July 21, 1999
Decision was fair, say cardinalsMinistry for homosexual persons must be based on authentic discipleship
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two U.S. cardinals involved in a lengthy church investigation that ended with the Vatican banning two U.S. religious from continuing their nearly 30-year pastoral ministry to gays and lesbians said the process was careful and fair, and fully respected the rights of the two religious.
Cardinals Adam J. Maida of Detroit and James A. Hickey of Washington issued statements following the Vatican's July 13 notification concerning Salvatorian Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick, a School Sister of Notre Dame.
Cardinal Maida, who chaired the commission appointed by the Vatican in 1988 to examine the theological teachings and writings of the two religious, said the commission had worked "carefully, capably, and, most importantly, fairly."
"We never lost sight of the realization that ministry to the homosexual community is both sensitive and necessary," he said in his statement. "At the same time, we clearly understood the concern of the Church that such ministry can cause more harm than good if conducted in the midst of controversy and ambiguity."
Before making its decision, Cardinal Maida said, the Vatican studied the commission's findings and recommendations and "conducted extensive personal dialogues with Father Nugent and Sister Gramick."
Father Nugent, 62, and Sister Gramick, 57, first became involved in gay and lesbian ministry in Philadelphia in 1971. In 1977 they co-founded New Ways Ministry, with headquarters near Washington, and began giving frequent workshops on gay and lesbian ministry around the country. They co-directed New Ways Ministry until 1983, when then-Archbishop Hickey asked their superiors to remove them because he believed they distorted church teaching on homosexuality. New Ways Ministry continues to exist as an unofficial, Catholic-oriented ministry.
According to the revised "Catechism of the Catholic Church," "tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." The Catechism says "homosexual persons are called to chastity," and also that gays and lesbians "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity."
Cardinal Hickey said the Church has long called for compassionate ministry for homosexual persons, one based on authentic discipleship and the fullness of Church teaching.
"To offer anything less is to do a grave disservice to the individuals the ministry is intended to serve . . . It is very unfortunate that [they] did not base their ministry on the fullness of Catholic teaching."
Cardinal Maida's statement expressed "the hope and prayer that Father Nugent and Sister Gramick can find the way to accept the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
Redemptorist Father Richard Welch, president of Human Life International in Front Royal, Va., welcomed the Vatican decision.
The head of the pro-life, pro-family group said that for years faithful Catholics have heard mixed messages from groups like New Ways Ministry "espousing a pro-homosexual agenda." He added, "They admitted no sin, which is contrary to the Church's position of love for the sinner and hate for the sin."