It was with sadness that I received a letter from Sister Rosemary Howarth, General Superior of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, dated June 27, 1998, stating that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF] was not satisfied with my response to its contestatio, because I never disclosed my personal convictions with regard to the Church's teaching on homosexuality.
I have taken your response seriously and, through a process of prayerful discernment, I feel that this reply is an honest following of God's call to me at this time.
In freedom, I choose not to publicly reveal my personal beliefs regarding any doctrinal positions on homogenital behavior and homosexual orientation. The approach I have taken in my pastoral ministry requires this reticence. In my desire to spread the Gospel of Christ to lesbian and gay people who have felt alienated from the Church, I have tried to be a "bridge builder" or mediator whose personal views on contentious issues remain as far as possible in the background. In order to begin to reconcile lesbian and gay Catholics to the Church, I have followed Cardinal Bernardin's model of seeking common ground.
The issue of my personal beliefs surfaced during the 1994 hearings of the Commission established by the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes. Cardinal Adam Maida, the Commission chair, respected the privacy of my personal beliefs.
I share the paramount concern which the Magisterium must have to safeguard truth and doctrinal soundness in the exercise of any ministry. As a pastoral minister, I am publicly accountable for my public statements. To honor this concern, I have always tried to present the Church's teaching on homosexuality in a responsible and respectful way.
I acknowledge my responsibility for the contents of Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church and Voices of Hope: A Collection of Positive Catholic Writings on Gay and Lesbian Issues. In Building Bridges, I was primarily presenting the concerns and views of lesbian and gay Catholics. In Voices of Hope, I was primarily presenting the teachings of the Magisterium. I see this as part of my role as a bridge builder.
I believe that I have corrected the erroneous and dangerous propositions in these two books, which were identified by the CDF, in my response to the contestatio in the following ways:
1. I pointed out how the opinions of theologians and lesbian and gay Catholics, which I report, are in conflict with the Church's teaching. I corrected them and pledged to make it clear in the future that I am not promoting new theological opinions.
2. I explained the meaning of some words or statements in a way that could reconcile them with the Church's teaching.
3. I acknowledged omissions and ambiguities, corrected them, and resolved to be clear in the future.
In her cover letter which accompanied my response, Sister Patricia Flynn, then General Superior of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, stated that she believed my corrections addressed the problems raised by the CDF.
I am sincerely sorry and ask pardon of any whom I may have misled, confused, or offended by the contents of Building Bridges and Voices of Hope.
I am open and would be grateful for continued dialogue with the hope of reconciliation for all concerned. I sincerely trust that this review will bring love and truth to lesbian and gay Catholics and their families and unity to the Church, which I dearly love.
I am very grateful to the School Sisters of Notre Dame, both the leadership and the community of sisters, who have sustained me with their prayers and their emotional and material support. Their advocacy of this ministry for the last 20 years, especially when it was still new in the Church, has been a witness of their commitment to Jesus' Way to comfort and liberate the oppressed and marginalized of this world. The Church has been blessed with the courage and compassion of these women.
Respectfully submitted, this
29th day of July, 1998
Feast of St. Martha
Jeannine Gramick, SSND