COMMISSION STUDYING THE WRITINGS AND MINISTRY OF
SISTER JEANNINE GRAMICK, SSND & FATHER ROBERT NUGENT, SDS
This response consists of an analysis of the Commissions Report, our perceptions of the investigative process, areas for future clarification, and concluding remarks. We identify passages from the Commissions Report by "R" followed by page and paragraph numbers; minutes of the July 26, 1994 meeting are referenced by "M" followed by page and line numbers. Minutes from other meetings are so indicated.
I. Analysis of the Commissions Report
We are pleased that the Commission believes that our ministry has made a significant impact in an area that is important, needed, and beset by great difficulties because of its controversial nature. We feel affirmed by the Commissions commendation of our courage, zeal, love, and compassion in attempting to address the needs of gay and lesbian persons.
We are heartened that the Commission recognizes that many gay and lesbian persons have had alienating experiences at the hands of Church people and that the task of reconciliation is sometimes made more difficult because the language used to convey Church teaching sometimes sounds insensitive and even offensive if not properly understood.
However, we are disappointed in the major portion of the Report. By and large, the Findings are marked by a harshly negative tone in sharp contrast to the positive spirit of our three meetings with the Commission. We are especially stunned by the accusation which appears to impugn our integrity:
"They are careful not to state explicitly that they are lobbying for a change in the Churchs teaching, and deny (when asked) that such is their intent. The manner in which their thoughts are expressed, however, is not consistent with that denial" (R, 9, 5).
Such statements, we believe, represent a summary refusal to give serious credence to our written and oral testimony. With one exception, the Report gives no account of how we attempted to resolve the alleged problems in passages from Building Bridges. It offers no explanation of why these attempts were ignored or deemed unsatisfactory.
We will analyze the Report by examining two pivotal problems and four additional problems. We will then summarize the analysis.
A. Pivotal Problems
1. Magisterial Teaching on Homogenital Behavior
It is the view of the Commission that a major issue centers on a matter that Sister Gramick and Father Nugent do not consider central to their ministry, i.e. the question of the morality of homogenital acts. While this matter may be secondary to their primary purpose, it is a crucial question for the moral choices that affect the human person, and, therefore, it cannot be considered incidental" (R, 4, 2)
Throughout its Report, the Commissions concern is largely limited to one issue: the adequacy of our teaching on homogenital acts. It is disappointing that the Commission seems to think that this issue is the only important part of Church teaching on homosexuality. We have never claimed that a moral judgment on sexual behavior is "incidental" or that it is not "a crucial issue," but we believe that the Commission has overemphasized this question by making it, in effect, the only crucial issue. How one regards human dignity and the rights attendant upon human dignity is just as crucial to all moral choices. So also is ones attitude to people different from oneself. These issues likewise pertain to the Churchs overall teaching on homosexuality.
So we reject the charge that we "are not manifest advocates of the Churchs teaching" (R, 9, III). On the contrary, we are manifest advocates of the full range of the Churchs teaching, which includes teachings on (1) the immorality of homogenital behavior, (2) the moral neutrality of a homosexual orientation, (3) the need for pastoral care, (4) the immorality of prejudice and discrimination against gay and lesbian persons, and (5) support for their human and civil rights. We explained the advocacy in our written response to Question 4 concerning how we draw people to an acceptance and practice of the Churchs teaching. This response appears to have been ignored in the Report, which focuses almost exclusively on the single aspect of Church teaching concerning homogenital behavior.
We do not over-emphasize the well-known and clear teaching of the Church regarding homogenital acts, nor do we present that teaching in isolation or out of proportion to the other aspects of Church teaching. To require that ministers to gay and lesbian persons concentrate on an emphatic proclamation of the objective immorality of homogenital acts makes the pastoral task of reconciliation more difficult. When Jesus was confronted with a pastoral situation involving a woman about to be stoned for adultery, he did not take the occasion to deliver a sermon on the evils of extramarital sex. 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 ones 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.
