Canonical consequences for Sr. Jeannine Gramick?

The distinguished canonist Ed Peters weighs in on what Sr. Jeannine Gramick did.

She signed a public letter asking the most pro-abortion President we have ever seen, Pres. Obama, to work to expand abortion throughout the world.   HERE

The best defense is no offense
by Dr. Edward Peters
Athletes often quip that “the best defense is a good offense” meaning that, if one scores more points than does the other side, what does it matter how many points the other side scores? I’d like to offer a canonical variant on that: “the best defense is no offense” meaning that, if ecclesiastical authority fails to prosecute wrong-doers, what does it matter how guilty they are?

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a chronically controversial Loretto religious, has signed a public letter to President Obama expressly urging him (as if he needed urging) to fund abortion overseas. In her letter Gramick claims the mantle of ‘leader of a faith-based organization’, declares it “immoral” not to pay for overseas abortions, asserts that paying for abortions is a “moral imperative”, and signs the letter “In Faith.”

Canon 1369 of the Johanno-Pauline Code states: “A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty” (emp. added). Gramick’s open letter urging, as a moral imperative no less, the funding of deliberate pre-natal homicide, satisfies, in my opinion, the elements of this canonical crime and suffices to launch a criminal investigation of her under Canon 1717. As I have noted in many similar cases, Gramick has not, on these facts, violated Canon 1398 (on abortion) and the question of her (in)eligibility for holy Communion under Canon 915 is not a criminal matter. At the same time, though, besides her egregious letter to Obama, Gramick’s other public writings on Church doctrine and discipline can, and should, be examined in light of Canon 1369.

As a religious, Gramick is immediately answerable to her superiors, of course, but the diocesan bishop of her place of domicile or quasi-domicile (c. 102) has jurisdiction over her in regard to penal matters (c. 1408, and see c. 1412). The “just penalty” envisioned under Canon 1369 is intentionally flexible so as to enable its application under a variety of circumstances but, in my opinion, that penalty could not be excommunication; obstinance, however, in the face of earlier sanctions could be used to increase subsequent penalties (cc. 1326 § 1, 1°, and 1393).

Of course, if Gramick is not called to account for her pro-abortion, etc., writings, what matters how canonically guilty she might be for them? Who needs a good defense when confronted by no offense?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JustaSinner says:

    Why are these wymyn Catholic and nuns? They obviously have little belief in Christ’s church, so why go through the pantamime? Then again the evil one has minions and it is always whispering in the ears of the weak willed…

  2. HeatherPA says:

    Thank you, Dr. Peters.
    To me, it is becoming as frustrating to observe the non-action of Church superiors in regards to these matters (nuns clearly not catholic, Catholic colleges clearly not catholic, Pelosi, Cuomo, et al) as it is observing the disastrous effects of Pres. Obama and his merry band of unchecked progressives on the country. Does money really drive it all as has been suggested? Are they so afraid to stand behind the hard teachings because of the worry of deceased money in the offering? Like Notre Dame. How much of a courageous witness it would have been to see them close it down other than to bend to Obama’s mandate. Indeed, when Christ returns, will he find any faithful left?

  3. HeatherPA says:

    *decreased* not deceased (though it is a funny autocorrect entry)

  4. Andrew D says:

    It’s one thing for a catholic (lowercase c intended) nun to ignore the right-to-life but to come out and sign a letter, calling for the U.S. to do more to provide the killing of babies is infuriating. Ex-communicate this witch now!

  5. aviva meriam says:

    Why do we have the sanctions process within Cannon Law if our Bishops refuse to use them?

    How does a member of the laity understand the importance of cannon law if its not enforced?

  6. C N says:

    I’ve been trying to figure out for a long time why these women would choose the religious life. I was told once that they probably think it’s the closest they think they’re going to get to the priesthood etc. Hence the fake women’s ordinations.

    What is a greater tragedy to me is that at one point, someone else was responsible for allowing women like her to join the religious life in the first place.

  7. hilltop says:

    Agreed. So, Who is this woman’s Bishop?

