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February 9, 2010

Chief of U.S. bishops warns against Md. gay ministry

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is warning that a Maryland-based ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics has neither the approval of the church nor the authority to speak on behalf of Catholics.

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, spoke about New Ways Ministry, founded in Mount Rainier in 1977 by the Rev. Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick.

“No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice,” George said in a statement issued late Friday. “Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said the organization was “astonished” by George’s statement.

“New Ways Ministry will continue its bridge-building work between lesbian/gay Catholics and the Church because that work is needed now more than ever,” DeBernardo said in a response posted on the ministry’s Web site. “Cardinal George’s statement of February 5, 2010, will not impede or slow us in our efforts to work for justice for lesbian/gay people in the Church and society. …

When dealing with such a sensitive topic as homosexuality, it is not surprising that questions will arise from individual Church leaders. Yet, for more than three decades, New Ways Ministry has had its programs reviewed by scores of Catholic bishops, theologians, and pastoral leaders, and we have always been found to be firmly in line with authentic Catholic teaching.

Complete statements follow, after the jump.

Statement of Cardinal Francis George, president, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

New Ways Ministry is an organization based in Mount Rainier, Maryland, that describes itself as "a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities." From the time of the organization's founding in 1977, serious questions have been raised about the group’s adherence to Church teaching on homosexuality. In 1984, the archbishop of Washington denied New Ways Ministry any official authorization or approval of its activities. At that time, he forbade the two co-founders of New Ways Ministry, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Fr. Robert Nugent, to continue their activities in the Archdiocese of Washington. In the same year, Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent were ordered by their superiors to separate themselves from New Ways Ministry. Although they resigned from leadership posts, they continued their involvement in New Ways Ministry activities until 1999, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that because of errors and ambiguities in the approach of Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent they are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.

In reference to his decision not to grant any approval or authorization to New Ways Ministry in the 1980s, Archbishop James Hickey of Washington cited the organization's lack of adherence to Church teaching on the morality of homosexual acts. This was the central issue in the subsequent investigation and censure of the founders of New Ways Ministry, Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent. This continues to be the crucial defect in the approach of New Ways Ministry, which has not changed its position after the departure of the cofounders.

New Ways Ministry has recently criticized efforts by the Church to defend the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and has urged Catholics to support electoral initiatives to establish same-sex "marriage." No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination. Accordingly, I wish to make it clear that, like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of Church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.

Response of Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry:

New Ways Ministry will continue its bridge-building work between lesbian/gay Catholics and the Church because that work is needed now more than ever. Cardinal George’s statement of February 5, 2010, will not impede or slow us in our efforts to work for justice for lesbian/gay people in the Church and society.

We are astonished that Cardinal George released such a statement, since New Ways Ministry has never been contacted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to discuss the nature of our work. We were not even extended the basic courtesy of being informed of the statement as it was being released to the press. Instead, we learned about it only by reading a press account.

When dealing with such a sensitive topic as homosexuality, it is not surprising that questions will arise from individual Church leaders. Yet, for more than three decades, New Ways Ministry has had its programs reviewed by scores of Catholic bishops, theologians, and pastoral leaders, and we have always been found to be firmly in line with authentic Catholic teaching.

If the USCCB had concerns about our ministry, why didn’t they contact us before a judgment was made? Why was New Ways Ministry not given an opportunity to explain our positions?

For almost 33 years New Ways Ministry has been sustained spiritually by the prayers of millions of Catholics, and we owe it to these supporters to continue the work to which God has called us.

New Ways Ministry calls on its supporters not to give up hope in the Catholic Church, but to continue to pray and work for the day when lesbian/gay people are welcomed as full and equal members in our beloved Church.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 1:35 PM | | Comments (33)


Why does this "church" insist on excluding and exhibiting its hatred/fear of a certain category of God's children?

For more years than we care to count-

Catholic bishops have been trying to ignore lesbian/gay Catholics in hopes that they would - just - go - away.

Well boys and girls - It ain't gonna happen...

Lesbian/gay Catholics continue to be force in the Catholic community.

Whether the Catholic Church likes it or not - religious leaders will eventually have to deal with lesbian/gay Catholics.

I did not read anywhere in the scriptures where it said:

"God loves all people - except
gays and lesbians."

In years past the good Catholic Church exterminated those who were different.

You all remember - it was in all the papers... The Spanish Inquisition just to mention one of the many indiscretions committed by the Catholic Church in the name of religion.

When the peoples of the world begin to understand that an individual has the right to worship as they please then wars can become obsolete.