In our estimation, it is precisely the narrow emphasis on homogenital acts that has brought about the regrettable situation, noted by the Commission itself, that "some clergy, religious and laity are reluctant to address the needs of homosexual persons for fear that they will thereby be condoning sinful behavior" (R, 3, 1). We ourselves have overcome this reluctance and have attempted to address the multiple pastoral needs of lesbian and gay persons in a responsible way, only to find ourselves suspected of condoning such behavior.
The Report charges, "Neither was prepared to give personal assent to the Churchs teaching on homogenital behavior" (R, 9, III). However, the Report fails to note that, before we could complete an answer to this question, Archbishop Maida interjected, "Maybe its not a fair question" and moved off the subject (M, 61, 29). If it was not fair to raise the question in the hearing and we were not asked to pursue it on that occasion, then it is not fair for the Report to raise the question and complain that it was left unresolved.
In the July 26th meeting, our presentation of the Churchs teaching was vigorously defended by both of our theological consultants. Dr. James Hanigan pointed out how people generally "seem to want to talk about homogenital acts" whereas we, in our ministry, are determined "to talk about the rest of the Churchs teaching on this" (M, 101, 34-36).
Fr. Bruce Williams described the pastoral problem we face as a Church:
" a good many homosexual people are angry because they feel unjustly rejected and condemned by the Church. They feel the Church despises them, that the Church does not understand them, doesnt want to understand them, doesnt want to listen to them, doesnt even want to let their voice be heard. Now that might be quite off the mark, but that is the perception that many of them have. As long as that perception prevails, no amount of moral teaching about chastity can have any positive pastoral effect (M, 99, 24-30).
"To begin with," Fr. Williams continued, any pastoral approach "has to mean seriously listening to them, and responding to them in a way that shows that the Church hears them, or at least that its honestly trying, and trying hard, to hear them" (M, 99, 37-39). " this is more urgent than moral instruction about chastity. Im not saying its more important. Im saying its more immediately urgent" (M, 100, 2-3)
Ostensibly, these interventions, which assign the affirmation of gay and lesbian persons priority over the affirmation of the teaching on homogenital behavior as a matter of pastoral urgency, were favorably received at the hearing. But, to our dismay, their impact is overlooked by the Report.
2. Use of the Words "Natural" and "Disordered"
Much of the Report centers around our use of the words "natural" and "disordered." This language was the subject of considerable discussion at the July 26 meeting. From that discussion it was evident that both words carry multiple meanings. Whereas they have a certain technical meaning within the tradition of Catholic teaching, they more often convey very different meanings to contemporary hearers today.
Using the word "natural" in its contemporary, conventional meaning does not contradict Church teaching on homosexuality in any way. The Report argues that our use of "natural," in the psychological sense, "appears" to contradict Church teaching on the immorality of homogenital behavior because such a usage implies that homogenital acts should be morally permissible (R, 8, 2). Such reasoning is false. Not all heterosexual acts which are natural are morally permissible. To say that something "natural" is not equivalent to saying it is "morally permissible," as we clearly stated in our written and verbal explanation (M, 63, 9-10). We make this distinction in our workshops when the question arises and are prepared to elaborate on it in the future.
The word "disordered" is terminology which the CDF chose to express the concept that the homosexual orientation is not normative. The CDF could have chosen different words to convey the same concept. We documented at the hearing that this language was heard in the U.S. and elsewhere as a contradiction of the prevailing psychological opinion that a homosexual orientation is a variant form of human sexual development. The American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations no longer consider homosexuality a disorder.
We reminded the Commission that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops expressly rejected this word to describe a homosexual orientation in the text of their document Human Sexuality because it would be confusing and would add further pain (M, 64, 24-28). If the U.S. Bishops think that the word "disordered," as applied to a homosexual orientation, is not pastorally sensitive, it is unfair of the Commission to fault us for maintaining a position identical to the U.S. Bishops.
