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July 14, 1999


Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, welcomed the Notification issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the work of Reverend Robert Nugent, SDS and Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND in the area of homosexuality.

"I am grateful to the Congregation for its clarification regarding the doctrinal positions held by Sister Gramick and Father Nugent," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. "The Holy See has discussed this matter extensively with Father Nugent and Sister Gramick for over ten years. I am certain that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was most sensitive to the many good works in which Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have been engaged. Nonetheless, the wide dissemination of their doctrinal errors through publications and pastoral activities has become a growing concern for many Bishops throughout the United States."

Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have been involved in pastoral activities directed toward homosexual persons for more than twenty years. In 1977, they founded the organization New Ways Ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington (D.C.). Father Nugent and Sister Gramick also authored or edited two books on the subject of homosexuality and the Catholic Church. Several statements issued by Father Nugent and Sister Gramick were clearly incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church. In 1984, James Cardinal Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, informed Father Nugent and Sister Gramick that they could no longer undertake their activities in that Archdiocese. At the same time, the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life ordered Father Nugent and Sister Gramick to separate themselves totally and completely from New Ways Ministry.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith continued to receive numerous complaints and urgent requests for clarification from Bishops in the United States and elsewhere. The activities of Sister Gramick and Father Nugent were causing difficulties in many Dioceses. The Congregation reported that Sister Gramick and Father Nugent continued to maintain and promote ambiguous positions on homosexuality and explicitly criticized Magisterial documents on this subject. Thus, it became necessary for the Congregation to issue its Notification in order to "repair the harmful confusion caused by the errors and ambiguities in their publications and activities."

"It is extremely unfortunate that the Holy See was compelled to take these measures," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. "The Congregation acted not because this was a ministry to homosexuals, but because of statements contrary to Church teaching. The Catholic Church recognizes the value and importance of ministering to persons with homosexual orientations. Since 1987, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has sponsored Courage, a program run by the Family Life Office which provides support to homosexual persons striving to live according to the teachings of the Catholic Church."

" All of the bishops are sensitive to the need for the Catholic Church to continually welcome all of God's children, including those with homosexual orientations. In fact, the Church remains true to its mission of sanctifying and healing when it brings to gay and lesbian children of God the same pastoral concern and compassionate response as it does in assisting all of it members," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. " Indeed, the Holy See acknowledged some positive aspects of the work of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick. But, it is essential that those who minister within the Church adhere to and present faithfully the Church's official teachings."

Cardinal Bevilacqua clarified, "The Catholic Church clearly and unequivocally teaches that homosexual orientation in and of itself is not immoral. However, while such orientation is not sinful, homosexual behavior is always a grave evil. Persons of the same gender who become sexual partners are acting in a way that is inconsistent with our Creator's design."

New Ways Ministry has not been active in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The Notification directs that Father Nugent and Sister Gramick are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.


Cathy Rossi

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