|| Vatican ban ends years of
By TERESA MALCOLM
The following is a chronology of the investigation that began
with the Maida commission to examine the work of School Sister of Notre Dame
Jeannine Gramick and Salvatorian Fr. Robert Nugent. The information was culled
from nearly 90 pages of documents from the investigation. The full text of many
of the documents can be found on NCRs Web site at
The Vatican, through the Congregation for Institutes of
Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, established a commission
in 1988 to investigate Gramicks and Nugents ministry. Cardinal Adam
Maida was appointed to head the commission. Serving with Maida were Msgr. James
J. Mulligan, moral theologian and director of the priestly life and ministry
office of the Allentown, Pa., diocese, and Janet Smith, associate professor of
philosophy at the University of Dallas.
Nugent and Gramick met with the commission March 18, May 25
and July 26, 1994. At the July 26 meeting, they presented written responses to
the commissions questions, some of which related to passages in their
1992 book Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic
Church. Issues discussed included whether they promoted church teaching or
sought to change it. Also subject to scrutiny was Gramick and Nugents use
of the word natural to describe homosexual orientation and their
reticence to use the Vaticans preferred word, disordered.
After the meeting, Gramick and Nugent declared their
satisfaction with the commissions proceedings. Participants
acknowledged that they really learned a lot from the whole process,
Nugent told NCR.
- The commissions report, dated Oct. 4, 1994, and largely
negative, came as a shock. The document accused the priest and nuns
ministry of creating ambiguity and confusion.
In their response, Nugent and Gramick said the report ignored
their clarifications, disregarded supportive testimony including letters
from bishops and over 200 others and introduced new material omitted
from the hearings.
Gramick and Nugent were denied permission to review certain
documents, including the commissions recommendations, which were
submitted to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life. According to
the Vaticans notification of their removal from ministry, that
recommendation was for disciplinary action. In 1995 the case was judged to be
doctrinal and turned over to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
A contestatio was approved by the congregation in
October 1997. The document, titled Erroneous and Dangerous Propositions
in the Publications Building Bridges and Voices of Hope by Sister
Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, covered much the
same ground as the Maida commission. However, the contestatio added
criticisms of Gramick and Nugents 1995 book, Voices of Hope: A
Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on Gay and Lesbian Issues.
The congregation said the new book selectively edited church
documents to remove fundamental teachings, especially on the grave depravity of
Nugent and Gramick were asked to respond individually to the
contestatio. Both once again attempted to clarify problems and rebut
criticisms. Gramick said repeatedly, after dealing with each point in the
contestatio, I will make this teaching clear in the future.
In the summer of 1998, Gramick and Nugent were informed
through their religious superiors that their responses were unsatisfactory.
They were asked to declare their personal adherence to church teaching. The
congregation also asked them to acknowledge responsibility for errors in their
books and ask pardon for them.
Investigation of Gramicks work apparently ended with her
reply. She did agree to accept responsibility for the contents of the books,
noting that she had corrected the erroneous views and had promised to be
clearer in the future, as well as asked for pardon. However, she told the
congregation that she chose not to reveal her beliefs regarding homosexual acts
and homosexual orientation for pastoral reasons. Her ministry as a
bridge-builder, or mediator between the church and homosexual
Catholics, required reticence, she said.
Nugent responded differently. He wrote a statement of his
personal assent to church teaching. While saying he never deliberately denied
Catholic teaching, he acknowledged that certain propositions in his public
writings had been judged erroneous and dangerous. As such, these
propositions are contrary to certain doctrines of the authentic magisterium
that require religious submission of will and intellect, he wrote.
He asked pardon for any harm that may have come from his
writings and concluded, I accept the doctrine contained in Persona
Humana (1975), Homosexualitatis Problema (1986), and the
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) and the adherence which is due
That statement was deemed insufficiently explicit in
indicating Nugents interior assent to church teaching, the congregation
said. However, he was given another chance: an opportunity to sign a
profession of faith formulated by the congregation, which was sent
to Nugent Dec. 15, 1998.
In his reply, Nugent amended the text. He said he was
concerned that the technical language of the statement would cause further hurt
and alienation for homosexual Catholics and their families.
Nugents changes, which he noted incorporated language
used by English-speaking episcopal conferences, altered several phrases that
used the term intrinsically evil to read objectively
disordered and objectively immoral.
The congregation, however, said that intrinsically
evil, used to describe homosexual acts, should not be replaced,
even for pastoral motives, with terminology which is far less clear.
Nugent also added a paragraph about the difficulties in
determining whether a particular teaching has in fact been taught infallibly by
a non-defining act of the ordinary and universal magisterium.
The congregation said this statement called into question the
definitive and unchangeable nature of Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, and
added it contributes decisively to the inadequacy of his response.
The notification permanently banning Nugent and Gramick from
ministry to homosexuals was approved by Pope John Paul II and signed by
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the congregation, at the
end of May 1999.
Gramick and Nugent were called to Rome by their religious
superiors and informed of the decision just before the notification was
released to the public July 13.
National Catholic Reporter, July 30,