Nun silenced by Vatican transfers to new order

Barred from ministry to gays, she joins Denver-based community

September 01, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A Maryland nun who had been silenced by the Vatican and barred from ministry to gays and lesbians has left her Baltimore-based religious order and joined another known for its embrace of social justice and liberal church reform.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, said Thursday that she had decided to leave her community of the past 41 years to join the Denver-based Sisters of Loretto.

Her new religious community is one she believes is "willing to take risks, try new things, ask questions," Gramick, 59, said from her home in Hyattsville. "Because of that, I kind of resonated with them."

Officials from the School Sisters of Notre Dame declined to comment.

Gramick was under the threat of dismissal from the School Sisters of Notre Dame. She and the Rev. Robert Nugent, her colleague in ministry for nearly 30 years, were forbidden by the Vatican last year from speaking or writing about homosexuality or from mentioning their punishment.

She and Nugent were ordered in July 1999 to end their ministry to gays and lesbians because they failed to explicitly state in their teaching and in their personal beliefs the church doctrine that a homosexual orientation is "disordered" and that the church regards homosexual acts as intrinsically evil.

For the past year, Gramick has defied the Vatican ban, calling it a "violation of the basic human right to self-defense."

"I knew the community leaders did not want to dismiss me, but that's what they felt they had to do if I followed my conscience, which is what I felt I had to do," Gramick said.

With her change in religious communities, Gramick said, she believes that her silencing no longer pertains.

"By this transfer, I don't have to follow [the School Sisters of Notre Dame superior general's] directive, and her directive was that I couldn't speak or write about homosexuality at all," she said. "Now I'm free to do that."

As a Sister of Loretto, Gramick will be allowed to continue her ministry to gays, and most of that order's members "have great support for her," said Sister Mary Ann Coyle, former president of the order. Gramick's work fits with the order's mission of peace and justice, Coyle said.

Asked what the Loretto order will do if the Vatican tries again to silence Gramick, Coyle said, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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