New Ways’ Sister Jeannine Gramick sees a future for same-sex marriage in the Catholic Church
One of the pioneers of ministry to gay and lesbian people in the Catholic Church said she believes the institution will one day offer sacramental marriage to same-sex couples.
Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, who co-founded the group New Ways Ministry in 1971 with Fr. Robert Nugent, which advocates for equality for LGBT people in the church, also predicted that current teaching on the homosexuality would change.
“I don’t know if I’ll be alive to see it, but I know that’s going to change,” said Gramick, who turns 80 in August.
Speaking in Dublin to Ursula Halligan, a former Virgin Media Ireland TV correspondent and now spokesperson for secular reform group, We Are Church Ireland, Gramick said those who believe the church will change must express and explain to others why the current teaching is false.
She noted that same-sex union blessings were already happening in places like Germany and Switzerland and even in the United States, although she said it hadn’t been done publicly in the latter, and she pointed out that church teaching in some areas had changed over time. and said sacramental theologians are addressing the issue of marriage for same-sex couples.
“Change is happening very slowly but inevitably,” said Gramick, whose interview will be broadcast to members of We Are Church Ireland in the coming days. “There will always be change. I love this quote from Cardinal Newman, ‘To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.’ It gives me a lot of hope because I know we’re all going to change, I guess you just have to be patient, even though it’s hard to be patient sometimes.
Last year, Pope Francis sent two letters to the New Ways Ministry, in which he commended the organization for its work with the LGBTQ community and called Gramick a “valiant woman” who had suffered greatly for her ministry. He described his years of closeness, compassion and tenderness towards the LGBTQ community as being in God’s style.
Francis’ correspondence represented a significant shift in how the upper echelons of the Catholic hierarchy treated Gramick.
In May 1999, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith declared that Gramick and Nugent should be banned from pastoral work with homosexual people because of “ambiguities and errors” in their approach. The notification was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the prefect of the congregation who later became Pope Benedict XVI.
In Dublin, Gramick spoke of how “broken” she felt about the Vatican’s and Ratzinger’s past actions towards her. She said her religious superiors were pressured not only to stop her work, but she was also forbidden to talk about what had happened to her.
Admitting that this treatment had left her depressed, she decided that she would not “comply or be complicit in my own stonewalling”, and would instead “raise her voice”.
But she was forced to transfer from the school of the Sisters of Notre-Dame to another order, “and when I was transferred to the Sisters of Loreto, they began to receive letters”, which ordered her superiors to “persuade her to quit and if she persists, then you should fire her.”
Although Gramick praises Francis extensively, she also admits she was disappointed this time last year when the pope endorsed a doctrinal congregation statement that said God does not and cannot bless same-sex unions.
Gramick said he was told that Francis had signed the document, but “without full knowledge” of what it contained.
Gramick wrote a teaser for a new post titled Love Tenderly: Sacred Stories of Lesbian and Queer Nuns. She said the significance of the anthology, written by 23 nuns who embrace their sexual identities as lesbian or queer, is that it covers “subject that hasn’t been talked about”.
The church’s teaching on homosexuality has been “harmful to nuns”, making them feel “that they are no good”, Gramick said, adding, “If you are lesbian or gay, you are a second-class citizen in the eyes of the church”.
“I think the significance of the book is that we come to appreciate, value and revere our lesbian sisters because they are dedicated, they love their ministry and they love to serve people,” said- she declared. “Their sexuality is important to them, but it is incidental to their ministry because their primary vocation is to be of service to people.”
When asked if she believed Francis would be the pope who would change the Church’s language and stance on homosexuality, Gramick replied, “It’s not his job to move yet. Faith must come of the people and so if there are people and theologians within the Catholic Church who believe that the traditional sexual ethic needs to change, we need to speak up and say so. We need to bring other people to us join to understand this. We need to change people’s attitudes.