July 13, 1999 Copyright © by United States Catholic Conference
Statement on Notificationby
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has notified Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and the Reverend Robert Nugent, SDS, that they are "permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons." This decision was reached after nearly twelve years of dialogue with Sister Gramick and Father Nugent. This dialogue began with a commission, appointed in 1988 and chaired by Cardinal Adam Maida, to examine criticism that, in their ministry to homosexual persons, they did not fully and accurately present the teaching of the Church on homosexuality.
The Church's teaching on homosexuality has remained constant, consistent, and clear; and the long period of time devoted to examining whether Sister Gramick and Father Nugent accept this teaching indicates that these disciplinary measures were not taken lightly. However, from the Church's beginning, as the New Testament tells us, it is an obligation of Church leadership to discern what is or is not faithful to the teaching handed on by the Lord to the Apostles.
All of the Bishops are aware of how pastorally and humanly sensitive is the area of ministry on which Sister Gramick and Father Nugent embarked in their outreach to persons with homosexual inclinations, and the Commission chaired by Cardinal Maida did not find it to be without "positive aspects" for homosexual persons and their families. The Commission also noted, however, "serious deficiencies in their writings and pastoral activities, which were incompatible with the fullness of Christian morality." The Congregation was obliged to act on account of these deficiencies not because it was a ministry to homosexuals as such.
Because the Bishops, in fact, share a commitment to this ministry, I would like to express my personal hope that Sister Gramick and Father Nugent can find the way to express their acceptance of the Church's teaching on homosexuality, as sought by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Such a step would be of benefit not only to them personally but also to the ministry which, though they are now permanently excluded from it, has been so important to them and for which the Church maintains a continuing pastoral responsibility.
The Congregation itself, in its 1986 letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, encouraged bishops "to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses." The Congregation also made it clear that "departure from the Church's teaching or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care, is neither caring nor pastoral." It also warned against presenting Church teaching "as if it were an optional source for the formation of one's conscience."
Homosexuality is such a sensitive issue in our society that outreach and ministry to homosexual persons, even when carried out in accord with Church teaching, can still be subject to misunderstanding and criticism. The result can be hesitation to engage in this outreach at all. The Congregation clearly does not want such a result. As the 1986 letter says, "An authentic pastoral program will assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care. In such a way, the entire Christian community can come to recognize its own call to assist its brothers and sisters, without deluding them or isolating them."
The Bishops of the United States have heard the call to offer this Gospel-based pastoral assistance, as demonstrated by the various forms of outreach which exist in individual dioceses. The Bishops' Conference has also addressed these pastoral concerns in such statements as To Live in Christ Jesus, A Call to Compassion and Responsibility, Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning, and Always Our Children, a statement of the Committee on Marriage and Family.
We also join with the Congregation in condemning in no uncertain terms "violent malice in speech or in action" against homosexual persons as revealing the kind of "disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society." The teaching of the Church cannot be used to justify bigotry in any form.
All Catholics facing serious moral questions deserve our care and respect as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Those with homosexual inclinations deserve this care and respect no less than any others.
-- Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza, July 13, 1999
Statement on Notification
Adam Cardinal Maida
Arcbishop of Detroit
Chairman of Vatican-appointed Commission
work of Sister Gramick and Father Nugent
"It's been my belief throughout this process that the Vatican-appointed Commission in the United States did its work carefully, capably, and, most importantly, fairly. We never lost sight of the realization that ministry to the homosexual community is both sensitive and necessary. At the same time, we clearly understood the concern of the Church that such ministry can cause more harm than good if it is conducted in the midst of controversy and ambiguity.
"It was in this context we heard and examined the theological teachings and writings of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick. The Holy See not only studied the Commission's findings and recommendations but also conducted extensive personal dialogues with Father Nugent and Sister Gramick.
"With the public release of the Notification, I join now with my fellow Commission members, Monsignor James Mulligan and Dr. Janet Smith, in 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."
-- +Adam Cardinal Maida, July 13, 1999
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