When the peoples of the world begin to understand that there is only ONE RACE - THE HUMAN RACE can we as a people accomplish great things!!!!!

Come to think of it - where are the books of the other Apostles? Buried in Rome someplace I suspect?

Tell us Catholic Church where Jesus was between the ages of 12 and the time of the crucifixion.

O well - no one listens anyway...

God DOES love everyone. And, because of this he gave everyone free will.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God."

I cannot stand these progressive "Catholic" organizations who try to distort the real Church's teachings. For shame

A message to the Catholic Church of Baltimore Maryland

In stead of concerning themselves about ministering to gay and lesbian Catholics the church should worry about the war that is going on right under their noses.

There were 238 homicides in Baltimore City in 2009. That is an average of 4.58 homicides per week or 19.83 homicides per month; 191 homicides were African American Males - that's 80%; the average age - 29.1.

The Catholic Church of Baltimore Maryland does not participate in COP walks; they do not attend citizens' meets at the police districts.

O yes, I forgot to mention that 46 victims, that's 19% were under 21 years of age.

And the Catholic Church is concerned about the lesbian and gay community.

The Catholic Church like to rattle its saber for its own interests - why not rattle it it help stop the carnage. What about it Catholic Church??

I suggest the bishop should get in touch with Jack Baker - the foremost authority on COP walks and while you are at it you might call the leader of the Baltimore Guardian Angels -Marcus Dent - 410-916-2215.

I know the Catholic Church believes in Angels. I have seen these people at work - they truly are - Guardian Angels!!!!

It's about time an authoritative spokesperson for the Catholic Church set the record straight regarding the Church's position on this splinter group.

Why did God command that men should not lie down with men or women with women in the first place - why has this scripture been ignored in favor of man's foolish arguments against the teaching of Jehovah??? Am I missing something here - or are the lot of you both queer and stupid - just saying ya'll.

This church does not ignore Same Sex individuals please see these ministries:

This one is mainstream:

This ministry is supported by the Church for about 30 years now if Im not mistaken:

Cardinal George is in his rights to comment if there is a problem in church teaching.

Thank you to all of our church leaders on this matter.

Please educate yourself on church teaching and check these sights out.


It's rather funny that ken would cite Cor., written by Paul, himself a glaring hypocrisy in the history of Christianity.

I'm not sure that turning to a figure who made the teachings of Christ -- leave your pointless Jewish orthodoxy behind and start loving each other -- into a very orthodox Jewish approach speaks very strongly for authenticity to the central figure of the faith. You see, if Rabbi Jesus were to be in any of the Jewish congregations these days, he would most certainly be a Reform Rabbi, advocating against the cold, dead nature of "the law" in favor of empathetic love and common-touch humanitarianism.

I suppose even the teachings of Rabbi Jesus are not immune to those who would believe what they wish, not what is taught.

My larger question to Ken (and to St. Paul for that matter) is this: If you would like to be an Orthodox Jew, simply say so and move on: why all this pointless drama and internal conflict that will inevitably arise from two VERY different faith perspectives (Rabbi Jesus and Orthodox Judaism)? As Paul saw the tide turning towards Christianity, he could not let go of his Orthodoxy. Rather than die in obscurity, he chose the smarter path: tweak the new religion so that it became more the way he saw fit for religion to be.

Justice towards women, non-Jews, even the abolition of literalism and textual paralysis that liter the teachings of Jesus were effectively castrated by Paul through the tradition of Peter.

As of 345, that line of belief became the ONLY acceptable line of belief once Constantine, a pagan to his deathbed, made the religion a political tool to cement the power of the Roman Empire. Esoteric wishy-wash Thomasian Christianity or Unitarianism is not particularly conducive to autocratic rule, because it encourages too much free thought. Paul, and Peter for that matter, won the political war of ideas.

Ken, making cut and paste Biblical references is the exact reason so many of our religious debates in this Country (and this world) have deteriorated as bad as they have. Try defending the school of thought on its merits. Even Faith, and the religions that grow from it, must pass this test. Otherwise, there is no faith; there's just fear and obedience, neither particularly conducive to spiritual growth.

Paul had the luxury of being born in the privileged elite: male, orthodox, conservative. Congratulations. Didn't take that much growth to come around to his fairly uninformed world view, did it? Especially with the luxury of being born acceptable from day one.

"...Archbishop James Hickey of Washington cited the organization's lack of adherence to Church teaching on the morality of homosexual acts."

