Rainbow Wolves

Rainbow Wolves

Faithful Catholic writers have been sounding the alarm about an LGBT push to undermine the Church’s teachings from within. CatholicVote’s Catholic Accountability Project (CAP) decided to investigate those concerns.

The report below is the result of CAP’s thorough research into one culprit – an organization named “New Ways Ministry.” What the investigation uncovered is nothing short of a far-reaching, decades-long plan to help a secular movement lay siege to Catholic teachings on sex, the family, and marriage.

Fiducia Supplicans: A Crack in the Dam

In December 2023, the Vatican released Fiducia Supplicans (FS), a “Declaration on the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings.” While FS reiterated the Church’s teachings on sexuality and marriage, it also paved the way for priests to bless what it called “same-sex couples” – a secular term found nowhere else in the Church’s official documents.

FS came as a shock to many Catholics, including numerous bishops. Less than three years earlier, the Vatican had stated unequivocally that it would “not [be] licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage … as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.” 

That same March 2021 statement emphasized that God “does not and cannot bless sin.”

Naturally, the seeming contradiction between FS and the Church’s timeless discipline quickly led to widespread calls for clarification – and bishops from around the globe rejected the Vatican’s new declaration.

Pro-LGBT groups embedded in the Church, however, joined the secular media in applauding the document. Some even claimed it was a “step” toward the Church embracing same-sex “marriage.”

Among those groups was New Ways Ministry (NWM).

New Ways Ministry: ‘Using the Institution,’ But At War with the Vatican

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent (now deceased) founded the Maryland-based NWM in 1977. NWM describes itself as “a Catholic outreach that educates and advocates for equity, inclusion, and justice for LGBTQ+ persons, equipping leaders to build bridges of dialogue within the Church and civil society.”

While the organization presents itself as religious, Gramick has been frank about the secular-leftist flavor of her ministry.

Her work is as much “about politics” as about individual souls, she told America Magazine in an interview published in 2022. “Politics means people who are vested with power. If they are oppressing the people that you want to help, you have to get politically involved,” she said.

And the value Gramick sees in the Church is largely the power she believes she can wield in its name. 

In the same interview, Gramick recalled advocating for a “gay rights bill” in New York City decades ago.

Like many progressive nuns in the years following the Second Vatican Council, Gramick no longer wore the veil of her religious community. But when she “testified to advocate for civil rights for homosexual persons,” she said, she made sure to dress the part of a religious sister. 

“I got a call from my provincial shortly thereafter,” she recounted.

Her superior said to her: “Jeannine, someone said that you testified for the gay rights bill and you had your veil on. But you never wear a veil! You’re just using the institution.”

“Well, of course I am,” Gramick admitted. “What’s the institution for?” 

In her words, she viewed the Church as an “institution” to be “used” for the “gay rights” cause. Or as she recalls putting it to her superior: “The institution is to be used to help people. That’s the only reason that we have institutions, for the good of the people.”

“So of course I’m going to wear a veil to give you a visual that I represent the Catholic position of justice for lesbian and gay people,” she said.

Evading Church Authority

Gramick first took the religious veil of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore in 1960, according to the NWM website. While studying for a doctoral degree in mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, Gramick began arranging for Masses to be said in the homes of homosexuals “who had left the Catholic Church because of prejudice against them.”

“Why don’t we have a home Mass at your apartment, and you invite your gay friends?” Gramick recalled saying to a “gay man” she met after he told her he had left the Church. And “weekly liturgies at his apartment” constituted “the beginning” of her work with LGBT Catholics, she said.

Gramick soon after joined Nugent at the Quixote Center in Washington, DC, where the two ran workshops on homosexuality and “homophobia.”

“Once we started New Ways in 1977, we went all over the country,” Gramick told America. “Bob once tallied it up, and we’d been to three-fourths of the dioceses of the United States.”

Many bishops forbade them to work in their dioceses, Gramick recalled, but she was able to influence the Church through some “priests, nuns and lay people” who were “in charge of Catholic institutions.”

Nonetheless, she achieved very little in the 1980s and ‘90s. Why? Because of Pope Saint John Paul II, she told America

Due to the saint’s way of governing the Church, and in particular the actions of his right-hand man Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later to be elected Pope Benedict XVI) and the bishops the Vatican appointed in the U.S., “things really tightened up” during that period, Gramick said.

NWM Foundress Defies Vatican ‘Oppression’

After years of agitating against the Vatican, Gramick finally faced a serious consequence in May of 1999.

Local Catholic officials appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger, then serving as John Paul II’s prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF).

