The New Ways Ministry for homosexual Catholics does not present an authentic view of Catholic teaching, Cardinal George has said. Rather, it confuses the faithful about the Church’s efforts to defend traditional marriage and to minister to homosexual persons.
“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,” the cardinal explained.
Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), explained the history and status of the organization in a Feb. 5 statement
New Ways Ministry, based in Mount Rainier, Maryland, describes itself as a “gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice.” Since its founding in 1977, the cardinal said, “serious questions” have been raised about its adherence to Catholic teaching on homosexuality.
In 1984 the group’s founders, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Fr. Robert Nugent, were barred from continuing their activities in the Archdiocese of Washington.
That same year, their superiors ordered them to separate themselves from New Ways Ministry. The two resigned from leadership posts but continued their involvement until 1999, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that because of “errors and ambiguities” in their approach, Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.
Cardinal George said New Ways Ministry’s “lack of adherence” to Church teaching on the morality of homosexual acts was the “central issue” in the censure of its founders and continues to be its “crucial defect.”
He then noted that the organization has criticized Church efforts to defend the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. It has also tried to rally Catholic support for initiatives to recognize same-sex “marriage.”
In March 2009 Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, testified for legislation favorable to homosexuals in the Maryland legislature.
He claimed that most Catholics do not hold the same position as the Catholic bishops.
“While the hierarchy is concerned with the ethics of sexual activity, the Catholic people are concerned about the benefits and quality of life that people experience,” De Bernardo argued.
In a response to Cardinal George’s statement, De Bernardo said the comments “will not impede or slow us in our efforts.”
He characterized the criticisms as questions arising from “individual Church leaders” and claimed New Ways Ministry programs have been reviewed and approved by “scores” of bishops and theologians.
But Cardinal George’s statement had criticized the organization for being misleading.
“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,” the cardinal said. “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.”