e-mail us
Gramick seeks to overturn ruling

NCR Staff

School Sister of Notre Dame Jeannine Gramick, ordered in July by the Vatican to cease her pastoral work with gays and lesbians, said she will seek a reversal of the Vatican decree.

Gramick, in a statement released to NCR Sept. 23, said she will not defy the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but will work to have it overturned. “While I see no benefits for lesbian and gay Catholics and their parents if I passively accept the CDF decision, I believe it is more beneficial to minister on their behalf with the blessing of church leadership than without it. Therefore, I believe it is important to work within church structures to have the CDF decision reconsidered and, hopefully, ultimately reversed.”

Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent began ministering to gays and lesbian Catholics in 1971, underwent 20 years of investigation by various church leaders and agencies, and were ultimately barred from pastoral ministry in the July decision.

Nugent decided to comply with the ban on active pastoral ministry with gays and lesbians, but he has continued speaking in academic settings about his ministry and his experience during the Vatican investigation.

Gramick, 57, said in a telephone interview that she had not yet consulted a canon lawyer and did not know if an appeals process was open to her. But, she said, she took some hope from the case of Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya, who was excommunicated in January 1997 only to be reinstated 12 months later. Fr. Balasuriya’s excommunication, she said, “was a far more severe penalty than mine and it was lifted.”

Balasuriya’s reinstatement came after intense and direct negotiations with the Vatican by leaders of his order. Gramick, in the interview, said she doubts that religious women would have such direct access to Vatican authorities.

Part of her statement was a plea to the wider church community -- from members of her congregation to church leaders -- “to help me find creative, collaborative ways to lift the burden of this directive from my shoulders. I believe that creative solutions to the dilemma I am facing can ultimately be advantageous to lesbian and gay Catholics and to the whole church,” she wrote in the statement.

She said that, although she was unable to “acquiesce in a decision I consider unjust and harmful to lesbian and gay Catholics,” she was looking for some way to reconcile the Vatican directive with what she feels is a call from God to minister to lesbian and gays.

She said she is taking a “reconciling” approach to the Vatican directive, one that “is consistent with my ministry in the past,” which “has been one of reconciliation of homosexual Catholics with the institutional church.”

In the meantime, she said, she and the leaders of her community will discuss ministry options for the future. One option, she said, might be research and writing on the major issues involved in the church’s teaching on homosexuality as well as issues involved in her experience with the Vatican investigation and the tactics of the hierarchy in those proceedings.

The full text of Sr. Jeannine Gramick’s most recent statement is available on the NCR Web site, http://www.natcath.com/NCR_Online/documents/gramnuge.htm as are previous documents dealing with the Vatican investigation into her and Fr. Nugent’s ministry.

National Catholic Reporter, October 1, 1999