Friday, February 05, 2010

Chief Clarifies New Ways

It might be late on a Friday afternoon, with snow bearing down on the capital... so it seems, though, the Mothership's still whirring away.

Just before 4pm Eastern, a "clarification" emerged from the USCCB President, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, on the ecclesial standing of New Ways Ministry, the "gay-positive" outreach for Catholic gays and lesbians whose founders were sanctioned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999 and barred from further ministry to the community.

Apparently motivated by New Ways' criticism of "efforts by the church to defend the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman" and the group's call for "Catholics to support electoral initiatives to establish same-sex 'marriage,'" here's George's statement in full:
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I, archbishop of Chicago and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued the following statement on the status of the organization "New Ways Ministry":

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.
SVILUPPO: On further reflection, the above statement is significant on multiple fronts....

Even more than being a noteworthy intervention from the president of the conference (and one who tends to heavily delegate the message-lifting to his committee chairs, at that), the New Ways call-out can be viewed as the first concrete result of George's push -- announced in his Opening Day address to November's USCCB meeting in Baltimore, and previewed several months before -- "to clarify questions of truth or faith and of accountability or community among all those who claim to be part of Catholic communion."

With nine months left in the Chicago prelate's three-year mandate at the conference's helm, smart money says George's task forces "on how [the bishops] might strengthen [their] relationship to Catholic universities, to media claiming the right to be a voice in the Church, and to organizations that direct various works under Catholic auspices" will likely be reaching similar conclusions on other apostolates as the year goes on...

...which leads us, of course, to the million-dollar question: Who's next?

SVILUPPO 2: Having been caught flat-footed by the conference statement, New Ways has issued its response.