VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — In a signal move, Pope Francis met today with dissident nun Sister Jeannine Gramick, whose long history of LGBT and abortion advocacy previously earned her condemnation and censure from the Vatican.
In an unannounced meeting, Pope Francis received Gramick at his Santa Martha residence at the Vatican on October 17.
Francis and Gramick have established a good relationship in recent years, but today marks the first time they have met in person.
According to New Ways Ministry (NWM), Gramick thanked the pope for “his openness to blessing same-sex unions, as well as for his opposition to the criminalization of LGBTQ+ people in civil society.”
She described the event as “very emotional,” saying that “from the day he was elected, I have loved and admired Pope Francis because of his humility, his love for the poor and for those shunned by society.”
“He is the human face of Jesus in our era. Pope Francis looks into your heart and his eyes say that God loves you,” said Gramick.
The 50-minute meeting between Gramick and Francis is a significant moment for the nun, who has earned repute for her activism against numerous points of Catholic moral teaching.
Gramick is well known for being the co-founder of dissident New Ways Ministry (NWM), which advocates against Catholic teaching for LGBT issues, and which she co-founded in 1977 with dissident priest Robert Nugent.
NWM describes itself as “a Catholic outreach that educates and advocates for equity, inclusion, and justice for LGBTQ+ persons, equipping leaders to build bridges of dialogue within the Church and civil society.”
A former description from 2021 was that NWM “educates and advocates for justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger church and civil communities.”
NWM executive director, Francis DeBernardo, described the meeting as an affirmation of Gramick’s pro-LGBT activism.
“This meeting was an affirmation not only of Sister Jeannine and New Ways Ministry but of the thousands upon thousands of LGBTQ+ people, parishes, schools, pastoral ministers, and religious communities who have been tirelessly working for equality, and who often experienced the great disapproval and ostracization that New Ways Ministry had experienced,” he said.
“Meeting with Pope Francis is a great encouragement for Sister Jeannine and New Ways Ministry to continue our work in the Catholic Church,” stated DeBernardo.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote at the time:
The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church. For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.
Then in 2010 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) further declared that New Ways Ministry “has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church” to speak on the LGBT issue.
But Gramick came under renewed media attention in December 2021 after it was revealed that Francis had written a letter praising NWM. The pope’s comments had come in a series of letters earlier in 2021, between Gramick and DeBernardo.
Francis thanked Gramick for her “neighborly work… [your] heart, open to your neighbor.”
NWM published the pope’s letters when the Synod on Synodality team briefly removed a NWM video from the synod’s resource site. The Secretariat subsequently apologized to the group after NWM published their correspondence with the pope, reinstated the video, and asked NWM to contribute more to the Synod on Synodality.
The pope subsequently continued his correspondence with Gramick in the midst of the media controversy over the video, praising Gramick for her “50 years of closeness, of compassion and of tenderness.”
Earlier this year, Gramick even argued that Francis would usher in a change on the teaching regarding homosexuality. “While some will say the church can never change its teaching, including its sexual teaching, that idea is simply wrong,” she stated, citing a 2017 speech given by Francis to defend this position.
“Church teaching on sexuality will inevitably change,” she claimed, “but, as in the past, this change will not come quickly enough for some or without great angst for others.”
Indeed, Francis’ record since the CDF’s March 2021 responsum against same-sex “blessings” has been to make a number of statements praising and supporting advocates of LGBT ideology and same-sex civil unions.
Most recently, he signed a response to five dubia from five cardinals, in which he opened up the possibility of same-sex blessings – in direct contradiction with the Catholic teaching on the matter.
He argued that “pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage.”
Pope Francis’ friendship with the pro-LGBT advocacy group of NWM appears to now be cemented. “Previous popes and church leaders have opposed Sister Jeannine and New Ways Ministry,” wrote NWM about today’s event. “This meeting now represents a new openness to the pastorally-motivated, justice-seeking approach which Sister Jeannine and her organization have long practiced.”
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