By Jeannine Gramick, SSND
Regarding the Notification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
I am anguished and deeply troubled that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF] has decided that I should be permanently prohibited from any pastoral work with lesbian or gay persons or their parents.
Many of my friends, colleagues, and sisters are hurt, bewildered, and deeply pained by the action of the CDF. This statement is intended to clarify my situation for them and for the whole Catholic community, which I dearly love.
I have felt called to lesbian and gay ministry since 1971 when I met a gay man during my graduate school days at the University of Pennsylvania. His question, "What is the Church doing for my gay brothers and sisters," became God's invitation to me to help correct the injustices of our society and Church toward this excluded group of people. It changed the entire direction of my life. The severe judgment of the CDF brings me to a new moment in my life regarding this ministry.
I strongly believe in the need for authority and I respect those entrusted with exercising it. At the same time, my experience in this investigation was that justice was not served because of a lack of fair and open procedures. The People of God deserve impartial hearings and trials for any accused. There is a conflict of interest when any agency fulfills the roles of prosecutor, jury, and judge in the same case, as happened with the Vatican investigation of my ministry.
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. My personal beliefs had earlier been avoided in the Vatican Commission hearings when Cardinal Adam Maida, the Commission Chair, inquired about them but then quickly acknowledged, "Maybe that's not a fair question."
I have tried to present the teachings of the Magisterium in a responsible and respectful way. These are contained primarily in the book, Voices of Hope: A Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on Gay and Lesbian Issues.
At the same time, I have tried to present the concerns and views of lesbian and gay Catholics, which are contained primarily in the book, Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church. My hope has been, and still is, to stand as a mediator.
An emphasis on the teaching about homosexual acts and orientation which obscures our Church's teaching about the human dignity of lesbian and gay persons and their rights as baptized Christians misses the fundamental message of Jesus' Gospel of love and compassion.
The Church's teaching about the immorality of violence, prejudice, and discrimination, and about the human, civil and ecclesial rights of lesbian and gay people is far more important to the lived reality of homosexual and heterosexual people than any statement about homosexual activity or orientation.
Those who minister today to the divorced and remarried are not expected to constantly proclaim the immorality of divorce and remarriage. Hospital chaplains are not expected to constantly proclaim the immorality of neglecting and endangering one's health.
Those in prison ministry are not expected to constantly proclaim the immorality of criminal acts. Military chaplains are not expected to constantly proclaim the immorality of war. The expectations of those in lesbian and gay ministry should be similar.
Wouldn't Catholics feel proud if Church leaders condemned anti-gay violence each time they mention homosexuality, instead of mentioning homosexual acts as they usually do?
Wouldn't lesbian and gay Catholics feel the beginning of reconciliation in this year of jubilee if we, as a Church, asked forgiveness from our lesbian sisters and gay brothers for our silence and complicity in the face of their oppression?
I am concerned that lesbian and gay Catholics and their families will be angered by this action of the CDF. To them, I say Use your anger creatively. Don't leave the Church. It is your spiritual home. The People of God are welcoming you into our parishes. They are coming to see that the whole community is diminished when we exclude lesbian and gay persons from the table of Eucharist and dialogue. Believe what our U.S. bishops said in their pastoral message, Always Our Children: "In you God's love is revealed."
I have learned and received much from lesbian and gay Catholics. I am especially thankful for the gift of helping me to accept diversity. St. Paul's image of the Church as the Body of Christ has become very tangible in my life: "If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? And if it were only an ear, how could it smell? As it is, however, God put every different part in the body just as God wanted it to be" (1 Cor. 17-18).
I am profoundly grateful to the Congregation of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and to the Baltimore Province in particular. Their advocacy of this ministry for more than two decades, especially when it was new in the Church, has been a witness to their commitment to Jesus' Way to comfort and liberate the oppressed and marginalized of this world.
I am now faced with a decision of whether or not to accept the outcome of a process that I believe was fundamentally unfair. 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 Sister of Notre Dame in the Catholic Church. Thus, the censure from the Vatican presents a dilemma for me.
On July 14, 1999, I canceled my ministerial commitments for one month so that I can take the needed time to discern where God is calling me in the future.
In God's mysterious way, I believe that this time of trial will be the occasion of many graces. We are assured that "For those who love God, all things work together unto good" (Romans 8:28). I ask for your prayers.