The Report does not respond to our reasons for claiming "disorder" is a poor choice of word for pastoral use. It ignores the comments made at the hearing by Bishop John Snyder, our pastoral consultant, who is involved in ministry to people with disabilities: "I wouldnt want to talk to the parents about their children as disordered. Pastorally, you would take a much different approach" (M, 71, 20-22).
Nevertheless, we do try to explain the word "disorder" as sympathetically as possible in our workshops. Fr. Nugent clearly stated that he helps people to understand that the word does not apply to the person or to the totality of their sexuality, but to a specific component of sexuality which the Church does not consider properly ordered (M, 55, 20-23). But this explanation was not acknowledged in the Commissions Report.
B. Additional Problems
The Report contains four additional problems involving new material, unbalanced Findings, unwarranted conclusions, and misuse of quotes from Building Bridges.
1. New Material
The Report introduces new material not included in any written communication or substantive discussion despite Archbishop Maidas assurance that "we are going to be making judgments only on materials that we share in common" (March 18, 1994 minutes, 10) and despite Dr. Smiths comment, "Everything that we put into the Report will be something that we bring before you" (M, 22, 6-7). Examples of these new materials are:
a. Approval of the Diocesan Bishop
The issue of approval from the diocesan bishop for our workshops was never discussed. The Report noted that "a number of the workshops were conducted in various dioceses without the approval of the diocesan bishop and, in some instances, despite his objections" (R, 4, 3). We have conducted workshops in more than 150 of the 188 U.S. dioceses. Most of these were conducted with the express or tacit approval of the diocesan bishop. In some cases, the diocesan bishop attended; in a few, the bishop objected. The latter case illustrates the need to evolve structures to resolve tensions between the exercise of ministries mandated by religious congregations and the exercise of the leadership ministry of diocesan bishops. The 1994 Synod on Consecrated Life discussed some proposals for resolution of such tensions which may be helpful in the future.
b. Co-Founders of New Ways Ministry
Our identification as co-founders of New Ways Ministry was never discussed. The Report cites this fact as evidence which suggests that we "continue to be involved" in this organization (R, 11, VI). Our co-founding of New Ways Ministry is a simple fact which cannot be changed. Recognition of this historical fact as biographical data does not imply that we are currently involved as representatives of New Ways Ministry.
c. Passages from Building Bridges
The Report cites three passages from Building Bridges which were not discussed in written or oral communication with the Commission. These will be treated below in point 4c.
2. Unbalanced Findings
a. Relative Disregard of Supportive Testimony
The Commission stated that part of its purpose was to examine the pastoral effects of our ministry. "When you are responding to questions, I will be very concerned about the pastoral effects of what you do. In your responses, we will look at what effect it has on people and the Churchs ministry," Archbishop Maida stated (March 18, 1994 minutes, 12-13). Despite this claim, the Report fails to acknowledge that approximately 96% of more than 250 letters received by the Commission about the pastoral effects of our ministry were positive (M, 12, 5-7). It states only that "some of the testimony by writers judged their presentations faithful to the teaching of the Church" (R, 3, 5).
The Report does not mention Bishop John Snyders personal testimony at the hearing about the positive effect of our workshop in his diocese "both in terms of the doctrinal content, but especially in terms of their sensitivity and awareness of the pastoral needs of gays and lesbians" (M, 34, 28-29).
We believe that the Commission was unduly influenced by a few negative letters. One solicited negative critique was made part of the official record while positive critiques, even the supportive letters from at least 15 bishops, were not made part of the official acts of the inquiry.
Archbishop Maida solicited testimony from a priest who attended our workshop in Detroit on October 20, 1993. The testimony was generally unfavorable to our presentations. In the hearing, we indicated that the testimonies of a Detroit bishop and another priest official of the Archdiocese who attended the same workshop might also be solicited (M, 92, 42-45; M, 95, 27-29). From conversations with them, we know that their testimony was favorable. But the Commission did not solicit their views.
