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New Ways Ministry

New Ways Ministry

New Ways Ministry is a ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics. The national organization is primarily based in the state of Maryland. It was one of the earliest groups attempting to broaden the way Catholics have traditionally dealt with LGBT issues, and was established by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent.

In 2011, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that "in no manner is the position proposed by New Ways Ministry in conformity with Catholic teaching and in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization."[1]


New Ways Ministry was founded in 1977 by Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a Roman Catholic sister, and Fr. Robert Nugent, a Roman Catholic priest. The ministry expanded their existing work of writing and speaking on homosexuality in the years following 1971, with the aim of creating acceptance for gay and lesbian Catholics within the Roman Catholic Church.[2]

It adopted its name from the pastoral letter of Bishop Francis Mugavero of the Diocese of Brooklyn, "Sexuality: God's Gift". Written in 1976, the letter addressed gay and lesbian Catholics among others by stating: " ...we pledge our willingness to help you try to find new ways to communicate the truth of Christ because we believe it will make you free."[3] These sentiments inspired the pastoral efforts by the co-founders to build bridges between differing constituencies in Catholicism.[4]

In 1984 Cardinal James Hickey barred the organization from the Archdiocese of Washington because of its dissent from traditional Catholic teaching on the issue of homosexuality, which condemns sexual activity between people of the same gender.[1]

Robert Nugent S.D.S.Edit

Nugent was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1937 and attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1965 and assigned to Stella Maris parish in Philadelphia. In 1970, he assisted police in stopping two suicide attempts on the Walt Whitman Bridge. In 1971, he left parish ministry and obtained a masters in library science from Villanova University and a masters in theology from Yale Divinity School. He also worked at a skid-row hospice.

In 1975, Nugent left the Archdiocese and joined the staff of the Quixote Center in Maryland. In 1977, he joined the Salvatorians.[5] That same year he founded New Ways Ministry with Jeannine Gramick. "We knew it was risky," he told the St. Petersburg Times in 1999, "because Catholics weren't talking and writing about sexuality."[6]

Nugent served as a consultant for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on its 1997 pastoral document on homosexuality, "Always Our Children."[7] In 1999, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, condemned the organization’s positions on homosexuality,[1] and ordered co-founders Gramick and Nugent to cease pastoral ministry within the gay and lesbian community. [8] Fr. Nugent returned to parish-based ministry, but Sr. Gramick refused to comply. While he stepped back from public ministry, Nugent continued to counsel gay and lesbian Catholics privately, and advised theologians and scholars working on issues of homosexuality.[6] He also wrote of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Merton.[9]

Nugent retired in June 2013, and died of lung cancer at the age of 76 on January 1, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, location of the US Province of Salvatorians.[6] Some of Nugent's papers are in the Special Collections of Marquette University.[10]

Mission and backgroundEdit

New Ways Ministry advocates for acceptance of LGBT people among Catholics and among the general population. In the belief that homophobia and transphobia stem from a lack of understanding, New Ways Ministry focuses on educating families, churches, and communities through dialogue, publications and research, and educational programming. Publications have included responses to Vatican Instructions, "Homosexuality: A Positive Catholic Perspective" and "Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach," and symposia on the issue of homosexuality in the Catholic church have hosted speakers including Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of the Archdiocese of Detroit and Bishop Matthew Clark of the Diocese of Rochester. They also organize Catholics nationally in support of marriage equality initiatives.

New Ways Ministry partners with Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholics who support full LGBT equality, and the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.

Opposition to its workEdit

New Ways Ministry has received criticism throughout its more than 35 years of active ministry. In 1984, the Vatican ordered co-founders Nugent and Gramick to resign from New Ways Ministry. Both continued publishing, speaking, and ministering around gay and lesbian issues within the Catholic Church until 1999.

In 2000, in response to Gramick's teaching that homosexuality is a legitimate "alternative" lifestyle, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted the “grave doctrinal error” in her work and declared that she should no longer be engaged in pastoral work with homosexuals,since her teachings "[had] caused confusion among the Catholic people and... harmed the community of the Church."

The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, had issued a lengthy statement responding to “concerns expressed, mostly by religious men and women as well as members of the laity” about the notification. In it, Bishop Fiorenza addressed the conscience issue, stating, “It is not an invasion of conscience for the Church to ask those who minister in her name about their adherence to Church teaching.”

Gramick's own religious order - the School Sisters of Notre Dame – asked her to stop speaking publicly on gay rights. Gramick indicated her intention to carry on her work, stating, "I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right [to speak]. To me this is a matter of conscience." She transferred from the School Sisters of Notre Dame to the Sisters of Loretto at this time, who supported her continued ministry around LGBT issues.

In 2010, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), stated New Ways did not present an authentic view of Catholic teaching. Instead he insisted that it "confuses the faithful about the Church’s efforts to defend traditional marriage and to minister to homosexual persons".[11] In March 2011 the USCCB affirmed George's statement and reiterated "...that in no manner is the position proposed by New Ways Ministry in conformity with Catholic teaching and in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization."[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "US bishops reaffirm: New Ways Ministry not a Catholic organization", Catholic World News, March 17, 2011
  2. ^ "Co-Founders of New Ways Ministry".
  3. ^ Mugavero, Francis J. "Sexuality: God's Gift". Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  4. ^ "History".
  5. ^ "Father Robert Nugent, embroiled in gay-ministry controversies, dies", CNS, January 2, 2014
  6. ^ a b c Woo, Elaine. "Father Robert Nugent dies at 76; priest who supported gays, lesbians", The Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2014
  7. ^ Eckstrom, Kevin. "Fr. Bob Nugent, silenced for his work with gay Catholics, dies at 76", RNS, January 3, 2014
  8. ^ Notification of the CDF, May 31, 1999
  9. ^ Nugent, Robert. "The Silenced Monk, America, May 15, 2006
  10. ^ Rev. Robert Nugent Papers", Raynor Memorial Libraries
  11. ^ "New Ways Ministry not approved by Catholic Church, Cardinal George states", Catholic News Agency, February 14,, 2010

External linksEdit