I'd like to hear, in a very unequivocal manner, what New Ways says about Cardinal Hickey's statement which is at the core of this problem.

Don't mix this up with a lot of other issues like COP walks (COP walks??? Geez.). Is homosexual sex moral or not?

If you think it is, there's a problem. You do not speak for the Catholic Church but for some other entity, I'm afraid. And besides that, you may be among those who are persecuting His Church.

Why any gay man or woman would want to remain a member of the Catholic Church is beyond my comprehension. Find another denomination that will show you love and acceptance. These homophobic, misogynistic old men should be ashamed of themselves.

Bob asks: "Why does this "church" insist on excluding and exhibiting its hatred/fear of a certain category of God's children?"

First, Bob, as I'm sure you are well aware, the Catholic Church does not "exclude", "hate" or "fear" gays and lesbians. But they do teach against engaging in homosexual acts, much the same as they teach against heterosexual acts commited outside the bonds of traditional marriage. Of course the MSM has "blessed" virtually all sexual acts (indeed, promotes them) notwithstanding the Law of God. So, Bob, your choice is actually quite simply: follow the Law of God; or follow the law of the world. Oh yes, there will be a test.

Has it occured to the Catholic bishops' that their time would have been better spent over the last 30+ years making sure their own house was in order rather than monitoring New Ways Ministry? It seems like a no-brainer to this homesexual Catholic!

We urge all supporters of love and compassion to write the US Conf. of Catholic Bishops and urge them to stop their campaign of discrimination that leads to tremendous suffering. The USCCB is both out of touch with American Catholics and lagging way behind the major Catholic Countries of the World. Wake up American USCCB - your hatred of LGBT people makes you way out of touch with love. Find another crusade. Maybe Peace on Earth?

What would you do if your son or daughter was gay?

Tell me, Tom: how would you know what the Law of God is? Pardon me for saying, but even if you think its in plain English right in front of you, I still find that to be pretension and arrogance, and quite frankly, a little blasphemous.

Stick to your own Law; let's not bring God into your particularly parochial viewpoints. The attack on Bob was arrogant.

Hey Ken, do you know that the word "homosexual" wasn't around when the Bible was written? It was barely around 100 years ago. Tell me, how did it end up in your Bible? Oh, that's right, someone INTERPRETED the word in! Holly, both of those groups are wicked and are condemned by every major psychological association in the US because of they harm they can cause by telling gays and lesbians they can change.

This idiocy is why I stopped being Catholic and eventually lost my faith.

Oh Holly, if only there were "change" programs for *every* Biblically scorned class of people...

Biblical scorn? The chief problem for middle class, indulged citizens of this continent is their inability to accept correction in ANY form, least of all Biblical. The hell-bent desire on the part of left-leaning idealogues is to silence the voice of anything prophetic that happens to cut against their liberal-individualistic dreams of moral relativism. Hence, they attempt to make Jesus into a North American liberal, even as they accuse conservatives of making Him in their image.

Need I remind you that Jesus considered the sins of Sodom patently obvious (Sodom was a byword, and he knew it!)? Shockingly, however, Jesus insisted that the citizens of Sodom (unlike Capernaum) would have been humble enough to accept his ministry (a.k.a. repent).

Might I suggest that this is now our central problem? For, it is questionable whether a majority of Canadians or Americans are even capable of real repentance, so proud have we become of ourselves, and our own sordid behaviours.

David, how about the FACT that the Bible and those that believe in it regularly contradict each other?!? How many sects of Christianity are there? EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM believe that THEIR interpretation of the Bible is the absolute truth! You are so simple to think that yours, out of everyone else's, is the right one...hence, why I left religion altogether!

Well isn't Tom the clever one with his test comment? Something tells me you wouldn't do so well on the test if you had to take it today.

David wrote: "The hell-bent desire on the part of left-leaning idealogues is to silence the voice of anything prophetic that happens to cut against their liberal-individualistic dreams of moral relativism."

It strikes me as an example of moral relativism to base one's ethics on the subjective valuation of a particular book, rather than on the needs of human beings striving for happiness in the real world.

