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Gramick leaves order to join Loretto sisters


Sr. Jeannine Gramick, whose writings on homosexuality brought her two silencing orders, one from the Vatican and one from her religious community, has left the Baltimore-based School Sisters of Notre Dame.

She is instead joining the Sisters of Loretto, based in Denver.

In comments to the Baltimore Sun daily newspaper, Gramick said she believes the transfer to a new religious community makes the community’s silencing order no longer valid.

Gramick told NCR that she is still complying with the Vatican’s first silencing order, which prohibits her from conducting retreats or workshops with lesbian or gay people.

“By this transfer, I don’t have to follow [the School Sisters of Notre Dame superior general’s] directive, and her directive was that I couldn’t speak or write about homosexuality at all,” Gramick said. “Now I’m free to do that.”

In July 1999, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prohibited pastoral work of Gramick and Salvatorian Fr. Bob Nugent with lesbian and gay people after determining that they furthered “doctrinally unacceptable” assertions “regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination” (NCR, July 30, 1999).

Gramick, 59 and a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame for 41 years, came under threat of expulsion by the School Sisters for defying a Vatican expansion of its order demanding that she not speak out about the Vatican investigation of her ministry to gays (NCR, June 16, 2000).

Nugent accepted the Vatican expansion of the order, but Gramick, after first indicating she would “live with” it, later decided to defy the order. “I choose not to collaborate with my own oppression,” she said.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame sent Gramick, at the Vatican’s direction, at least one warning to obey the expansion of the silencing order. Under canon law, a member of a religious order may be dismissed if, following the collection of proof of disobedience, two canonical warnings are issued 15 days apart. The member can be dismissed no less than 15 days after the second warning and only by a secret-ballot vote by the superior general and her council, confirmed by the Holy See.

Gramick and Nugent had received support in the wake of their 1999 silencing and the process that brought it about from, among others, Pax Christi USA, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the National Coalition of American Nuns, Dignity/USA, New Ways Ministry, Call to Action and three British support groups for gays and lesbians.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame created the SSND Fund for Lesbian and Gay Ministry in 1999 within its Baltimore province after the Vatican barred Gramick from all ministry with homosexuals or their parents.

Gramick and Nugent began their ministry in the early 1970s and in 1977 founded New Ways Ministry in a suburb of Washington as a national organization to carry on that work.

National Catholic Reporter, September 14, 2001