  8. mrshopey says:

    Why is it ok to execute a child conceived by a crime (rape/incest)? What crime did they commit to be condemned to death?
    Why is it ok to execute a child whose mother’s life is in danger instead of helping the mother (medically)? And if the child is born pre-mature, wouldn’t that be better as they could be baptized where, in abortion, those pieces are discarded?
    I don’t understand her reasoning. The true victim here is given the death sentence.
    I won’t allow myself to become emotionally upset by her signing this. This is such an egregious error that a young child could tell her why she is so wrong.
    I want to hope they will take advantage of the canons to help her see her error. But, I am acutely aware of how we got in this situation now (Who needs a good defense when confronted by no offense?)

  9. Mojoron says:

    My 75 y/o sister left the Loretto’s back in the 60’s when she figured it out that they were up to no good. She doesn’t talk about it much, but I know she is bitter. It’s very odd that the Mother House is not too far from Gesthenami where the good monks of the Cistercian order and that sometime rascal Thomas Merton is buried. Once she said Thomas came over and gave a talk to the novices and she enjoyed it.

  10. Northern Ox says:

    Hilltop askes the right question. The problem is, some of these individuals and groups have such a long list of interconnections and addresses that it can be difficult to figure out the answer.

  11. ARKloster says:

    And let me throw some secular legal philosophy in there as well. To the extent a norm is not enforced, it is not a norm. If scandal is not punished, it is evidence that prohibiting scandal is not a part of the law of the Church.

    In other words, non-prosecution itself is an act of scandal.

  12. Bosco says:

    So what is there to prevent a Catholic layman or cleric from initiating a canonical complaint petitioning that this nun be sanctioned? I may be wrong, but I understood any aggrieved member of the faithful (hopefully those with savvy and competence) can draw a (metaphorical) ‘bead’ on this nun’s outrageous offense.

    Maybe Dr. Peters himself could begin?

  13. Nancy D. says:

    The question is, why no consequences for that which is anti Christ? At this point in time, I cannot help but wonder if a powerful lobby has existed within the Vatican for sometime now, making it appear as if Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were in charge, when in fact, they were being manipulated by this powerful lobby. Now that I see our newly elected pope has free reign, and all the chaos and confusion that is being allowed to be sown, I no longer consider myself a conspiracy “theorist” but rather someone who, no doubt, recognizes something is not quite right in The Vatican; the evidence speaks for itself.

  14. midwestmom says:

    “Because of unrelenting Vatican pressure on Sr. Jeannine’s religious order to clamp down on her activities, Gramick transferred to another community of nuns, the Sisters of Loretto. This community supports her ministry of advocacy and education on behalf of LGBT people, a ministry that continues to this day.”

  15. midwestmom says:

    Big, tough Sr. Jeannine is hiding the fact that she is still fully functioning at New Ways Ministry. So much for thumbing her nose at the Vatican!

    If you peruse the NWM website’s “About Us” tabs, Gramick is spoken of in the past tense. (Her email address is shown here, too.)
    However, there is a youtube video posted on May 9 by New Ways Ministry in which Sr. Jeannine is speaking on their behalf.

    Here, she borrowed some other nun’s habit to lend credibility
    to herself:

  16. robtbrown says:

    hilltop says:
    Agreed. So, Who is this woman’s Bishop?

    She’s a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who are under their Generalate in Rome, which in turn is under the Congregation for Religious.

    She and Fr Robert Nugent did a lot of damage to the Church with their New Ways Ministry, which was founded in 1977. For years the Vatican did next to nothing to stop New Ways, presumably because it was too busy persecuting those who wanted Latin liturgy.

  17. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Nancy D — If you really think all this kind of behavior is new, I direct you to Pope St. Gregory the Great’s Book of Pastoral Rule (aka Pastoral Care, for those of us in English lit class reading about King Alfred’s translation). He warns again and again that being too nice can create chaos, just like being a rigid jerk can. Similarly, St. Beatus of Liebana spends a lot of time warning about this. Heck, the Book of Proverbs spends a lot of time warning about this!