USCCB President Cardinal George’s statement opposing New Ways Ministry is as disingenuous as NWM’s claim that it supports Catholic sexual morality. As documented in my book, The Rite of Sodomy, New Ways is only incidentally religious, i.e., it uses religion solely for the political ends of the Homosexual Collective within and without the Church. Yet it has never lacked for support from the American hierarchy including Bishops Gumbleton, Sullivan (Walter), Clark, Povish, McRaith, Costello (Thomas), Buswell, Symons, Untener, Weakland, Quinn (Francis), Wuerl, Mattheisen, O’Keefe, Imesch, McNamara, Hughes, Morneau, Lucker, Friend, Cummins, Murphy (Francis), Rodimer and Rosazza. NWM could never have survived without the active support of the Salvatorians, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and numerous other Catholic religious orders. The NCCB/USCC (USCCB) of “The Many Faces of AIDS” fame, has long been the object of clerical homosexual colonization and has worked closely with NWM in the past. NWM Exec. Director Francis DeBernardo himself was a reporter for The Tablet, the diocesan paper of the Brooklyn Diocese. Finally, why does Cardinal George claim that the CDF put Sr.Gramick out of commission when she continues her pro-lesbian/homosex propaganda under the auspices of the Sisters of Loretto and their “Gay Ministry Fund?” PS For the record, the USCCB statement is not only misleading, it’s also 32 years too late.

Hey David,
Sex is a biological urge. It is not a left or a right issue. What does an outdated, fabrication called the Bible or the Koran or the Baghavad Gita have to do with this? Is there any area that religion should not legislate according to you paternalists? What a man or a woman does in his or her bedroom is his or her business. It is not for you to call something a sin, force people to reform, make them flock for forgiveness or unfurl a duplicitous claim that you know god's edicts. Sex is sex. Heterosexual sex is by no means more elevated or sanctified as opposed to homoeroticism or gay sex. Get over it. The Catholic Church has been practically run by gay people who took refuge in the Church from condemning public eyes. Now the church turns against its own. Gay people are an integral part of the church. They have devoted their lives from their uncomfortable and perennially dark closets to church causes and the Church spurns them, calling their sex act reprehensible, repudiating their civil rights--their hunger for legitimacy and equality. The Church will change--let's not forget this Church once proposed that the Earth is flat and the universe is geocentric. People like you are, mercifully, anachronisms. What is repugnant is your own repugnance for the variety in human sexuality. What does not adhere to your notions of purity is not necessarily something that needs quashing or something aberrant that needs purging and cleansing. You are a bigot.
Ravensfan Anon

Ah David, such wrath, such fury! You're sounding like you came right out of Leviticus or Exodus! Perhaps that's appropriate? Intentional? Truly, the Classical Hebrew Perspective is alive and well in your Biblical God view.

Just for laughs, though, let's assume that the cultural implications and reference points to which the text was written is all a great lie, a giant fabrication invented to cunningly keep good, God-fearing men like yourself from moral righteousness. This, of course, presumes the book was written last week. Even allowing for the complete dismissal of any historical context regarding the people it was written to and for, you might be surprised to find that the underlying gender norms associated with much of Leviticus still have relevance today. If you think that this is about sex, you're kidding yourself.

Leviticus was a cultural reference point from which people were subjected to the enforcement of a tribal code of conduct. Shall we speak of the Good Samaritan, and Rabbi Jesus' choice of participants in the parable? Or shall we speak of the Last Supper, the Curing of the Centurion, or any of these other rituals to which Rabbi Jesus made bold, profoundly anti-Levitican statements and moves? I wouldn't say I'm making Rabbi Jesus out to be anything other than what he was. It's not mysticism or mystery; it's not even that complicated. Study Biblical-era Judaism, and you will understand Rabbi Jesus.

I didn't write the book; I've just read it a few times here and there, critically and in an intellectually informed way. It's a great book if you can get over yourself long enough to see the forest for the trees. No one ever said God wouldn't be subtle, or worse, that subtlety was easy.

My condolences; you seem so angry, so, so angry... Pity...

No church should ever be expected to look the other way when it comes to endorsing sin. If homosexuals need help from God fine. But He wont endorse it for any type of "gay positive ministry for advocacy and justice." God doesnt bend to satan and neither should the Catholic church.

Right, right. Gosh, Clay, do you have the direct line to Heaven? What extension is it? For that matter, what's the area code?

Do some of you people even listen to yourselves? You are SO arrogant. You speak for God like it's nothing. I mean, have none of you heard of Blasphemy?

Amen Matthew! These arrogant something-or-others truly believe that their beliefs are the only correct ones, yet there are how many hundreds of sects of Christianity alone?!?

Having a ministry such as this is no different than having a ministry for the support, rights and acceptance of drunkards in society. When God says to take out of the bible that these things are wrong then I would change my mind. Of course the best place for sinners to come is to the Lord. To go to an organization that supports the sin is to go to the other guy. People can pretend all they want. It is sort of like the Universalist Unitarian church. It doesnt gain favor with God because it goes against or ignores His word. Thanks.

