Baltimore Catholic priest to continue speaking to gays despite church ban

Vatican order doesn't bar public lectures, he says

September 05, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

A Roman Catholic priest, ordered by the Vatican to end his ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics, has resumed public speaking, saying he could do so, within limits, and still respect the church's directive.

The priest, the Rev. Robert Nugent of Baltimore, had worked for nearly three decades with Sister Jeannine Gramick, also of Baltimore, in reaching out to gay Catholics. But the church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told them on July 13 that they were permanently prohibited from further pastoral work with gays and lesbians.

The congregation, in charge of safeguarding doctrine, said Nugent and Gramick had not sufficiently emphasized church teaching that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" and evil.

In an interview before a public forum on homosexuals and religion at Northeastern University in Boston last week, Nugent said he and leaders of his religious order concluded that the Vatican directive did not bar him from speaking publicly, such as giving lectures in an academic setting, even if he could no longer hold workshops, retreats and discussions for gay Catholics or their families.

"As far as I'm concerned," Nugent said, "I'm not prohibited from speaking, as long as it's not associated with a pastoral setting" and is open to a general audience.

Nugent added that he had not been silenced, a punishment the Vatican has applied against certain theologians that it considered to have strayed from church doctrine. He can continue to write, he said, although the directive states that he must seek approval from his religious superiors before publication.

Nugent described his participation in the Boston event as his first speaking engagement since receiving the Vatican directive.

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