Group asks bishops to appeal Vatican action

Support urged for leaders of banned gay ministry

July 24, 1999|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Pax Christi U.S.A., an organization of Roman Catholic peace activists, has called on U.S. bishops to appeal the Vatican's decision to ban a Baltimore-based priest and nun from ministering to gays and their families.

The national board of the 14,000-member Pax Christi wrote a letter to Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, president of the National Council of Catholic Bishops, asking that the bishops' conference appeal the action by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith forbidding the Rev. Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick from engaging in ministry to the Catholic gay and lesbian community.

More than 140 of the nation's nearly 300 active bishops are members of Pax Christi, including Baltimore's Bishop P. Francis Murphy.

Nugent and Gramick were ordered last week 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, according to church teachings.

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. The letter was hand-delivered to Fiorenza during a national social justice convention last week in Los Angeles by Bishop Walter Sullivan, Pax Christi's bishop president. It called the harm done by the Vatican decision "unprecedented" and said it ran counter to the teaching of the U.S. bishops in their pastoral letter, "Always Our Children," which instructed pastors to welcome homosexual persons into their faith communities and urged parents not to reject their gay and lesbian children.

"The pioneering work of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick -- far from instigating sentiment contrary to the Church -- offered a wounded, alienated and marginalized community a pastoral bridge inviting them back into the fold of our Church," the letter said.

"Recognizing the healing and reconciliation made possible by their ministry, and the fact that Father Nugent and Sister Gramick consistently uphold Church teaching in their presentations, we declare our support for their ministry both in its style and its substance," it said. "We encourage the U.S. Catholic bishops to appeal this decision by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from the Vatican Office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

NCCB officials in Washington had no immediate comment on the letter.

When the Vatican decision was issued, Fiorenza said that "the church's teaching on homosexuality has remained constant, consistent and clear."

"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," he said.

"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."

Pub Date: 7/24/99

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