Matthew and Mike,

How is it arrogant to believe what the Catholic Church teaches?

Our beliefs, as Catholics, are not our own invention. As Catholics, we must profess and believe in all the Holy Catholic Church teaches, if we are to remain Catholic. This is not arrogance. The Catholic faith is about salvation. Therefore, we are duty-bound to know what is a sin, and what is not. It is not is simply practical.

There are many Protestant sects, yes, but there is only one Church founded by Christ, which is the Catholic Church.

Jesus was, of course, patient with sinners, but he also told them to 'sin no more.'
He wasn't just all about Peace and Love, and I can quote many passages from Sacred Scripture - the Gospel - to show this if you would like.


Your church was founded by all the Apostles, not simply Peter. The Gospels so chosen to go into the Canon were precisely those that suited a particular viewpoint on Rabbi Jesus: James', Peter's, and Paul's.

There is a historical fiction that after Pentecost, all the Apostles began speaking in unison about who and what the message of Christ was, the meaning of his life, and so on. Your church takes its line and approach to texts from the Pauline theological perspective, one that sought to solidify an orthodox (Jewish) perspective in spite of Rabbi Jesus' overtly unorthodox teachings referential to the Rabbinical expectations of the day in Jewish Law. This line of theological belief grew from Peter, the apostle Rabbi Jesus challenged the most, berated, and continued to try to offer some guidance to in the hope he would come around. Even those Gospels that fall in line with the Pauline theology show this relationship, if nothing else to make Peter into a classic example of the good convert.

As touched as I am that you would be so kind as to point out the places in those Gospels that won the war of ideas in 345 where you are justified, I will respectfully decline. You do nothing to account for the beliefs and teachings of the other disciples, and you stand on a certain ideological strain within one sect of the Apostles that has Christ anointing Peter his successor, a belief not common or shared by the rest.

You have done nothing to critically or textually meet me on the grounds of this argument. Your church continues to refuse to discuss these issues that surround Rabbi Jesus, in spite of the solid historical evidence of the great multiplicity of beliefs that surrounded him, his life, and his ministry for 300 years after his death. Just to put that in perspective, the whole of Mormonism is no more than 170 years old. This country is not even 300 years old yet. For three hundred years, the church was called catholic because it was, indeed, catholic, or universal. They were bound together in following Rabbi Jesus, even where they disagreed -- strongly -- as to who he was, his purpose in the grand scheme of things, or even who his favored apostles (theological perspectives) were.

True, the Catholic Church was the church to emerge (in name) after the dissolution and outlawing of all other theological strains of belief about Rabbi Jesus, but that does not necessarily anoint the R. Catholic Church as the first or original church. The first *organized* church? Yes, this is true. You are working under the assumption that prior to 345, there was some strong hierarchic structure in place, that most of the ideas about Jesus we hold today were understood or in place, and that all churches believed the same thing. Factually, that's simply not true. Women often lead masses, as they were done in the home and that was the cultural province of women; you had the Arian Crisis; you have colonies of Christians that were founded by other Apostles that exist to this day who still follow and believe very different ideas than the "orthodoxy" put forth by the church in Rome.

I'm sorry, Marsali, things aren't cut dry and simple to digest. Nothing in this world is, and it's part of the reason why Conservatives seem so angry, lost, or scared, because the complexity frightens them, and their simple answers just don't solve the problem.

Clay, you might try reading that posting rather than continuing to regurgitate a tired trope threatening hellfire. Truly, we're all adults here, move up to big table already.

It is not important how any church formed. What is important in your life now is how you respond to the word of God. Thanks.

Uh, are drunkards at all like gays except that your book of contradictions supposedly calls them both a sin? Have you ever stopped to think logically, or is it easier to just push on through with your head in the sand?

Marshall, many of the Catholic Church's beliefs are of their own invention, yet you follow along like sheep. That is why I left the church. It is pathetic to look around and see how many people blindly repeat the same thing week after week and couldn't care any less what they are saying, much less about living the faith they preach in the real world.

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About Matthew Hay Brown
Matthew Hay Brown writes and blogs about faith and values in public and private life for The Baltimore Sun. A former Washington correspondent for the newspaper, he has long written about the intersection of religion and politics. He has reported from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, traveling most recently to Syria and Jordan to write about the Iraqi refugee crisis.

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