Pope Meets With Reps of Previously Shunned Pro-LGBTQ+ Ministry

Author: Trudy Ring

Pope Francis met this week with the cofounder and other representatives of LGBTQ-supportive Catholic group New Ways Ministry, an event described by the group as “a moment once unimaginable.”

The meeting, held Tuesday at the pope’s residence, came during the Synod on Synodality, a major conference of church hierarchy taking place at the Vatican.

The pope hosted Sister Jeannine Gramick, who founded New Ways in 1977 with the late Father Robert Nugent, and New Ways staffers Matthew Myers, Francis DeBernardo, and Robert Shine, according to a press release from the organization. The group advocates for full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the Roman Catholic Church. It was denounced by Pope Francis’s predecessors for differing with the church’s teachings on gender and sexuality — including that gay sex is a sin and gender is fixed at birth.

“The meeting was very emotional for me,” Gramick said in the release. “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.”

“Meeting with Pope Francis is a great encouragement for Sister Jeannine and New Ways Ministry to continue our work in the Catholic Church,” added DeBernardo, the group’s executive director. “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.”

The meeting lasted 50 minutes. It came after a friendly correspondence between the pope, Gramick, and other representatives of New Ways over the past two years. She recently asked if Pope Francis could meet with her and the others during the synod, and he “eagerly welcomed her and the group,” according to the release. New Ways did not elaborate on what was discussed.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith investigated New Ways in 1998 and asserted that its positions “regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church in this area.” The statement was signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis’s immediate predecessor.

Pope Francis has demonstrated more openness to LGBTQ+ people than any pope who preceded him, while continuing to adhere to official church doctrine. Ahead of the synod, in response to questions from conservative cardinals, he hinted he might be open to blessing same-sex relationships, although he said they should not be considered the norm or equal to marriages. Gramick thanked him for his statement on this issue, although some Catholic theologians have claimed the mainstream media has read too much into it.

The Vatican itself downplayed how much LGBTQ+ issues figured into the synod, with spokesman Paolo Ruffini saying, “the blessing of homosexual couples is not the theme of the synod,” the Catholic News Agency reports. But the Vatican’s media department did publicize the meeting with New Ways.

The possibility that women could be ordained as deacons or even priests came under discussion during the synod as well. However, there were “assurances from synod organizers that changes to doctrine were not on the agenda,” according to the Catholic News agency. Ahead of the synod, also in response to the conservative cardinals, Francis had said the ordination of women “can be the object of study, as is the case with the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.”

Pictured: Pope Francis and Sister Jeannine Gramick

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring

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