Sr. Jeannine Gramick has offered a future vision for the Catholic Church where queer couples will partake in sacramental marriage.
“‘I don’t know if I’ll be alive to see it, but I know it will change.'”
Ursula Halligan, a retired well-known Irish journalist, interviewed Gramick and asked her to explain the current push for LGBTQ-acceptance in the church, and whether the Vatican should be more aggressive in its reforms of current teaching. Gramick emphasized the need for reform to come from the pews, rather than a pope making a top-down decision about sacramental marriage for queer couples: “Jesus wanted us to be a spiritual community that was not a dictatorship.”
Gramick recognized that this spiritual transformation requires both dialogue and patience, but pressed the importance of a change in attitude amongst the laity, not just the clergy: “Those people who believe it will change have the obligation to go out and to preach it.”
When asked why Pope Francis should not take a unilateral approach to LGBTQ issues, Gramick responded with a call to action:
“‘It is not his job to move yet. The faith must come from the people and so if there are people and theologians within the Catholic community who believe that the traditional sexual ethics needs to change, we need to raise our voices and say that. We need to get other people to come on board to understand that. We have to change people’s attitudes.'”
While she acknowledged there would be hurdles ahead, Gramick expressed faith in the future of the church, and in the capacity of the people of God to evolve church teaching to meet the needs of the time:
“‘There will always be change. I love that quote from Cardinal Newman, “To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.” That gives me great hope because I know that we are all going to change. I guess you just have to be patient, though sometimes it is hard to be patient.'”
Halligan asked Gramick to address a March 2021 decision from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) which disallowed priests from blessing same-gender couples. Even though the decision has been ignored throughout Western Europe and even in some areas of the United States, Halligan underscored “the terrible hurt that went around the world” as a result of the statement, and inquired as to whether Pope Francis would rescind the document.
Gramick pointed out that the Vatican leader thought to be responsible for the document, Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, was reassigned to a small diocese in January, which church observers saw as a rejection of his DDF work:
“‘The way he rescinds it is to remove the person who did the damage, and put in people who won’t do damage in the future. It’s all very subtle.'”
Gramick emphasized the difficulty of administering a global church, in which opposing views on gender and sexuality exist across regions. She also emphasized the need for laypeople and religious to bring their experiences to the pope. She expressed hope that with enough dialogue and patience, the church will not only accept LGBTQ people fully, but will allow them to participate in the sacramental life of the church.
“It’s our obligation to bring those statements to him…he needs help, and we are his helpers,” Gramick said.
Some ways of bringing those experiences to the pontiff is publications which recount the experiences of LGBTQ people in the church, and by participation in the church’s current synodal process. Sr. Gramick’s remarks remind LGBTQ Catholics of their capacity to demand the recognition of their dignity, and the responsibility of queer people to take on leadership by sharing their stories.
—Andru Zodrow (he/him), May 6, 2022