ROYAL OAK – A Roman Catholic nun who has dedicated her work to creating communication and dialog within the church on the subject of homosexuality and acceptance of gays and lesbians was barred from a Royal Oak Catholic Church facility, along with the group that had invited her and a local gay rights organization.
Sister Jeannine Gramick, who was in Metro Detroit for a Jan. 30 screening of a documentary based on her work, was to be a guest at a reception in her honor hosted by Call to Action of Michigan, a progressive Catholic social action organization. The film, “In Good Conscience,” was presented at the Triangle Foundation’s Reel Pride Michigan Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Royal Oak offered its facilities to Call to Action several weeks ago. Early during the week of Jan. 24, reception organizers visited the church to make final arrangements and were informed that an official from the Detroit Archdiocese, Bishop Walter Hurley, had issued the order banning Sister Gramick and the event from the building.
When informed of the archdiocese action Sister Gramick said, “Decisions like that are what makes the Church look foolish in the eyes of the world. It’s embarrassing to me as a Catholic that the leaders of my Church would censor [me].”
“This is typical of the archdiocese, which continues to try to silence its members and refuses to engage in any helpful dialog at all,” said Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of Triangle Foundation. “It’s a shame, really, that the Church is so frightened of dissent, is so intolerant. The leaders must not be too confident of their convictions if they must go to such lengths to stifle disagreement.”
“The Church has been so hurtful to so many who seek only reconciliation and healing,” said Sister Beth Rindler of Call to Action. “At times it’s very disheartening working within the Church because of the action of people who are at the helm of the archdiocese.”
Triangle foundation found an alternative location to hold the reception: the law offices of Pitt, Dowty, McGhee, Mirer and Palmer in Royal Oak.
The Archdiocese responds
In an official statement, Ned McGrath, the director of communications for the Detroit Archdiocese, said that “the archdiocese has determined that one of its parish facilities is not the appropriate setting for a gathering not in accord with the mission and message of the Church.”
In a rebuttal statement, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said, “New Ways Ministry views the Detroit Archdiocese’s decision to cancel the reception at St. Mary’s as paranoid censorship. Decisions such as this one cause lesbian and gay people grave harm, and make them question whether some Church leaders operate out of pastoral sensitivity. Repressing discussion is not an authentically Catholic way to deal with the complex and sensitive issue of homosexuality. Censorship and silencing by Church leaders are a source of scandal for all Catholics.”
For over thirty years Sister Gramick has done pioneering work in ministering to gay and lesbian Catholics, initiating pastoral outreach to the gay community, counseling gays and lesbians and their families and writing two books and numerous articles. She is a co-founder of New Ways Ministries, whose goal is to build bridges between the institutional church and homosexuals. Her work in these areas earned her a permanent ban in 1999 endorsed by Pope John Paul II from any pastoral work involving gays, which Sister Gramick has chosen to ignore.
“In Good Conscience” chronicles Sister Gramick’s courageous ministry and journey. The Jan. 30 screening during Reel Pride was sold out and Sister Gramick received a standing ovation from the over 500 people in the audience following the film.