Ratzinger examined her history of activism, her defiance of the Church, and the “repeated attempts of the Church’s legitimate authorities to resolve the problems presented by” her and her NWM cofounder’s “writings and pastoral activities.”

After careful consideration, the cardinal officially shut NWM down – forbidding Gramick and her staff from continuing their ministry in the Church.

The CDF, Ratzinger wrote, 

is obliged to declare for the good of the Catholic faithful that the positions advanced by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church in this area.

For Catholics to treat homosexual persons with respect, Ratzinger pointed out, they must not abandon the Church’s teachings on human dignity – including the dignity of men and women in their true sexuality.

“Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have often stated that they seek, in keeping with the Church’s teaching, to treat homosexual persons ‘with respect, compassion and sensitivity,’” Ratzinger wrote. “However, the promotion of errors and ambiguities is not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion.”

Persons “who are struggling with homosexuality no less than any others have the right to receive the authentic teaching of the Church from those who minister to them,” he continued. “The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church.” 

“For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes,” Ratzinger concluded.

Gramick’s budding network of pro-LGBT Catholics, mostly laypeople and journalists, quickly rebelled against the Vatican’s official decision.

The Independent Catholic News (ICN) published a piece in 2000 about the “silencing of Sr Jeannine Gramick.”

“A religious sister who spent more than 20 years running retreats and counselling for gay people and their parents has been forbidden to speak about her work,” the article began.

Gramick had “been called in obedience by Sister Rosemary to abide by the conditions imposed by the July 1999 Notification of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith,” the report continued:

In addition, as recently clarified by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL), Sister Jeannine is prohibited from further public speaking or writing on homosexuality, on any topics related to the content of the Notification and the ecclesiastical processes which led to it.

The report cited a May 26 statement by Sister Jane Burke, provincial leader of the SSND-Baltimore Province, who had accompanied Gramick to a meeting in Rome two days earlier with SSND General Superior Sister Rosemary Howarth.

Burke expressed every sympathy for Gramick in her remarks, but even she – an apparent confidante and friend of the dissident sister – expressed a belief that Gramick had gone far enough.

“I feel a very deep sadness that the situation has reached this stage,” Burke reportedly commented. “I feel concern for Sister Jeannine as an individual and as a School Sister of Notre Dame. However, as consecrated women religious, we live out of our vowed commitment.”

A statement from the SSND general council of sisters explained: “We had asked her to ‘Let the land lie fallow’ in relation to her former ministry among gay and lesbian persons, and to redirect her gifts and energies toward a different ministry.” 

Despite all accommodations, reprimands, and coaxing, however, “Sister Jeannine has announced that she cannot comply,” ICN reported.

The general council of sisters explained further:

Due to divergent interpretations of the Notification, and because of some of Sister Jeannine’s specific choices, statements, and public activities during these past months, she is now prohibited from any further speaking or writing on homosexuality, or on any topics related to the Notification and the ecclesiastical processes which led to it. 

“It saddens us deeply that Sister Jeannine’s immediate response was that she cannot live with these directives,” the sisters added.

Gramick did not reciprocate her superiors’ caring tone.

In a defiant statement, Gramick likened herself to a “battered woman” who had been physically beaten by an abusive male Vatican.

“Society hears the pain of battered women who remained silent for too long, often because of fear of further reprisals or concern about others, particularly their children,” Gramick said: 

When a woman has found sufficient strength to name the oppression she has endured and seeks help, she is often pursued by the batterer, who tries to cower her into submission and begin the cycle of intimidation once again. For 11 years the Vatican investigated my pastoral ministry to lesbian and gay persons, after my congregation, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, conducted two studies resulting in positive evaluations of my work. I gave no particulars publicly about these investigations because Church authorities requested that I remain silent during the investigation process in the interest of confidentiality.

Gramick found a new order that same year. Since 2000, she has been a Sister of Loretto.

In August 2001, SFGate published a piece titled “They will not be silenced,” which featured interviews with Gramick and fellow dissident Sisters Joan Chittister and the late Christine Vladimiroff, both Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, and both former presidents of the radical feminist Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which was also investigated by the Vatican.

The SFGate report noted that Gramick “likens the climate that Pope John Paul II’s hard-line prohibition of dissent has created to an abusive relationship.”

The LGBT activist said she and the other women religious “have remained silent for years, taking the abuse . . . But, after a point, there’s this disconnect from ‘The man is the head of the house; obey.’ Something’s not right.”

“The grass-roots church knows it’s not right for men to tell us what we will think,” Gramick added. “I think the abused woman is waking up.”

American Bishops Emphatically Repeat the Church’s Opposition to NWM

Years went by, and NWM never let up – totally ignoring the Church’s official decision to shut down its operations.

