Historical Note/Scope and Content

Records of "a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities," founded in 1977 by Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Rev. Robert Nugent, SDS, including publications, subject files, and records of symposia, workshops, and retreats.

Related material is in the Rev. Robert Nugent Papers in this repository.

Gift of New Ways Ministry, 1985.

Processed by Phil Runkel, 2013.

Historical Note

New Ways Ministry grew out of the work of Fr. Robert Nugent and Sr. Jeannine Gramick, who had been ministering to gay and lesbian Catholics since 1971. In 1976 they began giving “New Ways Workshops” in the Washington, DC area as a project of the newly established Quixote Center, taking the name from a phrase in Sexuality - God’s Gift, a pastoral letter issued earlier that year by Bishop Francis Mugavero of Brooklyn. It spun off as a separate organization, based in Mount Rainier, MD, in 1977.

As New Ways Ministry established itself as a resource center and advocate for the civil rights of homosexual people, and its co-directors presented “bridge-building” workshops for Catholic Church personnel, it quickly drew the attention of the archbishop of Washington, James Hickey. In 1984 he barred the organization from his archdiocese. That same year the Vatican’s office for religious orders forced Gramick and Nugent to resign from their official positions with New Ways Ministry. They continued to write and present their workshops under different auspices until 1999, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith completed a lengthy investigation and ordered the team to end their ministry, declaring “for the good of the Catholic faithful that the positions advanced by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent 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.” Nugent complied but Gramick refused, transferring from the School Sisters of Notre Dame to the Sisters of Loretto to continue her ministry to the LGBT community.

New Ways Ministry regrouped under lay leadership (Francis DeBernardo has served as executive director since 1996), supported by members of the clergy and women religious and a number of bishops, notably including Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit. In addition to its national symposia, workshops, Bondings newsletter, and other publications, the organization played a key role in the development of Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers, formally requested by Bishop Gumbleton and issued by the Bishops Committee on Marriage and Family in 1997. More recently, New Ways Ministry has advocated for the right of same-sex couples to marry.

See also:

Williams, Howell. ““Homosexuality and the American Catholic Church: Reconfiguring the Silence, 1971-1999.” Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State University, 2007.
New Ways Ministry website.

Scope and Content

Series 1, Subject Files, 1977-2011, contains information on civil rights cases and other issues of concern to NWM. The arrangement is alphabetical by subject and chronological thereunder

Series 2, General Correspondence, 1977-2011, includes correspondence concerning NWM's mission, policies, and procedures, and a sampling of letters of support received following the forced resignations of its directors, arranged by type of record and chronologically thereunder.

Series 3, Symposia, Retreats, Talks, and Workshops, 1977-2013, documents gatherings sponsored by NWM, including correspondence related to the opposition this programming received from Catholic bishops, and records of a suit against the National 4-H Council for denying use of its facilities for the first symposium in 1981. It is arranged in chronological order by meeting date, and alphabetically by type of record thereunder.

Series 4, Publications, 1978-2012, contains NWM’s newsletter, Bondings, and other publications issued by the ministry. It is arranged chronologically by title.

Series 5, Catholic Coalition for Gay Civil Rights Files, 1978-1984, documents a project to publicize and secure endorsements for a statement supporting the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject or type of record.

Series 6, Audio/Visual Recordings, 1980-1999, includes audiotape recordings of radio talk show appearances by NWM directors and presentations at national symposia, and a DVD and audiotape master of a debate on Catholicism and homosexuality sponsored by NWM at Georgetown University in 1997, arranged in chronological order.