In order to correct this unbalanced approach, we attach herewith the letters of five bishops who attended our programs and who testify that these programs are faithful to the teaching of the Church. We also attach letters from 15 bishops who wrote to the Commission on our behalf. These letters are included so that they will become part of the official acts of the Commission.
Furthermore, we request that the other 250+ letters which were sent to the Commission be included in the official record.
b. Penchant for Unfavorable Conclusions
The report is permeated by an unwillingness to grant us any benefit of the doubt in those cases where more than one interpretation of a particular thought is possible, despite our stating what we meant. In difficult aspects of our writing, the Commission chooses the interpretation most unfavorable to us.
For example, the Report cites some passages in Building Bridges which seem critical of the hierarchy and could suggest a change in Church teaching (R, 5, 6). The Commission rightly observes that it is not clear whether we are speaking for lesbian and gay persons or whether we are speaking for ourselves. Although the Commission recognizes this lack of clarity, the Report does not conclude that this warrants further clarification concerning whose voices are represented. Rather, it unfavorably concludes that we are speaking for ourselves.
3. Unwarranted Conclusions
a. Change in Church Teaching
The Report refers to a discussion at the July 26 meeting about stable, committed same-sex relationships that involve genital activity and cites a statement by Sister Gramick that she wants to see the Church open to any development. We previously affirmed an "openness to development" in our written response to Question 8. We stated that "we do not teach that the Church ought to change its teaching on homosexuality and homogenital acts." We continued by saying that "the Church ought to remain open to new data." With the U.S. Bishops, we acknowledged that the discovery of moral truth is an ongoing process. The U.S. Bishops state,
" data from the physical sciences, information from the social sciences, and the insights of human reason can all contribute to ones discovering moral truth" (Human Sexuality, 1990, p. 23).
We note here that Archbishop Maida told us at the hearing, "There is no grave reason or rationale to question the responses you have made to our questions" (M, 36, 27-28).
The Report concedes the legitimacy of some speculation about possible changes in Church teaching "in rather narrow academic circles," but implies that we have "engage(d) in such speculation as part of a pastoral presentation to audiences" (R, 9, 3). Such an implication is unwarranted. In fact, it is contradicted by Sister Gramicks statement, "Thats not what we teach" (M, 85, 29) and Father Nugents statement, "I tell people that if youre expecting the Church to change its teaching, youre going to be waiting a long time if ever. I say, Thats not our goal. Thats not what were here to discuss today" (M, 86, 26-28).
b. Sympathetic Presentation of Church Teaching
The Report claims that we do not present Church teaching in a sympathetic way (R, 6, 1) and documents this accusation by quoting from Building Bridges a critical assessment of the 1986 Vatican letter. No credence is given to our explanation of this controverted passage There is no mention that some of the harsh criticisms of the Vatican letter are voiced by many other Catholics, including some prelates, as documented in our response at the hearing (M, 53, 15-27). There is no acknowledgement of other passages in Building Bridges (e.g., pp. 137-143) which give a more positive and sympathetic account of the Churchs teaching.
Here again, the Report ignores our written response to Question 3 concerning the way we present the official teaching of the Church. We detail the five aspects of Church teaching and show from Vatican and U.S. magisterial sources that this teaching toward lesbian and gay persons can be understood in a sympathetic way. A handout outlining our treatment of the Churchs teaching, with citations from Church documents, is presented at our workshops. This handout was submitted to the Commission, but is never mentioned in the Report.
c. Civil Legislation
The Report claims that we were ambiguous in our responses regarding legislation allowing same-sex marriages and adoption by homosexual persons (R, 9, III). In the July 26 discussion, we treated these subjects with precision, pointing out the distinctions between the same-sex marriage question and the adoption question with further subdistinctions in the latter case. We emphasized that neither set of questions falls within the range of civil rights issues, which deal with jobs, housing, and public accommodations. We stated that we have not spoken or written on these two issues. Furthermore, we explicitly affirmed that we "would not support any legislation which is opposed to the Churchs fundamental moral principles concerning marriage and family life" (M, 80, 33-39). If these explanations were judged to be inadequate, it would have been fairer to ask for further discussion, rather than to label our responses ambiguous.