In February 2010, however, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a statement emphatically reiterating that NWM was a dissident group not to be associated with the Church.

“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,” wrote the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.

Setting the record straight, George reminded the faithful that the Vatican’s intervention against NWM in 1999 was not the only instance when the Church had forbade the radical group’s work. On numerous occasions, the Church had tried to defend the faithful from NWM’s activism and erroneous messaging. But at every turn, NWM had flagrantly ignored the Church’s authority and continued its mission of recruiting Catholics to undermine Catholic teachings.

“In 1984,” George recounted, 

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,” George continued:

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.

“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 added. “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.”

Finally, the cardinal clarified 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.”

To This Day, NWM Has Never Listened

In 2022, Gramick again told America she felt like “a battered woman” when the Vatican investigated her.

In the intervening years, she kept up her activity in the Church and even increased it – in open defiance of the Vatican. 

In 2003, she became the national coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN), which was founded in 1969 and states its “work” is “changing unjust structures wherever they are found.”

NCAN is a member organization of Women-Church Convergence along with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, Catholics for Choice, DignityUSA, the Loretto Women’s Network, and the Women’s Ordination Conference. The organization promotes abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and women’s ordination.

Gramick also wrote a foreword for a 2020 publication titled “Love Tenderly: Sacred Stories of Lesbian and Queer Religious.” 

Abortion, Gay ‘Marriage,’ and even ‘Transgenderism’: New Ways Ministry’s Secular Political Activism

In a 2023 Thanksgiving statement on the NWM website, Gramick expressed gratitude “that so many Catholics in the U.S. are registering their disagreement with bishops who institute diocesan policies that do not respect transgender youth and adults.”

For anyone unfamiliar with NWM’s radical history, it might have seemed shocking for a purported religious leader to so directly confront her own Church. How could a religious sister embrace not only a cause of the secular political left, but arguably its most radical and controversial cause – the subjection of children to “transgender” medical procedures?

But Gramick’s Thanksgiving statement was no great departure from the consistent political activism of NWM.

As early as 1984, Gramick signed a New York Times display ad paid for by the pro-abortion organization Catholics for Choice.

The ad, the National Catholic Register reported, “declared that ‘statements of recent popes and of the Catholic hierarchy’ are not the only ‘legitimate Catholic position’ on abortion.”

NWM has engaged in secular political activism throughout its long history. While Gramick presents the organization’s activism as a form of Catholic witness, it has always been more an exercise in confronting the Church on behalf of the world than the other way around.

Gay ‘Marriage,’ ‘Transgenderism,’ and Abortion Politics

In 2012, several years prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell, NWM Executive Director Francis DeBernardo joined Gramick in writing an essay for the Washington Post titled “A Catholic case for same-sex marriage.”

“Many Catholics have reflected on the scientific evidence that homosexuality is a natural variant in human sexuality, and understand that lesbian and gay love is as natural as heterosexual love,” the two NWM executives wrote.

In a blogpost two years later, DeBernardo boasted that “Catholics were among those who spoke out in favor of a Maryland Senate bill [SB212] to ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression.” He touted his and Gramick’s testimony backing the measure and pointed to Pope Francis as a new barometer of Catholic support for the “transgender” agenda as well.

“It is important to recognize that Catholics support equality for transgender people because of their Catholic faith, not in spite of it,” DeBernardo had said in his testimony. He also argued that Francis had “ushered in a new openness and dialogue in regard to sexual and gender minorities.”

That same year, Gramick signed onto a letter to former President Barack Obama calling for federal funds to pay for abortions overseas.

Facilitating LGBT Infiltration in the Church

In April 2015, Crux reported that a group of Catholic activists had gathered at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago for a “brainstorming session.” Their goal? To help LGBT operatives hold positions in Catholic institutions while working against the Church’s teachings.

Among the organizations participating in the meeting dubbed the “Church Worker Justice Strategy Session” – some of whom received grants to attend the session from LGBT advocacy giant the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – were NWM, Dignity USA, Catholics for Choice, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Call to Action.

A representative from the HRC also attended the conference.

Ellen Euclide, program director at Call to Action, told Crux that program participants discussed “discrimination, at-will employment, morality clauses, and how we might build some power to push for just employment practices in the workplace.”

“The Church relies on people feeling isolated and workers feeling like they’re the only ones being treated this way,” Euclide said. “We want to break that taboo.”

She added participants in the conference were planning a larger event in the upcoming fall, with a plan for organizing Church workers.

The NWM website maintains a list of parishes and faith communities that it recommends as “places of welcome for LGBTQ people.” Currently, NWM lists 41 states that have “LGBTQ-friendly parishes and faith communities.”

