Saturday, February 6, 2010

"New Ways" vs. "Old Ways"

I think if Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB, had his way, all gay people would get back in the closet and stay there. His Eminence somehow feels he has to continue to attack New Ways Ministry, a group which has been trying to help the millions of gay Catholics in this country find a way to live within the homophobic institution into which they were baptized. And Whispers in the Loggia doesn't think the witch hunt will stop with New Ways. Here is the latest statement from the Cardinal:

New Ways Ministry is an organization based in Mount Rainier, Maryland, that 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." 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. In 1984, 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. 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.

New Ways Ministry has recently criticized efforts by the Church to defend the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and has urged Catholics to support electoral initiatives to establish same-sex "marriage." 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. 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. Accordingly, I wish to make it clear 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.

I would encourage people to visit the New Ways Ministry Web site and see the resources that this group offers. Among other things you wlll find a guide to gay-friendly parishes (my parish, Our Lady Queen of Peace, is one of them -- Alleluia!; Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago -- surprise, surprise -- isn't, but there are several parishes in that city where gay Catholics can find welcome and avoid having to deal with their Archbishop). The group provides a similar list of gay-friendly Catholic colleges and universities. It offers retreats and workshops for gay Catholics, their families and those who minister to them, and a small collection of documents on homosexuality from a Catholic perspective and pastoral ministry to gays and lesbians, as well as a bibliography and links to other resources that could be helpful to gay Catholics.

This campaign against New Ways is like an elephant picking a fight with a flea. Imagine putting the weight of the U.S. Catholic Church with its budget in the millions, if not billions, of dollars against a little nonprofit that, in its most recent 990, claimed a gross annual receipt of $186,479 and net assets of $368,909. New Ways' highest paid staff member, its director Francis DeBernardo, received less than $50,000 in total compensation.

But, as Christians, we know that might does not always make right, that God looks out for the little ones, and that God did not send us His Son so that we could stay mired in our "old ways" of discrimination and bigotry but so that we might find a "new way" of living together as brothers and sisters following in His light.

Disclaimer: This blog does not have approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and cannot -- nor claims to -- speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.

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