d. Authority of Church Documents
According to the Reports description of our methodology, "documents issued by various individual bishops, committees, or conferences seem to be given equal or preferential weight to the documents of the Holy See" (R, 10, 6). The Report makes no attempt to document this charge, and it cannot be verified. Indeed, contrary to the Reports assertion, we expressly agreed with the Commission that there are different levels of Church teaching and that Vatican documents are more authoritative than documents from individual bishops or bishops conferences (May 25, 1994 minutes, 9, 15-26). All Church documents, which we cite, stand on their own authority.
e. Constitutional Homosexual Orientation
At the hearing, the Commission accepted our correction that we set out to present the full range of "Church teaching," not necessarily of all "scholarship" (M, 91, 17-19). However, the Report reverts to the assertion that we claim "to present the full range of research and thinking on homosexuality" (R, 10, V).
Based on this inaccurate claim, the Report faults us for not devoting sufficient attention to the "testimony among evangelical Protestant communities and some portions of the psychological and psychiatric communities that such change is possible" (R, 10, V). It is unclear how our limited use of the opinions of some Protestant and secular sources is relevant to the question of our faithfulness to the teaching of the Roman Catholic magisterium, which is the focus of the Commissions mandate.
The Report correctly notes that "for the most part" we are "convinced that any change in homosexual orientation is impossible" (R, 10, V). It is unwarranted for the Report to find fault with our acceptance that a constitutional homosexual orientation is seemingly unchangeable because this belief is generally accepted as a working presumption in the Churchs magisterial documents. The 1975 Vatican Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics refers to lesbian and gay persons whose constitution is "judged to be incurable" (n. 8). The U.S. bishops state that such an orientation is "permanent, seemingly irreversible" (Human Sexuality, 1990, p. 54).
f. Use of New Ways Ministry Materials
We are puzzled as to why the Commission mentions our distributing New Ways Ministry literature as indicative or our supposed involvement in New Ways Ministry (R, 11, VI). This is unwarranted because a persons distributing organizational material in an educational setting does not imply that he or she is part of that organization. At the hearing, we explained that we distribute all educational materials available to us from Catholic lesbian/gay ministry groups (M, 81, 26-45). We are not now and never have been a part of most of these organizations.
4. Quotes from Building Bridges
Substantial documentation of the Report relies on passages from Building Bridges, in prooftext fashion. We hold that these passages are misconstrued and/or that our explanations are ignored. We shall discuss all of these passages under the categories of "Passages Presubmitted," "Passages Introduced and Discussed at the July 26 Meeting," and "Passages Not Discussed."
a. Passages Presubmitted
Two presubmitted passages (R, 8, 3 & 4) refer to our psychological use of the word "natural." We treated this in part I, A, 2 above. The Report cited three other presubmitted passages with no reference to the fact that we had explained them. We discuss these three passages below.
The second and third passages on page 7 of the Report are cited as evidence of our "hostility to the Church." We explained these passages in a non-hostile, constructive sense at the hearing (M, 75, 9-45; 76, 40-44; 77, 1-32) with a supporting intervention from Bishop John Snyder (M, 76, 33-38). Dr. Smith elaborated,
" maybe you dont mean it to be that antagonistic. Your job here, what you see yourself doing, is trying to wake up the Church to a certain degree of sensitivity to a community you think theyve been insensitive to. Maybe that forces you into a position of being perceived as being more hostile and antagonistic than you truly are (emphasis added)" (M, 78, 1-4).
Our explanation and the Commissions apparent acceptance of it did not find its way into the Report.