    If you’re a kindly person, and you don’t like to rock the boat and be the big meanie, it’s a temptation. And if you’re a bishop or a prince of the Church, nobody is allowed to second-guess your judgment except the Pope, and he is going to be reluctant to trespass your rights in the matter. It doesn’t need a conspiracy and it never has, which is why it shows up again and again. It just needs unwillingness to be the meanie.

    I will add that this is why many many communities and walks of life have a designated meanie (like having the vice principal handle all disciplining and punishment). Somebody has to be the meanie.

  18. norancor says:

    Vana Est Illa Potentia Quae Nunquam Venit In Actum

  19. norancor says:

    Acta Non Verba

  20. Priam1184 says:

    This woman has openly and publicly and unabashedly advocated the murder of children in their mother’s wombs and openly and publicly and repeatedly urged others to follow this course. She knows the Teaching of the Church and openly and publicly defies it. She does not wish to be a Catholic. The most merciful course of action both for her and for the Church would be an equally public excommunication.

    But I won’t hold my breath on that.

  21. Cathy says:

    It is, as if, these orders are bent on suicide in their refusal to listen when Christ through His Church says “no”. The refusal to surrender and say “yes” when the Church says “no” is such a waste of time and possibility. Instead of focusing their attention on Christ, they are consumed with outright dissent and search for the theological “maybe” from the evil one. I hate to sound mean, I don’t know why they perceive the title of deacon as more powerful than the title of sister. Our deacons are generally good men, but my 76 year old mother has no memory of deacons, simply faithful sisters, in habits, …….who loved and taught the Catholic faith.
    As regards Sr. Jeannine Gramick, in accordance to censure previously administered to her, as midwest mom pointed out, her activity shows her not to be compliant.
    Sometimes I wonder if the focus on LCWR will actually lead to focus on the individual orders of religious associated with them. It seems to me, that, perhaps the spotlight needs to go in that direction. LCWR seems to be simply a big blanket. Perhaps it is time to simply pull that blanket off and hold individual orders accountable.

  22. Imrahil says:

    Dr Peters asks the right question.

    Of course people are responsible for their own attitude, to adhere to the Church, etc. May God have mercy on them. But that’s somewhat in the internal forum, isn’t it?

    For the external forum, the area where the sisters could be called to be ashamed or “don’t you think you should have Catholic opinions as a Catholic” could be asked, there is something else at play here – which, in a sense, makes it off the mark to lament at them directly.

    By the logic of human behavior, if I threaten people with a penalty to refrain from a behavior, and then ignore the behavior when it does occur, people will indulge in it. (Think about a school class for a moment, or a group of children playing with each other under supervision of adults, etc.!)

    Hence the thing we must lament is here.

    For the sake of brevity, and saying in advance that I don’t mean superiors should actually be ashamed or that the people in question would not be responsible, let me put it this way:

    Hidden or not criminal – shame on me.
    Public and not prosecuted – shame on you.

    [Note: the job of the Church penalty system is to defend the Church, not to make offenders’ lives uncomfortable. It may well be that they would relish in seeing action taken against them, selling more books etc., but then so it must be. They are still men, persons, with human dignity and all: they deserve to be taken seriously.]

  23. maryclare says:

    It was attitudes like Sr Jeannine’s that led me into a very dark place…. and she continues to try and lead others in her perverse and heretical views. How can she call herself Catholic let alone a religious sister when she no longer follows the doctrines of the Church, or her avowed obedience to God. The ‘church of nice’ which does not tell folks in true charity that they are in error, is a fake and heretical message and is not the true Gospel at all.
    If her order or Local Bishop will not deal with her – she will not escape the judgement of God and she needs to know that. We should in all charity pray for her immortal soul which is in mortal and immanent danger.
    More evidence of the foretold apostasy I fear….

  24. RJHighland says:

    The Vatican brings the hammer down on the Society of St. Pius X and the Friars of the Immaculata with excommunications and inprisonment and we will probably hear crickets about this. We must show love and charity to these wayward sisters who truly are seeking God’s guidance in their vocation. Gently with a loving hand be an example of charity and let them continue on their way and pray for them to turn back to the Church. Yeah I get it. These sisters have been allowed to continue in their heresy for over 40 years with-out so much as a slap on the wrist. If they had any fear of God or the Church she would have never written a letter like this to Obama. It would be nice for the Vatican to make an example of her and her order like they did the friars and the society but I’m not holding my breath.