The organization provides information about how Catholic communities can “respond compassionately and faithfully to the gifts, needs, and life experiences of LGBTQ+ people and their families” via its “Next Steps” program. NWM’s goal is to “implement greater welcome” in “parishes, schools, and other ministerial settings.”

In June 2021, Gramick appeared in a YouTube video in which she announced her support for the federal Equality Act. She justified her support with references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“I take seriously the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Gramick said in the video. “And that Catechism clearly states that every sign of unjust discrimination against LGBT people must be avoided.”

The radical Equality Act, however, would upend the American cultural landscape and force Catholic organizations, including schools, to embrace gender ideology. 

If signed into law, the legislation would end the legal recognition of male and female sex at the federal level and eliminate the right to privacy of women and girls in public facilities, do away with women’s and girls’ sports, facilitate mandatory school curricula that promote gender ideology, exempt itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and end conscience protections for educators and healthcare providers who object to abortions and “transgender” surgeries.

Numerous Catholic leaders, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), have urgently called for Catholics to oppose the Equality Act.

NWM’s Funding Comes from Secular Pro-Abortion and LGBT Organizations

NWM is supported by some of the most influential secular LGBT political advocacy organizations in the world. 

Cause IQ notes the organization’s total grants and contributions rose 39.8% between 2021 and 2022, jumping from $386,546 to $540,556.

A major source of grant funding to NWM is the Gill Foundation, which, in May 2023 – as in previous years – awarded $115,000 to the organization.

The Gill Foundation was founded by software entrepreneur Tim Gill, an LGBT activist who also serves as chairman of the foundation’s board. Gill is in a same-sex “marriage” with Scott Miller, Joe Biden’s ambassador to Switzerland.

“We envision a world where all people have equal opportunity regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” the foundation’s website states as its priority.

The Gill Foundation and the Arcus Foundation are “two of the largest funders of LGBT advocacy in America,” reports Influence Watch.

In 2014, the Gill Foundation was reported to have funded Faithful America – self-described as “the largest online community of Christians putting faith into action for social justice” – in a carefully crafted and well-funded attack against San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone for his decision to speak during the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., in June of that year.

For five years, Faithful America was a project of the Citizen Engagement Lab (CEL), a left-wing political advocacy group. But in May 2018, it became an independent 501(c)(4) organization funded by prominent LGBT activist bundlers for former President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign – including the Gill Foundation, the Arcus Foundation, George Soros, and the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

The Philadelphia-based E. Rhodes and Leona B Carpenter Foundation donated $32,000 to NWM in 2021. 

The Carpenter Foundation’s support of radical LGBT activism within religious organizations is extensive and stretches back decades. In 1995, the foundation awarded a $2.5 million endowment to the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

The Carpenter Foundation backs the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network (LGBTQ-RAN), which describes itself as an “innovative venture in preserving history and encouraging scholarly study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) religious movements around the world.”

Currently, LGBTQ-RAN is an independent charitable organization whose board of directors includes Rev. Kori K.R. Pacyniak, who reports the use of “they/them” pronouns and is described as “a non-binary Catholic priest and a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) at the University of California, Riverside, focusing on Queer and Trans Studies in Religion.”

Pacyniak’s dissertation, the LGBTQ-RAN website states, “examines the religious experiences of transgender Catholics. Kori leads workshops on trans inclusion and deconstructing gender binaries for various groups including churches, healthcare organizations, and non-profits.”

The bio adds that “Kori” lives “in San Diego with their platonic life partner and four rescue cats.”

Religion News Service acknowledged in a July 2023 article on LGBT activists that Fr. James Martin, S.J. said he planned “to use his appointment as a representative to the upcoming Synod on Synodality in Rome as a chance to bring more attention to LGBTQ experiences.” Martin, RNS reported, was “presented with the support of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.”

How NWM Wants to Shape the Vatican’s Declarations on Sex

NWM’s history of activism, together with its status as one of a network of secularly-funded subversion operations within Christian circles, all comes disturbingly into focus in light of its recent pronouncements about the Vatican’s controversial “same-sex” blessings declaration.

Another funder of NWM is DignityUSA, which granted the organization $22,000 in 2018.

DignityUSA calls itself a “founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics” and states it “has worked for justice, equality, and the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in the Catholic church in society since” 1969.

The organization also boasts that it “has blessed same-sex relationships since the 1970s and has called for equal access to marriage for LGBTQIA+ people for over 25 years.”

What NWM’s executives have had to say about FS in recent months will come as no surprise in light of those connections.