The first passage on page 6 of the Report is cited as proof that we, as religious, do not fulfill the expectation "to show to the homosexual community that, in spite of such problems, there is no significant departure from earlier Church teaching on homosexuality in that letter" (R, 6, 1). This passage does not claim, nor imply, that there is any departure from earlier Church teaching. The Report ignores our remarks in elucidating this passage relative to violence, injustice, and lack of pastoral care for gay and lesbian persons (M, 58, 1-45; 59, 1-14).
b. Passages Introduced and Discussed at the July 26 Meeting
Four passages (R, 5, A) are cited as examples of ambiguity concerning whose voice is speaking: the gay and lesbian community or our own voice. As noted above, the Report chooses the interpretation unfavorable to us.
The Report states that another passage (R, 6, C) can be reasonably understood as our views but is unclear whether it is addressed to those responsible for Church structures or to homosexuals. However, we explained that the passage calls "us as the Church to take those questions seriously" (M, 46, 17-18). The Report further maintains, "If the passage is addressed to those who are responsible for Church structure that punish lesbian and gay persons when they are true to their natures, the grounds for the accusation should be made more clear." In the hearing, we illustrated what we meant by this passage (M, 48, 27-28). We agreed with Dr. Smiths suggestion to include a parenthetical statement that these Church structures "dont follow the Church teaching or arent true to the Church teaching that homosexuals have a fundamental human dignity" (M, 48, 36-37). The Report omits this entire discussion.
One passage is appended to a claim that we "do not seem prepared to offer a precise explanation of that term (disordered) in line with the Churchs employment of the term" (R, 8, C). We commented on the term "disordered" in section 1, A, 2b above.
Two passages are cited to illustrate ambiguities about the meaning of the word "Church" and the meaning of the "experience" of lesbian and gay persons (R, 10, 3 & 4). We agree that, in these passages, the meanings of "Church" and the "experience" of lesbian and gay persons could be clarified. However, the Commission did not ask us to do so during the July 26 meeting. We are willing to clarify these passages in the future.
c. Passages Not Discussed
Two passages are cited to illustrate that we "seem to call into doubt the truth of the Churchs teaching that homosexuality is unnatural" (R, 7, A). Although Archbishop Maida introduced these two passages at the hearing (M, 50, 43-45; 51, 1-18), they did not receive time for clarification. They were forgotten by us and by the Commission in a lengthy discussion about the word "disorder," prompted by another passage which was introduced at the same time (M, 51, 20 to 59, 14). These two passages can be clarified in the future.
The first passage on page 7 of the Report was never mentioned at any meeting nor brought up in any of our written correspondence with the Commission.
We consider it inappropriate that the Report cites material which was never mentioned or which did not receive sufficient time for explanation.
C. Summary of Analysis of Report
We believe that the harsh judgments found in the Report reflect:
1. an inaccurate rendering of the official hearing.
2. selective and prejudicial attention to certain problematic issues in Building Bridges while ignoring or dismissing our efforts to resolve these issues by making appropriate refinements.
3. an over-all attitude quite at variance with that conveyed during the Commission meetings.
The Report seems to give the appearance that some segments could have been written without the benefit of any input from our written or oral responses.
II. Our Perceptions of the Investigation
A. Problems with Procedure
Although the Commissions manner and behavior seemed fair and impartial, several rulings on procedure were not consistent with basic norms of due process. Despite our initial feeling that the Commission treated us well, we believe that our fundamental rights were denied in the following ways:
1. We were not given access to the two page letter of August 14, 1989 from Archbishop Laghi to Archbishop Maida, which was viewed as part of the Commissions mandate (March 18, 1994 minutes, 6, Review of Mandate). Denial of access to the full text of this letter violated our right of defence because it prevented us from defending ourselves against possibly unfavorable judgments. It also prevented us from being assured that the Commission was not specifically mandated to find something to justify a negative conclusion about our ministry. A mandate, by its very nature, must be open to the scrutiny of the principal parties in an administrative process.
