By James Tillman

WASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2010 (—Last Friday Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and current President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement condemning “New Ways Ministry” for claiming to be Catholic while opposing the Church’s teaching on the objective immorality of homosexual acts.

The Cardinal spoke unequivocally: “I wish to make it clear that, like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of Church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”

New Ways Ministry describes itself as a “gay positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics.”

The cardinal recounted the numerous occasions on which the two co-founders of New Ways Ministry, Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, have been disciplined by the Church for activities in defiance of the Church and its authority.

“In 1984, the [Archbishop James Hickey] of Washington denied New Ways Ministry any official authorization or approval of its activities,” the cardinal states. “At that time, [he] forbade the two co-founders of New Ways Ministry … to continue their activities in the Archdiocese of Washington.” Nevertheless, both continued their work with New Ways Ministry in a subordinate capacity.

Father John Harvey, founder of Courage, a Catholic group that helps those experiencing same-sex attraction live chastely, told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that the Vatican had asked the founders of New Ways Ministry to sign a document affirming that “homosexual acts are intrinsically evil, evil by their very nature.”

However, Sr. Gramick simply refused to sign it. Fr. Nugent attempted “changed a few words,” according to Fr. Harvey, “[but] the words were significant.” He wished to state that homosexual acts were “generally” immoral, but not “objectively” or “intrinsically” immoral.

“They tried all kinds of ways to get around the Church,” said Fr. Harvey, but “the Church insisted on their accepting the words of the [statement].”

Thus, after over 18 years of discussion, in 1999 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prohibited the founders of the group from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons because their “ambiguities and errors” have “caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church.”

“The promotion of errors and ambiguities is not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion,” the prohibition states. “Persons who are struggling with homosexuality no less than any others have the right to receive the authentic teaching of the Church from those who minister to them.”

Sr. Gramick refused to obey the order, saying that she chose “not to collaborate in my own oppression.”

In addition to outlining New Ways Ministry’s previous defiance of the Church, Cardinal George’s statement also points out that New Ways Ministry has recently “criticized efforts by the Church to defend the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and has urged Catholics to support electoral initiatives to establish same-sex ‘marriage.'”

In their statement regarding same-sex “marriage” laws, New Ways states that the legalization of marriage is “a matter of equal justice.”

The current executive director of New Ways Ministry, Francis DeBernardo, when testifying in favor of a bill legalizing same-sex “marriage,” stated that “I am here because I am a Roman Catholic, not in spite of the fact that I am a Roman Catholic.”

Cardinal George said he wishes to make certain none are “misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.”

In a response to Cardinal George’s statement, New Ways complained that they had not been contacted by him before he issued the statement. They promised that Cardinal George’s statement “will not impede or slow us in our efforts to work for justice for lesbian/gay people in the Church and society.”

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