FS was a pastoral revolution,” NWM claimed, echoing DignityUSA’s assertion that FS was “a key step forward … an important recognition that these [same-sex] relationships can be holy.”

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke rejects the Church’s teachings on sexuality, and she particularly decried the Vatican’s statement that God cannot “bless sin.” 

But “[for] the Vatican to so totally reverse itself in less than three years is just such a quick response to something that produced a global outcry for being seen as cruel and pastorally insensitive and harmful to people’s ministry on the ground,” Duddy-Burke said. “I think that it really signifies that voices of LGBTQ+ people and our family members were heard and responded to at the Vatican.”

Gramick similarly told Outreach, a self-described “LGBTQ Catholic Resource” edited by Fr. James Martin, that Pope Francis is “laying the groundwork for change in sexuality.”

“Sexual ethics change because theologians must take into account people’s experiences,” she said.  

DeBernardo wrote a euphoric blog post on the day the Vatican released FS. He called the declaration “an early Christmas gift” for “LGBTQ+ Catholics.”

“The Vatican doctrinal office’s previous claim that ‘God does not bless sin’ has been uprooted by the new exhortation, ‘God never turns away anyone who approaches him!’” DeBernardo claimed.

He then went far beyond framing FS as a reversal of the Vatican’s previous statements on sexual morality. Echoing Gramick’s longstanding grudge against Pope St. John Paul II and his friend Benedict XVI, DeBernardo suggested FS represented Francis’ effort to free pro-LGBT Catholics from the cruelty of the previous popes.

“It cannot be overstated how significant the Vatican’s new declaration is. Approving blessings for same-gender couples is certainly monumental,” DeBarnardo wrote:

But Pope Francis goes further than that by stating that people should not be subjected to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive a sign of God’s love and mercy. Such a declaration is one more step Pope Francis has taken to overturn the harsh policing of pastoral care all too common under his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

A Two-Year Project: NWM Earned Its FS Victory Lap

NWM did much more than sit back and wait for a statement like FS to come out of the Vatican. By the time the controversial declaration was released, NWM had been hard at work for more than two years shaping the Church’s witness on sexuality and marriage.

The main arena of NWM’s influence campaign at the Vatican was Pope Francis’ five-year Synod on Synodality.

On December 6, 2021, Fr. Martin touted on Twitter, now X, that a video produced by NWM in October at the start of the Synod’s final two-year process had made it onto the resource page of the official synod website:

“A small but historic step forward for #LGBTQ Catholics,” Martin wrote: 

The NWM webinar video was indeed historic, and soon became a subject of controversy in the highest echelons of the Church.

A day after Martin’s post, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that the video’s link was removed from the synod’s resource page. 

Thierry Bonaventura, communications manager of the General Secretariat, informed CNA on December 7 that the link had been removed after “he was made aware that the U.S. bishops’ conference expressed its disapproval of the LGBT outreach ministry in 2010.”

NWM later reported, however, that the link was restored on December 13 and that Bonaventura had issued a statement of apology for removing the link “to our video encouraging LGBTQ people to participate in synod consultations.” 

The left-wing National Catholic Reporter reported Martin had protested the video’s removal, arguing that “LGBTQ Catholics” must be heard during the synod.

“At the beginning of the synod, the Holy Father asked, ‘Do we allow people to express themselves, to walk in faith even though they have had difficulties in life, and to be part of the life of the community without being hindered, rejected or judged?'” Martin said. “For LGBTQ Catholics, that is still an open question.”

“There is no Vatican Dicastery for LGBTQ People or USCCB Office for LGBTQ People, so official channels are more or less nonexistent,” Martin complained.

NWM’s Synod Video: An Open Call for LGBT Infiltration

The NWM video posted on the synod website was titled “From the Margins to the Center: A Webinar on LGBTQ Catholics & Synodality.” Its primary speaker was Robert Choiniere, D.Min., a professor of theology at the Jesuit-led Fordham University and the director of adult formation at St. Francis Xavier Church in Manhattan – also staffed by Jesuits.

DeBernardo described St. Francis Xavier as “an LGBTQ-friendly parish – one of the first.”

The NWM webinar served as a “how-to” training video for LGBT activists seeking to use the synod to advance their cause. In the video, Choiniere explained the process of the synod.

NWM described its webinar featuring Choiniere as exploring “how all Catholics, especially LGBTQ people and allies, can help make sure that every voice is heard and recorded.”

NWM introduced the video as an instruction on how “LGBTQ+ Catholics” could exert pressure on their bishops and insert the LGBT agenda into the synodal process from the beginning.

