CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) — Sister Jeannine Gramick, censured for her opposition to Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality and marriage, will not be allowed to speak at a Catholic church in Charlotte.
The Sister of Loretto was to have been the keynote speaker at a public program titled “Including LGBT People and Their Families in Faith Communities: A Conference Open to All,” scheduled for May 16 at St. Peter Church.
The program was organized by St. Peter Church’s gay and lesbian ministry and the Charlotte chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, which is a group for parents, families and friends of those identifying as homosexual that is not associated with the Catholic Church.
After he was made aware of Sister Gramick’s expected appearance, Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis directed Jesuit Father Pat Earl, pastor of St. Peter Church, to not allow her to speak at the church.
A Catholic News Service request emailed to Sister Gramick requesting comment was not immediately returned.
Sister Gramick is the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, an outreach to gays and lesbians, which the U.S. bishops have said for years has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and … cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”
David Hains, diocesan director of communication, said in a brief statement: “New Ways does not speak legitimately for the teaching of the Catholic Church and therefore cannot be allowed to hold gatherings on church property.”
In 1999, the Vatican ordered Sister Gramick, the a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and New Ways’ other co-founder, the late Salvatorian Father Robert Nugent, to stop pastoral ministry to gays, saying they advanced “doctrinally unacceptable” positions about homosexuality. The two were directed to stop talking about homosexuality.
Father Nugent complied, but Sister Gramick defied the ban.
After her religious order threatened to expel her for defying the Vatican’s ban on her ministry to homosexuals, Sister Jeannine joined the Sisters of Loretto in 2001 and said her transfer to a new religious community made the Vatican’s silencing no longer valid.
New Ways Ministry, based in Mount Rainier, Maryland, 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.” It advocates for same-sex marriage and acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual attraction itself is not sinful, though homosexual actions are sinful. It teaches that marriage is only a union between a man and a woman and that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful.
In Charlotte, Sister Gramick was to have spoken on “her experience of working for greater inclusion” of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people “and their families in the church.”
Hains noted that priests and members of religious orders who are invited to speak in churches in the diocese routinely provide a “letter of suitability” to the chancery. The letter stipulates that the speaker is in good standing in the church, meaning that his or her message will be doctrinally sound and will not contradict church teaching. Also included in the letter is information indicating that the speaker has received sexual abuse awareness training such as “Protecting God’s Children.”
The chancery had not received a letter of suitability from New Ways Ministry before the decision was made to prohibit the event at St. Peter Church, Hains said.
Diane Troy, president of the Charlotte PFLAG chapter and a member of St. Peter Church, said she was disappointed the parish could not host Sister Gramick.
Troy told the Catholic News Herald, Charlotte’s diocesan newspaper, her goal is to help parents of openly homosexual children, including herself, find a “welcoming” place in the church in which they can “reconcile their faith with their love for their children.”
She said she knows that Sister Gramick disagrees with church teaching on homosexuality and marriage, but added that her intention was to host a conversation about how Charlotte area churches can be “more welcoming” of gays and lesbians.
Troy said organizers still hope to host Sister Gramick in May, but a new location has not been determined.
Contributing to this story was Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor of the Charlotte News Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte.