Over the past several years, I have written many pieces on how some in the media have been manipulating Pope Francis. But the scheming is not confined to the media.
The latest example comes by way of New Ways Ministry (NWM), a disloyal Catholic outfit that has been the subject of numerous sanctions from Church authorities, both in Rome and in the United States. It explicitly rejects Church teachings on marriage, the family, and sexuality, especially homosexuality.
In October, the Vatican formally announced the beginning of a two-year program, the Synod on Synodality, that would allow Catholics to participate in a dialogue with Church officials on matters of importance to them. The Vatican's Synod of Bishops posted a resource page that provides links to a webinar for participating parties.
One of the groups that sought participation was NWM; it succeeded in obtaining a link to the webinar. However, when loyal Catholics complained that it was a heretical group, the link was taken down on Dec. 7. After disloyal Catholics complained, the link was restored on Dec. 13.
On Dec. 15, I wrote a letter to Cardinal Mario Grech, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops; it was sent by fax that day and arrived via express mail on Dec. 17. Confirmation that the fax was received was dated Dec. 21. The letter is available here.
Cardinal Grech did not reply by Jan. 10, which is why I am going public with my statement.
Letters by Pope Francis commending NWM have now surfaced. On Dec. 10, the pope wrote a short note to Sister Jeannine Gramick thanking her for her 50 years of ministry; she co-founded NWM in 1977 with Fr. Robert Nugent. In spring 2021, two letters of correspondence were exchanged between the pope and Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of NWM.
On May 3, 2021, Pope Francis wrote to DeBernardo about his letter of April 21: "It helped me a lot to know the full story you tell me," the pope said. "Sometimes we receive partial information about people and organizations, and this doesn't help. Your letter, as it narrates with objectivity its history, gives me light to better understand certain situations."
It is painfully obvious that the pope does not have "the full story." Indeed, he has been manipulated once again.
In his letter to the pope, did DeBernardo tell him why Washington Archbishop James Hickey barred NWM officials in 1984 from continuing their "service" to the Church? He did so following numerous complaints that Gramick and Nugent had infiltrated the seminaries, openly defying Church teachings on homosexuality.
Did he tell the pope why the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was pressed into starting an 11-year investigation of NWM? They did so because Gramick and Nugent refused to accept the Church's teaching regarding "the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination." That is why when the probe was finished in 1999, they were told to stop with their "ministry."
Nothing has changed since. Indeed, on Jan. 7, 2022, Gramick said that in 1999, the Vatican wanted her and Nugent "to say that homosexual activity is objectively immoral and that we personally believed that. And I could not say that."
Did DeBernardo tell the pope that Gramick praised the biggest pervert priest in American history, Father Paul Shanley? He raped males of all ages and he did so for decades. He liked to blame children for his perversion, famously saying, "the kid is the seducer."
In 2005, Gramick said she was horrified by Shanley's behavior but that she "grieved for this man I had not seen in almost 20 years, but whose principles and whose advocacy for the downtrodden I had applauded for three decades." Journalist Maureen Orth was horrified by what Gramick said, adding that she interviewed nine of Shanley's victims. Gramick never spoke to one of them.
All of this is detailed in my new book, "The Truth About Clergy Sexual Abuse: Clarifying the Facts and the Causes."
We know what Pope Francis has said about marriage — it should be confined to a man and a woman in the institution of marriage. We know that he has called gay marriage the work of "the father of lies," meaning the devil. We know that he has advised men with "deep-rooted" homosexual tendencies not to enter the priesthood. We know that he has warned against the "gay lobby" in the Church. We know that he regards gender ideology — that men and women can switch their sex — to be "demonic."
We also know that neither Gramick nor DeBernardo believe a lick of what the pope has said.
In 2015, when Pope Francis visited the U.S., many disloyal Catholic groups sought to meet with him, one of which was NWM. They were rightfully denied. Loyal Catholics did meet with him (I did so on Sept. 23).
On Oct. 9, 2021, Pope Francis gave an address about the opening of the Synod. Quoting Yves Congar O.P., he said, "there is no need to create another church, but to create a different church." True enough. NWM wants another church, not a different one.
Loyal Catholics need clarity from Rome about this issue.
Bill Donohue is president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. He was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and is the author of nine books and many articles.