2. We were not allowed to examine all the letters that were sent to the Commission and passed on as evidence to the Congregation. This situation gave us no opportunity to defend ourselves against the negative letters and to prove our orthodoxy with the positive letters.
3. We are being denied access to the recommendations that the Commission will give the Congregation regarding our ministry, despite the Congregations letter to us on July 23, 1988 from Archbishop Fagiolo. That letter, which was considered as part of the mandate by the Commission, stated, "The members of the commission will certainly present their conclusions to you and your institutes as well as to us." The conclusions should reasonably include the recommendations because the recommendations will comprise the final or concluding task of the Commission.
Our canon lawyer and advocate, Msgr. Leonard Scott, assured us and reminded the Commission that our right to due process is protected by Canon Law (canon 221 #1), by the magisterium of the Church (Allocution of Pope John Paul II to the Rota on January 26, 1989) and by the guidelines of the American Bishops (Doctrinal Responsibilities, June 17, 1989, pg. 19, par. 3). Unfortunately, this protection was not fully reflected in the Commissions decisions regarding the above three issues.
B. Spirit of the Meetings
We would characterize the tone of our three meetings as friendly, cooperative, and honest. Although we recognized some areas of difference at the July 26 meeting, we do not believe they are insurmountable. The exchange helped us understand how some of our statements are perceived and to realize that some language we employ from gay and lesbian Catholics can sound insensitive and even offensive if not properly understood.
We were heartened by Dr. Smiths comment:
"I do commend you for your courage in undertaking a very controversial ministry that, it seems to me, is long overdue and is still not in the least sufficiently or adequately addressed by the Church" (M, 39, 30-33).
Dr. Smiths further observation at the end of the meeting admirably crystallized the spirit and results of considerable discussion of some hard questions that day:
"What Im starting to get here is a sense, as you make some changes, nuances, on some of these things, is that we all have this problem. Its not isolated to you alone. In the same way youre accusing the Church, and I want to say, to some extent, with some justification, of pastoral insensitivity in some of this language, that youre not quite hearing how other people are hearing what you are saying. It sounds too antagonistic to the Church and maybe you dont mean it to be that antagonistic. Your job here, what you see yourself doing, is trying to wake up the Church to a certain degree of sensitivity to a community you think theyve been insensitive to. Maybe that forces you into a position of being perceived as being more hostile and antagonistic than you truly are" (M, 77, 40-45 and 78, 1-4).
Throughout our 23 years in this ministry, we have consistently tried to make nuances and distinctions in what we write and say so that we can credibly maintain our roles as bridge builders and reconcilers. We have not always succeeded. By the end of the July 26 session, we learned that certain areas need to be clarified in our bridge-building task.
As Bishop Snyder noted,
"The interchange can enrich their own presentations and the service that theyre rendering, which I think is critical. Hopefully, in the presentation of the Report, it would not only assure Rome of their fidelity but also something of the complexity and the urgency of the question in terms of pastoral care" (M, 100, 42-45).
III. Areas for Future Clarification
We recognize that our ministry would benefit from clarifications in the following areas:
A. Whose Voice Is Speaking?
We agree with the observation made at the hearing by Fr. Nugents past provincial concerning where our advocacy is most evident. Fr. Paul Portland said,
"I attended a workshop and I really think thats where I saw very strongly that advocacy for the Churchs position (M, 60, 27-28) So maybe part of what were seeing, the emphasis in the workshops, is where theyre being the advocate for the Church. Maybe this book, Building Bridges, is more the advocate for the lesbian and gay" (M, 60, 33-35).
We believe that our future writings will benefit by the discussion we have had with the Commission and their suggestions to us to reflect in a more adequate way our advocacy for the Churchs position.
C. Definition of "Natural"
The Commission found our psychological use of the word "natural" problematic because of possible implications for the Churchs teaching on homogenital behavior. In the exchange, we acknowledged that our use of "natural" could benefit from more precise nuance.
