CV NEWS FEED // Pope Francis on Tuesday, October 17 met with the leadership and staff of New Ways Ministry, a pro-LGBTQ organization that bishops and previous popes have warned is opposed to Church teachings on sexuality and marriage.
“Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of the Maryland-based LGBTQ Catholic advocacy group New Ways Ministry, met with Francis for about 50 minutes at the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta, where the pope lives,” the liberal National Catholic Reporter reported Tuesday:
In a statement shared with National Catholic Reporter following the encounter, New Ways Ministry said the meeting “is remarkable because it reflects the steady acceptance of Catholic officials to LGBTQ+ issues and ministry.”
Gramick described the meeting as “very emotional for me.” She stated that she has “loved and admired” Francis since the day he was elected pope. “He is the human face of Jesus in our era. Pope Francis looks into your heart and his eyes say that God loves you.”
New Ways Ministry issued a statement after the meeting, declaring victory against official Church sanctions on the controversial organization:
Previous popes and church leaders have opposed Sister Jeannine and New Ways Ministry. This meeting now represents a new openness to the pastorally-motivated, justice-seeking approach which Sister Jeannine and her organization have long practiced.
The Reporter was similarly triumphant, calling the pope’s gesture “the latest in a stunning turnaround of doctrinal fortunes for New Ways,” which “had previously attracted the ire of Vatican and American Catholic officials for decades.”
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger guarded the Church’s teachings against New Ways’ activism when the future Pope Benedict XVI served as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. In 1999, Ratzinger “prohibited Gramick and Nugent from any pastoral work with LGBTQ persons, due to alleged ‘errors and ambiguities’ in their work,” the Reporter acknowledged:
Francis has taken a different approach. He is known to have exchanged letters with Gramick and New Ways staffers in recent years, thanking them for their ministry. “I know how much she has suffered,” the pope wrote in one letter to executive director Francis DeBernardo, about Gramick. “She is a valiant woman who makes her decisions in prayer.”
DeBernardo was present at the Tuesday meeting with the pope, and described it as
an affirmation not only of Sister Jeannine and New Ways Ministry but of the thousands upon thousands of LGBTQ+ people, parishes, schools, pastoral ministers, and religious communities who have been tirelessly working for equality, and who often experienced the great disapproval and ostracization that New Ways Ministry had experienced.
“Meeting with Pope Francis is a great encouragement for Sister Jeannine and New Ways Ministry to continue our work in the Catholic Church,” DeBernardo added.
As CatholicVote has reported, New Ways “promotes sexually active same-sex unions.” In 2011, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops warned the faithful that the position of New Ways was “in no manner” in “conformity with Catholic teaching and in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization.”
New Ways “has had a contentious relationship with Church authority since its founding in 1977 by Rev. Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick,” CatholicVote has also reported:
The pair, who the Washington Post once called “the most prominent gay rights activists in the Catholic Church”, traveled the country teaching their “erroneous and dangerous” views on homosexuality. On multiple occasions, the Vatican as well as Cardinal James Hickey, former Archbishop of Washington, warned the pair to stop opposing Church teaching. In 1999, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the late Pope Benedict XVI), head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith), with the permission of Pope St. John Paul II, issued a rare public ruling that permanently prohibited Nugent and Gramick from pastoral ministry with homosexuals. Defiantly, Gramick is still the chair of the board for New Ways.
The news of Pope Francis’ meeting with the controversial group comes in the midst of controversies stemming from his suggestion that Catholic priests and bishops could, in certain circumstances, offer blessings to same-sex couples.