Priest agrees to Vatican order to end ministry to gay Catholics

Nugent said he didn't flout church teachings in work

July 15, 1999|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore-based priest who, along with a nun, was ordered by the Vatican this week to end a ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics, said yesterday that he believes he has never flouted church teaching but will abide by the decision.

The Rev. Robert Nugent, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, also of Baltimore, were ordered Tuesday to end their nearly 30-year ministry to gays and lesbians because they failed to explicitly state that a homosexual orientation is "disordered" and that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil.

Nugent and Gramick have been ministering to gay and lesbian Catholics since 1971. They have co-authored two books and traveled the country lecturing and offering retreats and workshops for gay Catholics and their families.

Gramick, who has been unavailable for comment, was directed to cancel her ministerial commitments for the next month "in order to reflect on and discern her future direction in light of the decision" of the Vatican, according to a statement released Tuesday by her order, the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

In a statement released yesterday, Nugent detailed his cooperation in "five major studies of my ministry at various ecclesiastical levels" since 1977.

Nugent said that he responded promptly in 1996, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican body that monitors church teaching, notified him that certain statements in two books he co-authored with Gramick contained views that were "dangerous" and "erroneous."

"I explicitly clarified and corrected, in accordance with Church teachings, each of those views judged as `dangerous' or `erroneous.' Furthermore, I stated that I accepted and respected the teachings of the Church on homosexuality as contained in Church documents and rejected any contrary views," he said.

Nugent said he acknowledged that some misunderstandings of his views may have arisen because they were not precisely stated. "I expressed my personal regret for that situation," he said.

In June 1998, he was informed that his response was not acceptable to the Vatican and was asked to draft a declaration of personal assent to church teaching on homosexuality, which he did. In December, the Vatican responded that although the declaration contained certain positive elements, it was still inadequate and he was asked to sign a profession of faith.

Nugent signed the profession of faith, but first changed some of the wording. "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," he said. "Therefore, I proposed, for pastoral reasons, the use of the alternative but theologically sound `objectively immoral.'"

He was summoned to a meeting in Rome on Friday to receive the Vatican's decision.

Pub Date: 7/15/99

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