Synod participants, NWM said, “will learn concrete steps to remind and encourage bishops of their responsibility to convene listening sessions and to provide resources that encourage marginalized and disaffiliated Catholics to participate.” The video would provide “skills” for “how to engage church leaders in this dialogue.”

The Anti-Catholic Juggernaut Meets with the Pope

Two months before the release of FS, the staff of NWM traveled to Rome for a private meeting with Pope Francis. 

Gramick, DeBernardo, NWM Associate Director Robert Shine, and Staff Associate Matthew Myers were present at the October 2023 meeting. The pontiff greeted the LGBT activists in a private audience at his Casa Santa Marta residence.

Gramick applauded Francis for welcoming “transgender” individuals. “I thanked Pope Francis for welcoming the transgender people who live in Rome to come to the Vatican and for corresponding with some of them,” she recounted after the meeting:

When I thanked Pope Francis for publicly condemning LGBTQ+ criminalization laws, he remarked that many LGBTQ+ people around the world are being put to death and that the Church in many countries is not speaking out against this. 

Significantly, Gramick claimed she also discussed with the pope what would become, just two months later, the subject matter of FS: blessings for “same-sex couples.”

“I also thanked him,” she said, “for his openness to blessing same-gender unions.”

Divide and Conquer? Pitting Francis Against the Church

NWM’s Robert Shine, who once held the post of vice president and development chair of the Women’s Ordination Conference, viewed the private meeting with Pope Francis through the lens of NWM’s longstanding past enmity with the Vatican.

He wrote that the meeting – held during the assembly of Francis’ Synod on Synodality – was “remarkable because it reflects the steady acceptance of Catholic officials to LGBT+ issues and ministry.” 

“Previous popes and church leaders have opposed Sr Jeannine and New Ways Ministry,” Shine pointed out. “This meeting now represents a new openness to the pastorally-motivated, justice-seeking approach which Sr. Jeannine and her organization have long practiced.”

In an account of her meeting with Francis posted to the NWM website, Gramick wrote that they had openly discussed her long feud with the Vatican under the leadership of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI over the Church’s teachings.

Gramick recalled telling Francis that the Vatican’s “disapproval” of her LGBT advocacy “was a difficult time in my life, and that I had to relocate to another religious community, the Sisters of Loretto, but that I had received much support, particularly from U.S. women religious.”

Francis, she said, responded by telling her not to give up hope, citing St. Paul’s words from Romans 5:5: “Hope does not disappoint.”

“Meeting Pope Francis was one of the clearest signs to me that hope does not disappoint,” she wrote:

Since I was a child, I have been waiting, praying, and hoping that God would send our church a leader like him. I have loved Pope Francis since he was elected in 2013. From all that I read about him, I know he is a man of prayer. We are so blessed to have such a pastor–someone who truly walks in the shoes of the fisherman–to lead our Church.

At the meeting, the NWM co-foundress and her colleagues presented the pope with copies of their books: “New Ways and Next Steps: Developing Catholic LGBTQ+ Ministry” by DeBernardo and “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ+ Non-Discrimination” by DeBernardo and Shine. 

“Meeting with Pope Francis was an answer to my prayer that there would be a dialogue between LGBTQ+ people and the highest leaders of the Catholic Church,” Gramick wrote. “In this meeting, as well as in the Synod our church is currently undergoing, Pope Francis has inaugurated that dialogue.”

Fr. James Martin Lends His Authority to NWM

Immediately after the release of FS, Fr. James Martin openly blessed a same-sex couple at his Jesuit residence in New York City – coordinating with the New York Times for an instantaneous and glowing write-up on the event.

Martin is an outspoken LGBT activist and influential social media personality. He serves as editor-at-large at America magazine and editor at Outreach, the self-described “LGBTQ Catholic resource” that was the subject of a previous CAP investigation.

Regarding homosexuality, Martin has said that “some of the language used in the catechism on that topic needs to be updated….”

While faithful Catholics may be tempted to dismiss NWM as a radical fringe group that no serious Catholics would take seriously, those closest to the papacy would seem in a better position to accurately assess their influence in the highest echelons of the Church’s government.

Pope Francis appointed Fr. James Martin as a consultant to the Vatican’s Communications Secretariat in 2016. When Martin left that post, it did not mean he had fallen out of favor with the pontiff: Francis went on to appoint him in 2023 as a representative participant in the Synod on Synodality.

The relationship between Martin and NWM is a close one.

In October 2016, NWM awarded Martin its Bridge Building Award. NWM explains that the award “honors individuals who by their scholarship, leadership, or witness have promoted discussion, understanding, and reconciliation between LGBT people and the Catholic Church.”