  25. LeeF says:

    There is no way to censure Sr. Gramick that does not play into the hands of the Fishwrap crowd who will portray a man as picking on a poor ‘lil ‘ol nun. And how necessary is it anyway, as in whom does she really influence away from the teaching of the Magisterium who is not already a virtual heretic? She is preaching to a very small choir, although it is irritating to give cover to dissenting CINOs and politicians who can say the Church is not unified on such matters.

    But the real response that is called for by her responsible ordinary is to publicly and loudly repudiate her actions as inconsistent with living a true Catholic life. While canon law seems to afford gutless bishops the cover of secrecy re penal matters re individuals, her willingly bringing her dissent into the external forum demands a response there.

    But we do actually have a good if frustratingly slow offense which Father Z frequently mentions, i.e. the biological solution. In another couple decades there won’t be many Catholics left with warm and fuzzy memories of sisters who taught them or nursed them, except by those in faithful orders whose numbers relative to the LCWR is growing yearly (from 10% of the total to 20%+ in a dozen years).

    Sister G is just another semi-demented geezer in a rocking chair who isn’t taken seriously by very many people. And she is another reminder why we should not donate to the annual religious retirement collection at the parish level, preferring instead to target our donations to faithful orders.

  26. Bosco says:

    This nun may be approaching the inevitable decline we all face, and perhaps not taken seriously by very many people, but such people are the type of ‘useful idiots’ who are fawned-over by devious politicians who parade them endlessly in front of the media as proof of’ Catholic’ support for their pro-abortion and pro-homosexual agendas.
    An elephant may be ancient, but it remains capable of inflicting irreparable damage.

  27. Dutchman says:

    With friends like her, who needs The Enemy?

  28. incredulous says:

    Yet SSPX is ostracized as being schismatic and the Franciscans are punished to no end… The seething duplicity and illogic boggles the mind.

  29. Sonshine135 says:

    Vatican Complaint Line: 1-800-TEL-PAPA

    Hello, Welcome to the Vatican Complaint Line. To complain about Traditionalists or those who said something that wasn’t nice about Vatican II, press 1 and your call will be answered immediately. All other callers, please stay on the phone and your call will be answered in the order it was received.

    “Hallelujah Chorus Begins Playing”

    Thank you for waiting… your call will be answered in the order it was received…..your wait time is projected to be 16.7 years. There are 5,000,000 callers ahead of you.

    “rolls eyes, quietly hangs up phone, says a Pater and an Ave, weeps bitterly”

  30. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    Nothing will happen to her.

    The Pope does not care. He does not care that Nancy Pelosi marches up for Communion. He does not care that bishops (Wuerl, Dolan, O’Malley, Chaput, and countless others) insist on giving pro-aborts Communion, and have made statement after dishonest statement on the matter.

    When Germany was in the throes of Nazism, Pius XI smuggled in Mit Brennender Sorge. With Europe and the U.S. in the throes of a final takeover by the eugenicist/abortionist/neo-Communist movement, we get baby talk.

  31. gormanw says:

    I wonder if there is anybody in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC willing to file a canonical compliant with Cardinal Weurl?

  32. Kathleen10 says:

    It is simply astounding that a nun, a priest, or a university, can promote evil and it is not addressed by some part of the hierarchy of the church. This is a great scandal. To see matters ignored over time forces one to draw ugly conclusions. Notre Dame for example, or this person. Silence equals consent. It is only a reasonable conclusion, but what a painful and confusing one.

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  34. Joe in Canada says:

    The Lorettos are clearly not going to do anything. Sister Ann Patrick Ware who died last year is everything but praised for having supported abortion:

  35. Joe in Canada says:

    I mean, you read this, and how are they even Catholic?

  36. RANCHER says:

    Why is she even referred to as Sister? She abandoned the Church long ago and is not deserving of the title

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