internal adherence to the various aspects of the teaching of the Church on homosexuality."
The Profession of Faith contained six paragraphs of Church doctrine on homosexuality arranged in accordance with the three levels of Church teachings outlined in Ad Tuendam Fidem. I was requested to sign the Profession of Faith before the Congregation proceeded "to the definitive determination for the disciplinary measures."
The goal of the entire exercise, it appeared to me, had shifted gradually but methodically from a determination of the orthodoxy of my public presentations on homosexuality which was the stated object of the Maida Commission to an examination of my interior, personal assent.
I believe that at the conclusion of the ten-year process no compelling evidence has been forthcoming to substantiate any charge of public, persistent dissent from any level of Church teaching on homosexuality which would merit such a severe punishment.
Having found no serious objections in my public presentations which were not clarified and corrected in my response to the contestatio, the primary goal had now become an attempt, through a uniquely crafted Profession of Faith, to elicit my internal adherence to the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts, a second-level, definitive doctrine considered infallible by a non-defining act of the ordinary and universal magisterium.
Since I was concluding a six-month pastoral sabbatical in England and unable to utilize important resources or consult with trusted advisors in formulating my response, my Superior General informed the CDF that my response would be forthcoming by the end of January 1999.
After weeks of intense consultation with theologians and canon lawyers, I forwarded to the CDF, through my Superior General, a signed RESPONSE TO A PROFESSION OF FAITH SUBMITTED TO ME BY THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, dated 25 January 1999, the Feast of the Conversion of St.Paul.
In a cover letter to the CDF's Secretary, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, I explained my concerns about the technical theological language of the Profession of Faith which I was asked to sign and the impact of this document on the pastoral life of the Church in English-speaking countries.
I made several remendations to the original text employing terminology of the US bishops in their teaching on the morality of homosexual acts. The changes in language that I suggested preserved the integral teaching of the Church as contained in the original Profession of Faith.
My recomendations avoided the more technical theological language of "evil" and "disorder" that would be heard by many as pastorally insensitive and a cause of further pain and alienation for homosexual Catholics and their families with whom I have ministered for twenty-five years.
My alternate text maintained respect for the intent and purpose of the original text while expressing pastoral sensitivity. In doing so I felt I was applying the teaching of the Pontifical Council for the Family in the 1996 document, ``The Truth and Meaning of Homosexuality", which says that young people should be helped to distinguish between "subjective guilt and objective disorder, avoiding what would arouse hostility (emphases added)."
Although the Profession of Faith was not, in itself, a pastoral document, the potential for its becoming public and its serious pastoral implications caused me great personal concern. I felt, for example, that some technical terms such as "intrinsically evil" were not essential for maintaining the authenticity or integrity of Church doctrine on human sexuality, marriage and homosexual acts.
Therefore, I proposed, for pastoral reasons, the use of the alternative but theologically sound "objectively immoral."
This wording,found in such episcopal documents as To Live in Christ Jesus (1976), Human Sexuality (1990) and Always Our Children (1997), is fully consonant with magisterial teaching on homosexuality.
My ministry of over 25 years has always included attempts to: foster accurate but balanced and pastorally sensitive theological language in speaking and writing publicly about homosexuality; appreciate and utilize contemporary insights from the human sciences about sexual orientation; and embody the Church's expressed commitment to receive homosexual people with "respect, compassion and sensitivity (Catechism of the Catholic Church)".
My Profession of Faith included two additional paragraphs. One referred to contemporary theological discussions about the practical difficulties and precise criteria involved in determining whether a particular teaching has, in fact, been taught infallibly by a non-defining act of the universal and ordinary magisterium.
I also referenced canon 749.3. which states that no teaching can be considered infallible unless it is explicitly declared to be so. I acknowledged the authoritative and binding nature of magisterial teachings on homosexuality and promised to continue prayer, study and ongoing communication with the Apostolic See on these matters.
I also indicated that I was signing the text in the spirit of the 1999
year of forgiveness and reconciliation in preparation for the millennium and with the intent of bringing the ten-year investigation of my ministry to a public and official closure.
I expressed my expectation that my pastoral ministry with homosexual Catholics and their families would continue in accordance with the teachings subscribed to in my response to the Profession of Faith.
On July 1, 1999 my Superior General informed me that the CDF had reached a final decision. I was asked to come to Rome to meet with him on 9 July to receive the decision.
On 9 July 1999 I was given a written explanation as to why the CDF rejected my signed Profession of Faith as inadequate. My changes were said to "obscure" the meaning of the text and that, "even for pastoral motives," certain terms could not be replaced with far less clear terminology.
By expressing my concerns about the difficulties in the process of determining infallible teaching on homosexuality by a non-defining act of the universal and ordinary magisterium, I was said to "call into question" the definitive status of such doctrines and imply that the status of such doctrine is "open to debate."
Although the doctrine on the "intrinsic evil" of homosexual acts belongs to the second level of definitive, infallible doctrines, the teaching on the "objective disorder" of the homosexual orientation relates to the non-infallible, third level teaching requiring obsequium religiosum which I had already given in my declaration of 6 August 1998.
On 14 July 1999 an official notification of the CDF's decision was published in the L'Osservatore Romano stating that I was permanently prohibited from any pastoral ministry with homosexual people.
As a son of the Church, a presbyter and a member of a Religious Congregation with a vow of obedience I accepted the decision of the CDF and expressed my intention to implement it accordingly. I am grateful for the prayers and personal support of my Religious Superiors and confreres in the Society of the Divine Savior and for their leadership, courage and vision.
I have been blessed with the friendship of so many gay and lesbian Catholics and their parents and families who have affirmed and supported my ministry both before and during this protracted and painful process. I continue to pray, hope and believe that, ultimately, my decision will be for the greater good of the Church and for the people to whom I have been privileged to minister to with much joy for so many years.
Rev. Robert Nugent, S.D.S