An in-depth look at the history and development of New Ways Ministry, a group synonymous with the homosexual rights agenda in the Catholic Church, reveals it to be the child of a radical agenda undertaken by left-wing Catholics in the early ’70s. In fact, New Ways Ministry is nothing more than one episode in a series of shadow organizations founded by the same cadre of people committed to a radical vision of the Catholic Church in America. This tangled web of groups, determined to change the teachings of the Church on issues like homosexual activity, women’s ordination, and contraception, gives the impression of a wellspring of popular support for their agenda. A little research reveals exactly how few people are at the center of this confidence game.
Founded by Robert Nugent, S.D.S., and Jeannine Gramick, S.S.N.D., New Ways Ministry has been at the forefront of the homosexual acceptance movement, establishing for itself a voice within the lexicography of Catholic homosexuality in America. Based in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area, New Ways Ministry is surrounded by a number of associated groups including the Quixote Center, Priests for Equality, Catholics Speak Out, and We Are Church, to list only the more recognizable names. Research in the Maryland Department of Corporations reveals how these organizations are linked together.
In 1971, three Jesuits—Fr. Peter Henriot, Fr. William Ryan, and Fr. William R. Callahan—initiated a “social justice” think tank that they named The Center for Concern (CFC). CFC aimed to apply the principles of Liberation Theology to “international development, peace initiatives, economic alternatives, women in society and [the] Church.” Then, in 1975, Father Callahan left CFC to form Priests for Equality. A review of this group’s articles of incorporation shows that, despite its name, not all of the founders were priests. In addition to Father Callahan, the original board members included Delores “Dolly” Pomerleau and Duffi McDermott. For those who might not remember, it was McDermott who testified before the 1985 NCCB hearings on women as the national coordinator of the Women’s Ordination Conference, afterwards telling reporters “we even have ten bishops who are secret members.”
Priests for Equality is straightforward about its goals: “to eliminate sexist language,” presumably in the liturgy. What is not immediately apparent, however, is its direct connection to other dissenting groups promoting a similar agenda.
Not surprisingly, the Priests for Equality website reveals an important connection between itself and Dignity, the homosexual activist organization working to alter the Church’s teachings on homosexual activity:
The project began in 1988, when Priests for Equality received permission to use inclusive language texts developed by Dignity, San Francisco. We distributed them to our constituency; their feedback spurred us to revise the texts significantly—revisions that reflected their actual use in the very setting they were being used: college campuses, parishes, chapels, houses of formation, convents, religious communities, and living rooms.
The connection between Priests for Equality and Dignity is indicative of a network of connections dating back to 1976, when Callahan and Pomerleau formed the Quixote Center along with fellow board members Robert Nugent, S.D.S., and Eileen M. Olsen.
Originally, the Quixote Center’s activities focused mainly on its pro-Sandinista operations which, in the ’80s, included a branch office in Nicaragua. However, the Quixote Center also became involved with the women’s ordination movement when Pomerleau coordinated the 1978 Women’s Ordination Conference meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. With Sister Maureen Fiedler, S.L., on board since September 1976, both Pomerleau and Fiedler kept the Quixote Center at the forefront of the women’s ordination movement throughout the ’80s. Their involvement ranged from holding a conference during the 1980 Synod on the Family entitled “Women and Men in Today’s Family, Society, and Church,” to chaining themselves, along with ten others, to the building that housed the 1980 national Republican convention.
Sr. Jeannine Gramick added her name to this radical Catholic potpourri when she signed the New York Times ad promoting the pro-abortion organization Catholics for a Free Choice. Pomerleau and Fiedler also signed the ad, further cementing the leftward tilt of the Quixote Center. As is well known, both Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have previous ties to Dignity USA. But now it appears this long and sometimes infamous association of Gramick and Nugent, who formally teamed up to form New Ways Ministry in 1977, first had its origins in their meeting at the Quixote Center.
Recent Manifestanons According to Donna Steichen’s book Ungodly Rage, the Washington archdiocese never supported or approved the activities of New Ways Ministry, because of its permissive message about homosexuality. By 1987, New Ways Ministry had been expelled from both the Washington archdiocese and the Newark diocese. As early as 1979, the Washington archdiocese had also warned bishops and religious communities against Quixote Center’s activities as well. Jesuit authorities suspended Callahan’s priestly faculties for a year in 1980, and in 1987 Jesuit Superior General Peter Hans Kolvenbach ordered Callahan to dissociate himself from both Priests for Equality and Catholics Speak Out, a project of the Quixote Center. If Callahan did not stop calling himself “co-director” of the Quixote Center, he would face dismissal.
This latest manifestation of the Quixote Center, Catholics Speak Out (CSO), is now active on several fronts. The most notable activity that CSO has recently undertaken is the We Are Church referendum. Having started with great fanfare in May of 1996, the We Are Church referendum teamed up with the Women’s Ordination Conference and boldly declared that they would gather one million signatures on a petition by the time of Pentecost Sunday 1997 to show support for radical changes in Church teachings and practice.
By the time Pentecost Sunday 1997 arrived, it become obvious that the organizers of the referendum had vastly overestimated their level of support. The organizers, led by Sister Maureen Fiedler, S.L., were not ones to declare defeat immediately, and decided to allow several more months in which to rally the troops. By October 11, 1997, (the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council) We Are Church had amassed a mere 35,000 signatures for their petition. When the group delivered the signatures to the Vatican, Fiedler, who led the American delegation, was escorted out of Saint Peter’s square by the Swiss Guard (see “Referendum a la Roma,” January 1998).
At last fall’s national Call to Action conference, Fiedler, still licking the wounds of We Are Church’s failed petition drive, blamed the failure on numerous factors: a fear among key organizers that they would lose their official Church positions; a sense of despair among the laity at the difficulty of change; a “lack of hierarchical endorsements”; and the “theological complexity” of the referendum’s demands. More likely, the organizers of the referendum have been bamboozled by their own charade—they have mistaken the proliferation of their own shadow organizations for genuine support of their agenda.
In 1978, Fiedler founded Windmills, Inc. along with Dolly Pomerleau of Priests for Equality and the Women’s Ordination Conference. The articles of incorporation show the designated agent of this group to be, once again, William R. Callahan, S.J. One of Windmills, Inc.’s more recent projects is the Catholic Parents Network, run by Father Nugent and Sister Gramick.
Currently, Nugent and Gramick are being investigated by the Vatican for their dissenting views on homosexuality which they primarily spread through New Ways Ministry. Both are under orders from their superior to dissociate themselves from this work.
A disturbing logic is at play. Hiding from official Vatican censure, this cadre of dissenters is working to reorganize itself anew as it has done before.