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Gay Catholics Decry Vatican Silencing of Priest and Nun Who Pioneered Gay Ministry

May 29, 2000 — During meetings in Rome last week, Sister Jeannine Gramick, a School Sister of Notre Dame, and Rev. Robert Nugent, a Salvatorian priest, were ordered to stop speaking publicly about homosexuality, or about the investigation into their nearly thirty-year ministry. In July of 1999, the Vatican had ordered the two to refrain from any kind of pastoral ministry with gay and lesbian people or their families. Since then, they had spoken about the course of the 11-year investigation that led to the original sanctions, the role of conscience in the Church, and lectured on the status of gays and lesbians in the Church within academic forums.

DignityUSA, the leading advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Roman Catholics and their families, expressed outrage at what they called the Vatican's "continuing persecution of two people attempting to live out their ministerial call." They said it would further alienate gay and lesbian Catholics already struggling to reconcile their faith with Church teaching on homosexuality.

"This latest order demonstrates that the Vatican has been on a witch hunt, and is determined to shut down any kind of ministry to our community that does not constantly remind us that the Pope considers us 'intrinsically disordered,' said Mary Louise Cervone, president of DignityUSA. "We are very angry that after all the pain that the original order against Bob and Jeannine caused, they've had to suffer this further assault."

Marianne Duddy, DignityUSA's executive director, noted that Sr. Gramick and Rev. Nugent have reacted very differently to the latest Vatican directive. "Bob's statements indicate that he intends to adhere to the order of silence, whereas Jeannine has said she finds it a violation of her basic human rights and in good conscience cannot follow the order. There is much at stake for both of them--their life as members of their religious communities, their ministerial legacy, their own sense of integrity." Duddy went on to say that DignityUSA will consider what further action to take against this grievous action in the weeks ahead.

"This action is not directed solely at Jeannine and Bob," said Cervone. "It is an attack on our entire community. We need to bear witness to our sense of how unchristian an act this is, in a way that communicates our pain and anger directly to the Vatican and the entire Roman Catholic Church."

DignityUSA is the nation's largest and foremost organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Roman Catholics, their families and friends. It is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1969, and has chapters and members across the US.

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