The following is the statement of New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo on the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation:
The news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation has surprised the Catholic community worldwide, and here at New Ways Ministry we are praying for the future of the church and for the pope’s health.
We are praying, too, for LGBT Catholics and their families and friends, whose lives were made more difficult living under Benedict’s reign both as pontiff and as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), where he served previously. For the last three decades, Benedict has been one of the main architect’s of the Vatican’s policies against LGBT people.
New Ways Ministry directly experienced those harsh policies several times over the years, most notably in 1999 when the CDF attempted to silence our organization’s co-founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent. Fortunately, we have survived the many attempts by the Vatican to end our ministry, and, thanks to the support of so many Catholics, we have emerged stronger for it. During the CDF’s investigation of her ministry, Sister Jeannine serendipitously met Cardinal Ratzinger on a plane in Europe, and they had a conversation together about her case and about ministry to LGBT people. Sister Jeannine recalls that, despite their disagreement, she was impressed with him as a man dedicated to the church.
Benedict XVI’s dedication to the church, particularly to its intellectual life, has indeed been admirable. We pray that a new pope will combine his intelligence with true and deep pastoral concern for the lives of the people of the world. A new pope needs to be a listener who can discern the signs of the times in light of the Gospel.
Is it inevitable that the next pope will be as conservative as Benedict has been? Certainly not. History reminds us that no one expected the election of Pope John XXIII in 1958, and in calling the Second Vatican Council, he clearly moved the church into a more progressive era. We trust that the Holy Spirit will guide our church in the days and years to come and that our faith, hope, and love will be strengthened by our next spiritual leader.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry