Banned sister debates decision

Nun is `anguished' by censure for work with homosexuals

July 25, 1999|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

In her first public statement since being banned this month by the Vatican from ministering to gay and lesbian Roman Catholics, a Baltimore nun said she was "anguished and deeply troubled" by the action and has not decided whether to accept the censure.

"I am now faced with a decision of whether or not to accept the outcome of a process that I believe was fundamentally unfair," Sister Jeannine Gramick said in a written statement. "I still feel called by God to lesbian and gay ministry. I also feel called to serve the People of God as a loyal member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in the Catholic Church. Thus, the censure from the Vatican presents a dilemma for me."

Gramick and her ministerial partner, the Rev. Robert Nugent, also of Baltimore, were ordered by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to end their nearly 30-year work with gays and lesbians because they failed to explicitly state that a homosexual orientation is "disordered" and that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil, as church teachings state.

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.

Nugent and Gramick have declined interviews, but Nugent released a statement July 14 in which he said his ministry to gays and lesbians "has always been based on authentic teachings of the church and traditional theological and pastoral principles." Nevertheless, he said, "As a son of the church, a presbyter and a member of a religious congregation with a vow of obedience, I accepted the decision of the CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] and expressed my intention to implement it accordingly."

Gramick complained that the Vatican investigation lacked due process and was beset by a conflict of interest because the same agency acted as prosecutor, jury and judge.

"I strongly believe in the need for authority, and I respect those entrusted with exercising it," she said. "At the same time, my experience in this investigation was that justice was not served because of a lack of fair and open procedures."

Both Nugent and Gramick complained that the Vatican investigation shifted from looking at what they taught in their books and seminars to what they personally believed about the church's teaching on homosexuality.

"What began as an inquiry about my public statements and writings on homosexuality became, in the end, an interrogation about my inner, personal beliefs on the subject," she said.

"I stand ready to proclaim my assent to all the core beliefs of our faith," she said. "Beyond this, my status as a vowed religious and as a public pastoral minister should not deprive me of the right which every believer has to maintain the privacy of her internal conscience in matters which are not central to our faith. To intrude, uninvited, into the sanctuary of another's conscience is both disrespectful and wrong."

Gramick said she feared gay and lesbian Catholics and their families will be angered and alienated by the Vatican's decision.

"To them I say, use your anger creatively. Don't leave the church. It is your spiritual home," she said.

Gramick was directed last week by her religious superiors to cancel her ministerial commitments for a month to reflect on what to do in light of the Vatican decision. She said she is using the time "to discern where God is calling me in the future."

Pub Date: 7/25/99

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