In announcing the award, NWM praised Martin as being “very much in the model of Pope Francis,” with an approach that “endorses respect, compassion, and sensitivity toward LGBT persons.”

Significantly, Martin also met with Francis just several weeks prior to the pontiff’s meeting with the NWM leaders, and not long before the Synod on Synodality’s Fall 2023 assembly.

“I’m grateful for a visit with the Holy Father today, where we had a wonderful, in-depth conversation at the Casa Santa Marta,” he posted to X on September 29 of that year. “I’m so grateful for his gracious welcome.”

In a celebration of the significance of FS, Martin emphasized in a statement co-published at America and Outreach that the Vatican’s document “continues Pope Francis’ continual outreach to L.G.B.T.Q. people.” 

Martin also credited LGBTQ activists within the Church – including NWM – with helping bring FS about.

“To take but one example, during the month of October Pope Francis met with L.G.B.T.Q. representatives three times,” Martin wrote:

A few days before the Synod began, he met with me in a private audience at the Casa Santa Marta; halfway through the synod he met with Jeannine Gramick, S.L., along with her New Ways Ministry team; finally, toward the end of the month, during a general audience, he met with Marianne Duddy-Burke and other representatives from the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, an umbrella group for L.G.B.T.Q. Catholic groups worldwide.

NWM Claims to be Intimately In Contact with the Pope Himself

In her own account of the private meeting between NWM’s staff and the pope, Gramick wrote that she “hugged him and told him how happy I was to meet my pen pal.” (Emphasis added.)

It was not an empty expression.

Prior to the meeting, both Gramick and NWM Executive Director DeBernardo had been in regular, private correspondence with the pope.

After a few formal letters to the pope, the communication between Francis and Gramick soon became more regular and intimate, according to the NWM executive. “And then I began writing him little notes,” she said, noting that Francis responded to an initial NWM letter informing him about their work with the response, “I am at your disposal.”

When the NWM video was scrubbed from the synod’s resource site, NWM was able to respond by highlighting the current pontiff’s personal favor toward the organization.

DeBernardo chose this occasion to inform National Catholic Reporter that Pope Francis had personally praised NWM for its outreach to LGBTQ individuals twice via private letters.

In May 2021, the pontiff apparently responded to a letter from DeBernardo that provided Francis with an overview of his organization. DeBernardo reported that Francis’ reply stated the NWM letter had helped him to understand “the full story” about the group.

“Sometimes we receive partial information about people and organizations, and this doesn’t help,” Francis wrote, according to DeBernardo. “Your letter, as it narrates with objectivity its history, gives me light to better understand certain situations.”

In the pope’s second correspondence in June of that year, NWM’s executive director said Francis referred to Gramick as “a valiant woman who makes her decisions in prayer,” and added: “I know how much she has suffered.”

Francis also reportedly expressed to DeBernardo his thanks for having a “heart” that was “open to your neighbor.”

DeBernardo’s revelation of these correspondences seems to have played a role in NWM’s success in fending off efforts to rein in their influence on the synod and their advocacy for the kind of language that would eventually appear in FS – which NWM celebrates as a victory. 

“Despite what some church leaders might say or think of us, it appears that Pope Francis is happy that we’re reaching out and helping to bring LGBTQ people into the church, and helping those who are here to stay,” DeBernardo boasted to the Reporter in 2023, adding:

We weren’t planning on making the correspondence public, but given this situation, it’s important for people to know. We do believe [Francis] wants LGBTQ people speaking, and we think it’d be helpful for him and helpful for his message and his invitation of inclusion, that people know that he has been corresponding with us.

“Francis’ correspondence represented a significant change in how the top echelons of the Catholic hierarchy have treated Gramick,” the Reporter affirmed.

Martin’s America also highlighted the pope’s correspondence with Gramick in an interview published in January 2022 titled “Pope Francis praises Sister Jeannine Gramick’s 50 years of L.G.B.T. ministry in handwritten letter.”

Underscoring the friendly and perhaps protective relationship NWM enjoyed with Francis, Gramick touted to America that many Catholics will now view the pope’s letters to her and NWM as approval of their LGBTQ program in the official eyes of the Church. 

Gramick also warned that, in light of Francis’ letters, some bishops and other Catholics “who do not appreciate the work of New Ways Ministry” will have a more difficult time in making “derogatory remarks.”

Gramick Makes Her Vision Clear

In an opinion piece at National Catholic Reporter in February 2023, Gramick assailed the language in the Catechism that refers to homosexuality as “objectively disordered.” 

Making the claim that research over the past half-century has yielded more “trustworthy” information about “gender” and sexuality, Gramick called for “a chorus of voices around the world, rejecting the callous and inhumane language that has wounded innumerable LGBTQ people, fostered their degradation and provoked unspeakable violence against them.” 

