On April 28, 2017, Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington in Kentucky will open New Way’s Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium to be held in Chicago, Illinois. Appointed Bishop in 2015 by Pope Francis, Stowe is one of the youngest Bishops in the United States. Born in 1966, Stowe completed his seminary studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.
During the 2016 Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Bishop Stowe discussed the issue of homosexuality and the Catholic Church, he said:
“Pope Francis caused quite a controversy, and simultaneously aroused hope in some circles, with his famous phrase, ‘who am I to judge?’ Was it not an echo of what we heard in this gospel verse [Luke 6:36-37] immediately after the charge to be merciful like our Father: ‘Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.”
“For every pronouncement about intrinsic evils and disordered sexuality, may religious men be ready to wipe tears and heal wounds and help to rediscover goodness and dignity.”
This sentiment is similar to one expressed by current New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DeBernardo who would like the Church to emphasize a “more positive Catholic discourse about LGBT issues” and a complete eradication of such terms as “disordered.” With regards to The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the use of so called “problematic language,” which states that the inclination is “objectively disordered,” DeBernardo wrote: “…it should definitely and immediately be stricken from church discourse.”
Of Bishop Stowe’s comments, DeBernardo posted the following on the official New Ways Ministry blog:
“The fact that his comments on these topics were all positive is a sign of the greater acceptance that LGBT people and issues are receiving in the Church these days.”
“His reference to intrinsic evils and disordered sexuality can only be a reference to the magisterium’s use of ‘intrinsic evil’ to describe gay and lesbian sexual activity and committed relationships, and also to “objective disorder” to describe a homosexual orientation. At the 2015 synod on the family in Rome, we heard many bishops call to eliminate this pastorally harmful language. It is good to see that that call is being echoed on pastoral levels in the U.S. church.”
DeBernardo was especially pleased that perhaps Stowe, by speaking with the superiors of religious communities, could influence the opinions of others in the Church; and eventually change the Church itself:
“…[the] message is being spread to the ‘middle managers’ of the church, the people who can make policy and pastoral practice changes.”
The co-founders of New Ways Ministry were Sister Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent. Both were officially silenced in 1999 by the Vatican:
“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…”
During their nearly 20 year investigation of Gramick, Nugent, and New Ways Ministry, the Vatican stated that:
“In particular, he [Nugent] would not state that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered…”
“…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.”
Nugent died in 2014, but Gramick openly defied the Vatican and continues to speak on the issue of homosexuality and is active in New Ways Ministry. In 2011, she stated: “But because I know church history, I know change takes centuries. We are planting seeds for change at the upper level of leadership.” She continued: “When we started this work, only 20 percent of Catholics believed in equal rights for gays and lesbians. Now it’s over 73 percent…The church is moving.” In an op-ed for “The Washington Post,” she wrote:
“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. In forming our consciences, Catholics also consult scripture and our theological tradition. Here, again, there is little firm reason to oppose marriage equality.”
After the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, DeBernardo released the following statement for New Ways Ministry:
“New Ways Ministry rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples! On this historic day, we pray in thanksgiving that justice and mercy have prevailed and that the prayers and efforts of so many have combined to move our nation one step closer to fairness and equality for all…The Supreme Court’s decision embodies the Catholic values of human dignity, respect for differences, and the strengthening of families.”
In 2010, Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I, Archbishop of Chicago and then-President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued the following statement on the status of the organization “New Ways Ministry;” here is an excerpt:
“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.”
Other presenters who are scheduled to speak at the 2017 New Ways Ministry Symposium; and their views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage:
Lisa Fullam teaches Moral Theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.
“Perhaps a good first step for Church leaders would be to applaud the Court’s decision in light of its overlap with Catholic values regarding marriage. Of course, the Church may still refuse to marry lesbian and gay couples, just as it refuses to marry anyone with an un-annulled previous marriage. In time, I trust that Church teaching on sacramental marriage will evolve, too, and take note of the powerful spirit of love and commitment vivifying lesbian and gay marriages as well as straight marriages.
“But in the meantime, please, please, let’s stand with the Court and celebrate the equal human dignity of ALL God’s children.”
“Unless we are willing to redefine civil marriage in reproductive terms–perhaps automatically divorcing couples who do not reproduce in a reasonable amount of time, for instance, or denying marriage to women of a certain age or those who are sterile by choice or by happenstance–in denying civil marriage to same-sex couples, we discriminate against them precisely because they are homosexual, a form of unjustifiable discrimination that is contrary to Catholic social teaching.”
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton is a retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
In a 2013 interview, Gumbleton said:
“..the fact that homosexuality is not something chosen, that this is part of the person, who the person is, and therefore, you can’t talk about these people as being intrinsically disordered.”
“No one can judge the conscience of any other person. And homosexual people have to deal with who they are, how they express intimacy and love. And I am sure, based on the teaching of the church, also that, before anything else, a person’s own individual conscience gives guidance to how that person must act, and no one can interfere with that. And that’s teaching that goes right back to the beginning of the church…That’s their conscience decision, and it’s between each person and God. And that’s church teaching. And so, how individuals deal with their homosexuality is something that we have to respect.”
Sister Simone Campbell is the self-professed leader of the “Nuns on the Bus.” In 2012, she addressed the Democratic National Convention in support of ObamaCare. She once said: “From my perspective, I don’t think it’s a good policy to outlaw abortion. I think, rather, let’s focus on economic development for women and economic opportunity.”
During a 2015 interview, Campbell was asked for her opinion of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage; she said:
“Catholic Sisters are called to take the Gospel to where it’s needed and to live and love, and to welcome everyone. This decision is an important step in extending God’s welcome to all.”