Sr. Jeannine Gramick talks about making hard moral choices

Nun continues to advocate for justice for gay Catholics

By Jason Michael

DETROIT - By now most of gay Metro Detroit is familiar with Jeannine Gramick. A soft spoken nun with steely reserve, the January showing of the documentary that chronicles her struggle to find justice for gays in the Catholic church, "In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick's Journey of Faith," showed to a sold out crowd at the Reel Pride Film Festival in Royal Oak. But an interesting change has occurred in Gramick's story since then. The man who permanently prohibited her from any pastoral work with gays, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has since become Pope Benedict XVI.

Still, not even the pope could convince Gramick to abandon her mission and the ministry she helped found in 1977, New Ways. On Oct. 25, Gramick spoke to a packed house of just over 200 at the Student Union Ballroom of the University of Detroit Mercy on having the courage to make moral decisions for one's self.

"Cultures change, religious cultures change," said Gramick, whose talk was jointly sponsored by UDM's Women's Studies Program and the college's Gay/Straight Alliance. "I believe those cultures change because we have individuals who live with courage, who make hard moral choices and sometimes those choices are in disagreement with the religious authorities."

In making these choices, Gramick said there are several factors to consider. The signs of the times (There's a gay bishop in the Anglican church, several Christian denominations now bless same-sex unions and the fact that "at this time almost 80 percent of Catholics in the pew would afford civil rights to gay people"); scientific developments (When Gramick started ministering to gays in the early 1970s, "most people thought that lesbian women and gay men were somehow abnormal, they were sick in some way. And that was a judgment from the psychological and psychiatric profession. That no longer holds today"); church teachings and, often at direct odds with them, the opinion of theologians ("Most Catholic moral theologians disagree profoundly with the magisterial teaching. And that is what lesbian and gay Catholics, and all of us, need to know when we're thinking of moral choices on this topic; not only what the official teaching is but the theological community, what their views are").

Gramick said one must also take into consideration what the "word of God" says about gays.

"When we read about homosexuality in the scriptures, it's always about homosexual acts that are condemned," she said. "There is no condemnation of homosexual love relationships. In fact, the writers of the scriptures, the human persons who wrote the scriptures down, had no concept, had no understanding, of what we now call constitutional homosexuality."

Therefore, it is not appropriate to impose the knowledge of the 21st century on the writers of the scriptures, said Gramick, who pointed out that a scientific understanding of homosexuality didn't come about until Freud at the end of the 19th century.

"Paul and other writers of scriptures thought everyone was constitutionally heterosexual," she said. "Paul had no idea that approximately 10 percent of the population - maybe more - is constitutionally, naturally, oriented toward [people] of their own gender. He didn't know that."

Nevertheless, Gramick said there were examples of same-sex love relationships in the scriptures, pointing to the stories of Ruth and Naomi and David and Jonathan.

"The point is there's no condemnation of homosexual love relationships and there are same-sex relationships [in the Bible]," she said.

Lastly, Gramick said the final thing to consider when making such moral choices is one's own experiences. In her case, Gramick said her pastoral work with gays and lesbians has led her to believe that their "love relationships do not hinder their God relationships." In fact, as in heterosexual relationships, Gramick has found that gay and lesbian relationships often enhance the couple's relationship with God.

"That's an important piece of information when we're making moral choices," she said. "We need to trust our own experiences."

More news

  • Latest News

Enter To Win

Enter contests to win great prizes like CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and more

Special Section: Pride Guide
Lake Effect

Hot off Season 7 of the LOGO channel's "Ru Paul's Drag Race" phenomenon, Darienne Lake of Season 6 spoke with Between the Lines about her upcoming hosting gig at Motor City Pride June 6.

View More Pride Guide
This Week's Issue

Download or view this week's print issue today!