VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) –– A prominent pro-LGBT nun, previously censured by the Vatican but rehabilitated by Pope Francis, has declared the Pope is “laying the groundwork for change” in the Catholic Church’s prohibition of homosexuality.
In an interview with Father James Martin S.J.’s pro-LGBT website “Outreach,” Sister Jeannine Gramick outlined her assessment of Pope Francis’ gradual attack and overturning of the Church’s consistent teaching.
“I think in the long run … Pope Francis is laying the groundwork for change in sexuality,” Gramick said in response to a question about the possibility for “substantial change in church teaching on homosexuality.”
“My hope is that people won’t be disappointed [in the Synod] because there won’t be concrete changes,” she added. “I don’t think that is the purpose of the Synod. The purpose of the Synod is to have conversations with each other: to listen and to speak, to learn how to be a dialogic church. The Holy Spirit will let us know when the time is right.”
There has been much focus on possible pro-LGBT changes to the Church in the October 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality. While such changes did not appear in the synthesis document from the meeting, a synod cardinal told LifeSiteNews that Pope Francis had tasked next year’s synod with addressing the issue more particularly.
Gramick echoed the language of many pro-LGBT advocates in stating that “in time, the Spirit will let us know what direction to go in. I do think that the Spirit is working now in the church in terms of sexuality, and not just homosexuality.”
Gramick is the co-founder of New Ways Ministry (NWM), which is a pro-LGBT organization advocating against Catholic teaching for LGBT issues. Gramick started the group in 1977 with dissident priest Robert Nugent and swiftly earned condemnation from ecclesial authorities for their stances opposing Catholic teaching on a variety of issues of sexual morality.
Gramick has a long history of dissenting from Catholic teaching on homosexuality and abortion, and was officially silenced by the Vatican in 1999, an order that she ignored. But she has found signal favor from Pope Francis in recent years, receiving a number of letters from him in support of her pro-LGBT group and personal activism.
Expanding on her theme of Pope Francis preparing an overturning of Church teaching, Gramick stated to Outreach that it was “not his job” specifically to perform the revolution but simply to set the scene. “LGBT people say to me, ‘I love Pope Francis, but he hasn’t changed the teaching of the church,’” she said anecdotally. “And I say to them, ‘That is not his job.’ His job is to articulate the faith of the people. How do we know what our people think and believe if we don’t listen and they don’t speak?”
Francis is concentrating on trying “to get people comfortable in sharing their experience,” which would ultimately lead to the overturning of Catholic moral teaching, Gramick argued. “It may take several years or maybe a decade, I don’t know, but in God’s due time, I am confident that the sexual teaching of the church will change,” she stated.
Gramick has previously 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.”
She was recently received by the Pope in a private audience granted to her and her colleagues from NWM. The event was described as highlighting a “new openness” to Gramick’s work.
Change already taken place?
In defending her claim of Francis orchestrating fundamental change to Catholic morality, Gramick argued that the Church had already seen such change. “I love church history, and if you know church history you know there’s been exceedingly great amounts of change, besides slavery and usury,” she stated.
Gramick continued, “The sexual ethics of the church have changed. They are not what they were in the time of Saint Paul, nor Saint Augustine, nor the Middle Ages. But we have this idea that sexual sins are the greatest sins. That was not always the way sexuality was thought of.”
As evidence for this change in a teaching on morals, Gramick referenced St. Augustine of Hippo’s writing on the use of the procreative functions between husband and wife. “I like to say, when I present something about sexual ethics, that Augustine taught if a husband and wife had sexual intercourse and didn’t have a child as a result, that act was sinful — but only venially sinful because they were married.”
“If you said that now, people would laugh at you,” she said, adding “that’s an example that the church has changed. And it’s always changed because there have been voices that questioned, voices that said, ‘That doesn’t resonate with reality or with people’s experiences.’”
However, Gramick misrepresents St. Augustine’s position, in addition to positing his individual writing as the position of the entire Church. In his text “De Bono Conjugali,” written in light of attacks on the procreative nature of Catholic marriage, Augustine drew from 1 Corinthians 7:5-7 and outlined the various natures of sexual relations in marriage.
He wrote that sexual relations that “go beyond” the relations that are necessary and open for conceiving a child are “no longer obedient to reason but to lust.” Here Augustine is understood as referring to times when procreation is not possible.
However, he adds that “it is also a married person’s duty, not indeed to demand such intercourse, but to grant it to one’s spouse,” saying that doing so would incur a venial sin of lust only on the part of the one requesting such relations.
Pope Pius XI, in Casti Connubii, affirmed that “any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”
But he also presented the occasions when sexual relations in marriage might occur which were not primarily oriented to procreating children:
Nor are those considered as acting against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner although on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.
Even Pope John Paul II, who is a notable proponent of the controversial method known as “natural family planning,” warned in line with St. Augustine and Pope Pius XI about the danger of sexual relations in times when children could not be conceived.
He warned about confusing sexual relations during times of infertility with artificial contraception, since the result of not conceiving children was the same, stating how “one comes to talk about [such sexual relations] as if it were only a different form of contraception.”