God has established a moral order in the world which the Church articulates to help guide peoples lives. A theological understanding of the word "natural" fits into this moral framework. We are willing to elaborate on the theological meaning of the word "natural" in our ministry.
Relative to this point, Archbishop Maida stated,
" rather than try to delve into steps right now, maybe we can put it aside and, more specifically, give you an opportunity in one of these things to respond in writing to specific questions that we might have" (M, 71, 30-33).
Both Commission members present responded that such nuancing would alleviate their concerns (M, 72, 42-44; 73, 1-17).
D. Definition of "Church"
We recognize that we need to use the word "Church" more precisely in future writings and presentations (R, 10, 5). We need to indicate more distinctly in various contexts whether we are referring to Vatican congregations, national hierarchies, local bishops, clergy, laity, Church documents or those who drafted them, theologians, religious orders, seminaries, or the whole people of God.
E. Passages from Building Bridges
From Building Bridges, we are willing to clarify:
1. the three passages quoted in the Report which were not discussed.
2. other passages which the Commission did not have time to pursue.
IV. Concluding Remarks
We left the July 26 meeting feelling both affirmed I n the good we were trying to achieve and challenged by questions in some areas in which our ministry could be strengthened.
We were realistic enough to appreciate Archbishop Maidas observation,
"When we come to the conclusion of the Commissions work, it may be very possible that there will be those who will receive you and those who will say, Please, not now, or whatever. You need to respect that too. Its a judgment that a bishop makes. Its a judgment that he makes and he does it before the Lord" (M, 103, 45 and 104, 1-3).
At the same time, these words led us to expect that the Commissions Report and recommendations would be favorable to the continuation of our ministry, strengthened by the elimination of any ambiguities noted by the Commission.
Our hope is that our response to the Report will influence the formulation of positive recommendations that will be helpful rather than hurtful to a ministry which the Commission itself has acknowledged as seriously imperative as well as challenging for the Church. We are hopeful that the Commissions recommendations will serve to strengthen our spirits and those of the many religious superiors and bishops who have supported our ministry for more than two decades.
We especially pray that the forthcoming recommendations will help to alleviate the sense of alienation which lesbian and gay Catholics and their families feel from the Church. In sum, we hope and pray that the Commissions recommendations will make it possible to demonstrate the compassion of Church authorities in building bridges to those who need and want to feel the Churchs reconciling love.
Respectfully Submitted, this
12th day of January, 1995
Jeannine Gramick, SSND Robert Nugent, SDS
1. letter of July 1, 1987 from Bishop Thomas J. Costello
2. letter c. Sept. 7, 1989 from Bishop Francis A. Quinn
3. letter of Dec. 14, 1989 from Bishop John J. McRaith
4. letter of Jan. 31, 1991 from Bishop Kenneth J. Povish
5. letter of June 12, 1992 from Bishop Leroy T. Matthiesen
6. letter of May 26, 1994 from Bishop Gerald OKeefe
7. letter of May 26, 1994 from Bishop Joseph L. Imesch
8. letter of May 26, 1994 from Bishop Lawrence L. McNamara
9. letter of May 31, 1994 from Bishop Charles A. Buswell
10. letter of June 1, 1994 from Bishop Walter F. Sullivan
11. letter of June 2, 1994 from Bishop William A. Hughes
12. letter of June 8, 1994 from Bishop Robert F. Morneau
13. letter of June 14, 1994 from Bishop Leroy T. Matthiesen
14. letter of June 14, 1994 from Bishop Raymond A. Lucker
15. letter of June 29, 1994 from Bishop Matthew H. Clark
16. letter of July 6, 1994 from Bishop William Friend
17. letter of July 20, 1994 from Bishop John S. Cummins
18. letter of July 21, 1994 from Bishop P. Francis Murphy
19. letter of Aug. 19, 1994 from Bishop Frank J. Rodimer
20. letter of Jan. 6, 1995 from Bishop Peter A. Rosazza