Church of Saint Paul 92 Station Road Wood Green N22 4SY London, U.K.
RESPONSE TO THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
The primary focus of my educational and pastoral ministry to Catholic homosexual people, their parents and families since 1971 has been the promotion of justice and reconciliation in Church and society through research, writing, lectures, workshops, retreats and pastoral counseling. This ministry has always been based on the authentic teachings of the Church and traditional theological and pastoral principles. Although I am trained in the discipline of theology, I am not a professional theologian.
I have co-operated respectfully and fully since 1977 in each of four major studies of my ministry at various ecclesiastical levels. These have included: three internal studies undertaken by my Religious Congregation between 1977 and 1985 at the request of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Secular Institutes (CICL); one public study by the Maida Commission appointed by the CICL in 1988 and mandated to "render a judgment as to the clarity and orthodoxy of the public presentations with respect to the Churchs teaching on homosexuality" and the extension of the Maida Commission in the 1997 examination of my writings by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) resulting in a contestatio. The sole concern raised during the entire 20 years of my pastoral ministry and the object of all the formal studies related to it is a perception, by some, of ambiguity arising from particular statements expressed in my book, Building Bridges.
The methodology and certain expressions of this work were examined in a lengthy and detailed study by the Maida commission from 1988 to 1994. I co-operated fully with each stage of the investigative process and each request made by the Commission or the CICL. I responded fully and truthfully to the questions and comments of the Commission about any expressions that were considered problematic. I carefully explained and clarified, both orally and in writing, each statement so as to clearly indicate what was actually meant. My collaboration with the Maida Commission required a great amount of time and energy for personal prayer, serious reflection and study as well as extensive consultation with bishops, theologians and canon lawyers. I likewise answered additional questions posed directly to me by the CICL subsequent to the report of the Maida Commission.
In 1997 I learned that another examination of Building Bridges and a subsequent work, Voices of Hope, had been undertaken by the CDF. At the same time I was informed by my Congregational leaders that the CDF study had found "erroneous" and "dangerous" views in these books. These were communicated to me by the CDF in a formal and technical contestatio. I gave the contents of this document serious attention and my wholehearted co-operation in the hope of finally bringing this case to a positive and fruitful solution. In this spirit I undertook another exhaustive project of formulating a personal and independent response to the contestatio as requested. I explicitly corrected, in accordance with Church teachings, each of the views judged as dangerous or erroneous. Furthermore, I stated that I accepted and respected the teachings of the Church on homosexuality and rejected any contrary views. I carefully sought to explain my pastoral and educational views as clearly as possible because of the misunderstandings that had arisen. I acknowledged that these misunderstandings arose from a lack of precision or clarity in my expression or an imbalance in my methodology. I also acknowledged that these had caused misunderstandings in certain quarters. I expressed my personal regret for that situation. I responded within the canonical period of two months as mandated by the CDF. Throughout each of these studies, I have maintained strict confidentiality as requested by the respective Congregations.
In July 1998, I was informed through my Religious Superiors that the corrections I made in my response to the contestatio had been judged as unsatisfactory by the CDF. Consequently, I was asked to declare my adherence to the teachings of the Church on homosexuality, acknowledge responsibility for any errors contained in my books and ask pardon within one canonical month. Therefore, in the light of the events pertaining to the history of this case to date outlined above, I wish to make the following declaration:
I have never deliberately denied or placed in doubt any Catholic teaching which requires the assent of theological faith. I have never publicly rejected or opposed any proposition that is to be held definitively. I have never been charged with public dissent from magisterial teachings. Certain propositions in my public writings on pastoral issues of homosexuality have been qualified as "erroneous" and "dangerous." As such, these propositions are contrary to certain doctrines of the authentic magisterium that require religious submission of will and intellect ("Commentary on Profession of Faiths Concluding Paragraphs," No. 10). I take full responsibility for any failure in my writings. I regret any harm that might have come and I ask pardon. 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 to it.
My hope is that this declaration will serve finally to bring this long and painful process to a positive conclusion for the good of the Church and for the strengthening of my pastoral ministry. My prayer is that this experience of study, dialogue and clarification will facilitate and further my authentic pastoral ministry of compassion and justice for homosexual Catholics based on the truth of Church teachings. The Church is preparing for the celebration of the jubilee year of the millennium. It is my fervent wish that this mutual process of discernment and its outcome will serve as a concrete expression of the jubilee spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, justice and compassion. We are all called to acknowledge our failure, manifest repentance, forgive debts, reconcile among ourselves and continue to stand in solidarity with the poor and oppressed of the world.
Respectfully submitted, this
6th day of August, 1998
Feast of the Transfiguration
Robert Nugent, S.D.S.