New Ways Ministry

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New Ways Ministry

New Ways Ministry is a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics, working for reconciliation within the Christian and civil communities. The national organization is primarily based in Maryland. The organization affirms the American Psychiatric Association's statement that homosexuality is not a mental disorder to be corrected.


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 since 1971, with the aim of creating acceptance for gay and lesbian Catholics within the Catholic Church.[1]

New Ways Ministry 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, as well as the widowed, adolescents, the divorced, and those having sexual relations outside of marriage, 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."[2] These sentiments inspired the pastoral efforts by the co-founders to build bridges between differing constituencies in Catholicism.[3]

Fr. Robert Nugent died at the age of 76 on January 1, 2014.

Mission and background[edit]

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 include 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 faithful Catholics who support full LGBT equality, and the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.


New Ways Ministry has received criticism throughout its more than 35 years of active ministry. Seven years after New Ways Ministry’s 1977 founding, Cardinal James Hickey barred the organization from the Archdiocese of Washington because of its dissent from Catholic teaching.[4] In 1984, the Vatican ordered co-founders Fr. Nugent and Sr. 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 1999, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, condemned the organization’s positions on homosexuality,[4] and ordered co-founders Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent to cease pastoral ministry within the gay and lesbian community. [5] Fr. Nugent returned to parish-based ministry, but Sr. Gramick refused to comply.

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 homosexuality. Sister Gramick made her intention to disobey the Church clear, 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 that the New Ways Ministry for homosexual Catholics does not present an authentic view of Catholic teaching. Rather, it confuses the faithful about the Church’s efforts to defend traditional marriage and to minister to homosexual persons.[6] In 2011 March 17, 2011 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reaffirmed Cardinal 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."[4]

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