Project Description

Jeannine Gramick is a Sister of Loretto. She taught mathematics before engaging in pastoral outreach, education, and advocacy for LGBT Catholics. In 1977, she co-founded New Ways Ministry, a US organisation working for justice and reconciliation of LGBT people and the Catholic Church. 

Most people look at sexuality when we talk about church teachings on LGBT issues, and I say what about church teachings on LGBT people with regard to the social teachings of the Church, which rest upon the dignity of the human person? I gain my strength from the Gospel, from my prayer life, from the voice of God coming to me through people, and I hold on to and want to proclaim the social teachings of the Church.

Ruth Hunt is the Chief Executive of Stonewall, the UK’s largest LGBT charity. She was named as one of the ten most influential lay Catholics in Britain in The TabletT. She holds an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Keele. 

Becoming CEO of Stonewall changed the way I talked about my faith. Without sounding too grand, I almost had a kind of “here I am Lord” moment. It was my duty to learn how to speak well about faith, and the complexity within that, and how it reconciles with sexuality. I found myself quite isolated, but I very much considered it the right thing to do. 

Extract from Tina Beattie, “Staying In and Reaching Out: Interview with Ruth Hunt (Stonewall UK) and Jeannine Gramick (New Ways Ministry, USA)” in Visions and Vocations:

TB: Do you think gay men and women face different challenges in accepting their sexuality?

JG: In the Church, probably in society, male and female have never been equal. Male has always been superior, and the female inferior, and I’m tempted to believe that much of the hesitation or condemnation of same-sex relationships is a result of either a conscious or unconscious thought that if two men are in this relationship, one is making himself inferior. [expand title=”read more”]

He’s putting himself in the position of a woman, and that’s degrading to him as a man. Similarly, if you have two women, well, one must be aspiring to a male position. How dare she think of herself in a higher position? I think unconsciously, this has been operating over the centuries, and I think we need to bring it to the surface, to challenge it. I think this impacts too on the transgender issue. The forces in the Church, the powers in the Church will say, “This is unnatural,” as has been said of lesbian and gay relationships. What does it mean to be unnatural? Our notions about what we know to be natural are based on scientific information, and we have much more scientific information now than we had in the thirteenth century, but our outlook on LGBT issues has not changed since the thirteenth century.

RH: I think generally, female sexuality, whether it’s hetero or homo, is always passive, because we live in a patriarchal society. So for a woman in any context to assert her views, whether that’s about something to do with pleasure, or about whether she wants children, or whether she wants sex, is quite difficult. There are all sorts of barriers here about a woman’s ability to live the life she wants to live: having the financial means to do that, the courage to do that in the stages when everybody else is getting married and your family expects you to get married, the obligation you have to your children first and foremost. Whereas it is easier in a way for men to say, “Well, this is my sexuality, and I am used to asserting what I want,” though that’s not straightforward either. There are plenty of men who married women and then deeply regretted it. That doesn’t feel right, fair or Christian to me, to know your sexuality but go ahead into an opposite-sex marriage and bring children into the world. Knowing that you’re lying to your partner is to me more of a problem within the Catholic faith than being gay and working your way out on that.

So we create these binary options, which actually aren’t right for everyone. A lot of people knew they were trans but lived a lie, and that’s a lot of different lives you’re messing up. How much better would it be if that fifteen or sixteen year old was able to tell the truth, because he’d had an affirming message from his priest that it’s okay to be you? How many lives would be made less stressful? So it’s all about patriarchy I’m afraid. [/expand]