New Ways Ministry has offered sharp criticism of the US bishops’ new Doctrinal Note on the Moral Limits to Technological Manipulation of the Human Body.
The 14-page document, published by the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, states that “Catholic health care services must not perform interventions, whether surgical or chemical, that aim to transform the sexual characteristics of a human body into those of the opposite sex or take part in the development of such procedures.”
“In neglecting the experiences of trans people and in not attending to contemporary science, it harms people instead of healing them,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry.
“The bishops’ unwillingness to counter any of the evidence from the scientific community or the experience of transgender people is neither good theology nor acceptable pastoral care.”
Thankfully, this document is limited in its power at this point. Whether it becomes a national policy remains to be seen. Each bishop can still determine for himself if the recommendations in this document are helpful for the pastoral care of the transgender people in their communities. We hope that local bishops will turn to transgender people and to the wider medical community to decide what policies about transgender healthcare they will pursue.
A 1999 notification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith chronicled efforts by Cardinal James Hickey of Washington and by the Vatican to address criticism of Catholic teaching on homosexuality by New Ways Minstry’s founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS.
The Congregation described their views as “doctrinally unacceptable” and permanently prohibited them from undertaking “any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.”
In 2010, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago, then president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, affirmed that “New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church” and that it “cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.”
Pope Francis, however, lauded Sister Gramick’s work in a handwritten letter dated December 2021 and released the following month.