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San Francisco Bay Catholic Special Report:

Catholic Ministry To Homosexuals

VATICAN CITY, JUL 13 (ZENIT).- American Catholics have lived in a paradoxical situation over the last few years. Although the Church and her pastors have stated on different occasions that homosexual relations are against Catholic morality, some Catholic organizations in America are stating the opposite. It must further be clarified, however, that the Church has always said that homosexuals must be treated "with respect, compassion and sensitivity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church,nn. 2357-2359).

Such is the case for example, of Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, founders of the "New Ways Ministry" organization in the Archdiocese of Washington, who for over twenty years have been dedicated to pastoral activities with homosexual persons. In their book, "Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church," they criticize the Catholic  Church's position on this matter.

In face of the confusion generated by positions upheld that are called "Catholic," many American pastors and faithful have requested the HolySee to examine the teaching and works of the  two religious so that thefaithful will know with certainty the Church's position on this matter. In response to these requests, the Holy See's Press Office today published a notification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of theFaith, in which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop TarcisioBertone, prefect and secretary of the Congregation respectively, analyzethe proposals of the two religious and conclude that they are"unacceptable" from the Catholic moral point of view.

For the good of the Catholic faithful, the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is obliged to declare that the positions advanced by Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent regarding the nature of homosexual acts and the absence of objective disorder in homosexual inclination, are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully convey the clearand constant teaching of the Catholic Church in this area.

The  controversies sparked by the proposals of the two religious are not new. As early as 1984, and after numerous and failed attempts at clarification, Cardinal James Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, asked Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent to cease their activities in the Archdiocese. Simultaneously, the Congregation for the Institute of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, requested that they totally and completely disassociate themselves from the  "New Ways Ministry."

Although they resigned from their position of leadership in the institution, both religious continued to promote their "ambiguous positions on homosexuality and explicitly criticized the  documents of the Church's Magisterium on this issue," the Vatican notification states.

The document published today explains the long process followed to respond, on one hand, to the numerous requests for clarification that arrived at the Holy See and, on the other, to preserve the right of the two religious to explain their positions with serenity. In 1988 the Vatican established a commission, presided by U.S. Cardinal Adam Maida, to study the public statements and activities of both religious. The work focused primarily on an analysis of the book, "Building Bridges," finding "serious deficiencies in their writings and pastoral activities, which were incompatible  with the fullness of Christian morality."

The case was then sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which over the past four years has been in constant, peaceful contact with the two religious. Both were asked to put in writing their interior assent to the teachings of the Catholic Church on the question of homosexuality. Both religious rejected the proposals of Catholic morality, especially as regards homosexual relations. Both questioned "the definitive and unchangeable nature of Catholic doctrine in this area."

Of course, both Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent have the right to say and write what they think. But, they cannot say that what they hold  to be true is the position of the Catholic Church, as they themselves are opposed to it. The contrary would be an attempt against the right of the faithful to know the Catholic position on this matter. Because of this, the notification of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith concludes by permanently prohibiting the two religious "from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons, and [they] are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes."

The decision was taken with the approval of John Paul II in an audience given to two representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on May 14, 1999.


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