The Church’s position on homosexuality “must be removed from the catechism and official church teaching,” she wrote.

“The church’s teaching on sexual ethics, as in many areas, has changed over the centuries,” Gramick argued.

In any case, she went on, “LGBTQ people and serious-thinking Catholics are increasingly ignoring the church’s teaching about homosexuality and gender.”

Claiming the Church’s teachings about sexuality are based on “obsolete knowledge,” Gramick pushed for a change:

For a more authentic approach to homosexuality, the official teaching needs to build on the language of the 1975 Vatican document Persona Humana, which recognized that some lesbian and gay persons “are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct.” This “innate instinct” would imply that same-sex feelings are quite natural for some people.

In April 2022, the National Catholic Reporter noted an interview Gramick gave in Dublin with Ursula Halligan, spokesperson for the pro-German Synodal Way group known as We Are Church Ireland, in which Gramick predicted the Church will change its teaching on homosexuality.

“I don’t know if I’ll be alive to see it, but I know it will change,” Gramick reportedly predicted in the video interview that has since been removed from YouTube. She observed that blessings of “same-sex couples” were occurring already in Germany, Switzerland, and even the United States.

Asked if she believed the pope would change the Church’s teachings on sexuality, Gramick said it would take more organizing on the part of LGBT activists to bring that outcome about.

“It is not his job to move yet,” she said:

The faith must come from the people and so if there are people and theologians within the Catholic community who believe that the traditional sexual ethics needs to change, we need to raise our voices and say that. We need to get other people to come on board to understand that. We have to change people’s attitudes.

How Influential is NWM’s Approach in the United States?

According to NWM, FS represented a pivotal moment for LGBT activists working inside the Church. NWM and its allies tout FS, as well as their relationship with Pope Francis, as signs that their influence on the future of the Church will be immense.

To a degree, NWM’s influence remains to be seen. But one thing is evident: Gramick is not alone in her mission, and aside from the influential Martin and her other apparent allies in the Vatican, a significant number of American prelates are already speaking openly about the LGBT movement in terms that mirror Gramick’s.

On the day of the release of FS, Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago stated that he and his archdiocese “welcome this declaration.” He described it as a necessary “pastoral approach” for the Church:

In sum, what is required is a pastoral approach, for the Church, as a loving mother, “must shy away from resting its pastoral praxis on the fixed nature of certain doctrinal or disciplinary schemes, especially when they lead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying… Thus, when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it. For, those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection.”

In 2021, a number of other Catholic bishops in the United States signed a statement titled “God Is on Your Side: A Statement from Catholic Bishops on Protecting LGBT Youth.”

The pro-LGBT statement suggested the advancement of the LGBT movement in Catholic institutions such as schools. The bishops cited (as NWM often has) the fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church exhorts that homosexually-inclined people should be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” The following bishops signed the statement:

  • Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey;
  • Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico;
  • Retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit;
  • Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego;
  • Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, Arizona;
  • Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky;
  • Retired Auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore;
  • Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming;
  • Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan of San Diego.

Since the signing of the statement, now-Cardinal Robert McElroy has called for the removal of the “intrinsically disordered” language from the Church’s Catechism regarding homosexuality.


While this report is sure to shock many faithful Catholics, it is also important to remember the signs of hope in the Church today. The global pushback of numerous bishops and even some of the most highly placed cardinals against the worst possible implications of Fiducia Supplicans has been overwhelming. 

In addition, strong voices of reason are slated to attend the final assembly of the Synod on Synodality. And finally, the very existence of Catholic projects like CV’s Catholic Accountability Project – and your support for such efforts –  is already playing an important role in breaking the siege laid by organizations like New Ways Ministry…. 

To keep up to date on important stories like this, be sure to subscribe to the LOOP.

To support CatholicVote in its future investigations, click here.

Catholics Deserve to Know the Truth

Join us in the fight to expose the lies, end the confusion, and shine a light on every Catholic leader and institution in public life.

By supporting the Catholic Accountability Project…YOU are the FUEL that shines that light

YOU keep us going.

Without your support, the truth would be buried by mainstream media.

Help us charitably embody the spiritual works of mercy to “admonish the sinner” and “instruct the ignorant.”

Your contribution to the Catholic Accountability Project not only helps restore truth and accountability within the public square, but also witnesses to the truths of Jesus Christ and His Church.

Join us in this noble work of truth today. 

Our country depends on it and Catholics deserve it.

“The integrity of our Church—and all we profess to believe—is at stake.”

brian burch, president, Catholicvote