WASHINGTON (November 17, 1999) -- Speaking "in view of the concerns expressed, mostly by religious women and men, as well as members of the laity, about the recent Notification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concerning Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS," Galveston-Houston Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference, reaffirmed support for the Holy See's decision.
The statement was issued November 17, 1999, "after consultation with the full body of bishops." In it, Bishop Fiorenza says that "through the efforts of Sister Gramick and Father Nugent, as well as others, many in the Church were sensitized to the need for a compassionate ministry to persons of homosexual inclination and their parents."
He notes that this was recognized both by the commission chaired by Adam Cardinal Maida of Detroit which looked into the writings and pastoral work of Sister Gramick and Father Nugent over a lengthy period, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and in his own statement last July.
Bishop Fiorenza also notes that that the Congregation and the U.S. Catholic bishops "encourage ministry to the homosexual community." While some have asserted that "the Notification was an effort to diminish and discourage ministry to persons of homosexual inclination," Bishop Fiorenza says that "in fact the opposite is true."
He adds, however, that "this outreach and ministry must be in conformity with the authentic teaching of the Church."
Bishop Fiorenza's statement also addresses four issues concerning the Notification which he says must be clearly understood.
The first involves the question of whether "Sister Gramick and Father Nugent have publicly expressed opinions about homosexuality which are not in accord with Catholic teaching." Citing the conclusions of both the Maida Commission and the Congregation, Bishop Fiorenza notes that both found serious deficiencies in their writings and pastoral work.
Bishop Fiorenza also cites a booklet on the Web Site of Parents of Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (at www.pflag.org) on the subject "Is Homosexuality a Sin?" in which Sister Gramick and Father Nugent place homosexual relations on a par with heterosexual relations and in which no mention is made of the intrinsic disorder of homosexual acts.
The second point has to do with whether the Congregation violated the privacy of their consciences in its dealing with Sister Gramick and Father Nugent.
Bishop Fiorenza notes, " It is not an invasion of conscience for the Church to ask those who minister in her name about their adherence to Church teaching."
The third point involves confusion about the Church's teaching that the homosexual condition is intrinsically disordered.
Bishop Fiorenza states, "To call the homosexual inclination `intrinsically disordered' is not to pass judgment on any individual's mental or moral state. It means that this inclination does not correspond to God's plan for sexuality whose purpose is to unite a man and a woman in the loving union of marriage and to enable them to be co-creators of new life."
The fourth point deal with the question of a supposed "interference in the internal affairs of religious institutes."
In regard to this matter, Bishop Fiorenza notes that "the Holy Father is the ultimate superior of all members of religious institutes. Acting in his own authority or through the Dicasteries of the Holy See, the Pope can intervene in the affairs of religious institutes."
In his conclusion, Bishop Fiorenza says, "The decision of Sister Gramick and Father Nugent to abide by the decision of the Holy See is laudable," and he urges them "to reflect more intensely and prayerfully on the Church's authentic teaching and ask the Holy Spirit to guide their minds and hearts to embrace this truth unambiguously."
A copy of the full statement is attached.