Sister Jeannine Gramick's Journey of Faith in Toronto on May 22 at 2:15 p.m.





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Advoacy News - The voice the Vatican could not silence

May 20, 2004

The voice the Vatican could not silence
In good conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick

Barbara Rick's (Out of the Blue Films) new documentary In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick's Journey of Faith is touring the film and documentary circuit, bringing to new audiences a story of courage and shame.

This film is about an American nun who is challenging the Vatican over its treatment of gay and lesbian Catholics. Gramick refused to be silenced when the Pope issued an ultimatum: denounce homosexuality or lose everything.

We wrote about Sister Gramick in our book Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights. As co-founder, with Father Robert Nugent, of the Washington-based New Ways Ministry, the pair worked with the gay and lesbian community and their families and friends.

This was in violation of orders from the Vatican that stipulated gays should be targeted with "special concern and pastoral attention ... lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is morally acceptably option. It is not."

Gramick did not stress that homosexuality was immoral and her work with Nugent began to have success in the community, which in turn attracted the attention of the Vagtican's enforcers, the former office of the Inquisition, Cardinal Ratzinger's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

From Just Married:

The church's investigations of Nugent and Gramick began in 1977, but the pair continued in their outreach to gays even after a commission was formed in the United States in 1988 to examine their statements regarding homosexuality. As the investigation dragged on through the years, Cardinal Ratzinger himself eventually stepped in to defend doctrial faith against the acceptance of homosexuality.The cardinal was particularly interested in two of the pair's books, Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church (Twenty-Third Publications, 1992) and Voices of Hope: A Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on Gay and Lesbian Issues (Center for Homophobia Education, 1995).

On July 14, 1999, Cardinal Ratzinger, with the pope's blessing, held true to the spirit of the Halloween letter and published a "Notification" prohibiting Father Nugent and Sister Gramick from doing any further pastoral work with gays. Nevertheless, the pair continued to lobby others to join them in their effort to reconcile homosexuals with their church and communities. "I believe that the Holy Spirit is trying to teach all of us, including the Church, through this experience;' Sister Gramick said in a statement shortly after she was stripped of her ministry. "I ask theologians, canon lawyers, biblical scholars, and other thinkers and writers to reflect on, discuss, and write about the issues and principles related to this case. For too long, the investigation, including its process and substance, has been shrouded in secrecy and darkness. It is now time to bring the problems involved to openness and light."

The pope and his enforcer Cardinal Ratzinger didn't agree. The Vatican imposed harsher measures in 2000, and a press release from the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Gramick's order, explained: "We had asked her to 'let the land lie fallow' in relation to her former ministry among gay and lesbian persons, and to redirect her gifts and energies toward a different ministry." The Vatican stopped short of charging the pair with heresy and excommunicating them, but their action was just as draconian and nearly as severe: the pair was silenced. In a May 24, 2000, press release, Father Robert Nugent concluded, "I am now prohibited from speaking or writing in the public forum about the Notification itself, about the ecclesiastical processes that led to it, or about the issue of homosexuality."

The next day, Sister Gramick's press release was defiant. "I feel pained that the Vatican and my community leaders now ask me to silence myself. After finding my voice to tell my story, I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right. To me this is a matter of conscience."

Sister Gramick became an inspiration for us on our journey towards same-sex marriage. We answered her call "to reflect on, discuss, and write about the issues" and hope you will too.

Out of the Blue Films
In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick's Journey of Faith
Inside/Out Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Saturday, May 22, 2004, 2:15 p.m.

What you can do

  • Write to, or phone, Canada's Prime Minister and Justice Minister, and Members of Parliament in support of same-sex marriage.
  • Write to homophobic leaders of faith communities in your area, denouncing faith-based bigotry.
  • If your faith community is homophobic, withhold your financial support. Instead of dropping money in the collection plate, leave a note explaining your position.
  • Support gay-positive organizations and faith communities.

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