By Michelle Parker
Sister Jeannine Gramick of the School Sisters of Notre Dame has a new twist to offer her fellow dissenters and loyal followers among Call to Action, Dignity and Future Church. It is a new theology called "Jesus Consciousness." She revealed her new theology at an evening lecture entitled "Silencing in the Catholic Church: Necessary or Counter Productive?" at the Unitarian Church in Albuquerque, NM on May 18th. Among the groups sponsoring Gramick's lecture were Call to Action NM, Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation (a Ministry of Holy Rosary Parish in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe), and a local group of Franciscans. Promotion of her appearance was also touted by the local Dignity NM group which meets at the Dominican Friary Chapel and the Aquinas Newman Center (a Parish in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe) at the University of New Mexico.
She defined "Jesus Consciousness" as being the new view Jesus came into the world to give us. It was meant to correct the existence of the "Royal Consciousness" held before Jesus' coming in which she states, "÷authority was conceived of as divinely ordained and was the dominant culture of the Israelite Kings." According to Gramick, with "Jesus Consciousness" authority was meant to be humanly guided and that truth is not static or fixed. Each person's own consciousness plays a part in bringing out some aspect of the truth and truth is constantly revealed, changing, and ongoing. The whole of truth is only revealed in the next life NOT in the present.
Gramick detailed that with "Jesus Consciousness" we have the assurance of the "spirit" that the "Truth" will come through. We are assured that errors will be rooted out and ultimately corrected. This correction will occur through public discourse and the free exchange of ideas. A sort of establishment of doctrine by consensus if you will.
Gramick uses her new theology of "Jesus Consciousness" to justify her position that the Vatican's decree for her to cease ministering to homosexual persons was unjust and counterproductive to the revelation of truth regarding homosexuals and homosexuality. Gramick cleverly never stated what her personal discernment of truth is with regard to homosexuals or homosexuality nor did she ever state what the Church's official teaching is. She only offered that in the theology of "Jesus Consciousness", all dissenting and questioning views are welcome. "It is healthy for the community and prevents dysfunction. In this way we all have an obligation to contribute to what our understanding of the truth is," she emphasized.
She further explained that with this new theology, there is no need for a caste system within the church. We have no need for priests, religious, or the Episcopacy. There should only be the people and the free exchange of ideas. The message is LOVE and not certitude (absolutes). This, according to Gramick, is the real objective of the human person. She states that, "Certitude may only come after death. There is only one absolute, and that is GOD!"
In such a theology, society can tolerate diverse views and they are not feared. No one is afraid of public statements of doubt or questioning of authority. The spirit speaks through many voices and the testing of time will weed out the falseness of a certain idea. "It takes a long time for truth to be known," assures Gramick. Silencing is therefore counterproductive. This new theology does not silence minority views. "Persuasion of argument," insisted Gramick, "and the witness of ones life are the authentic safeguards of truth."
Gramick's premise, although not clearly defined , is that all of this was the real purpose of Jesus' ministry founded through the apostles. But, sometime in the early Church, it became wedded to the state and once again "Royal Consciousness" was locked in. This evidently led to the current erroneous Church Hierarchy (Episcopacy, Priests and Religious), and includes the Magisterium and Roman Curia. To follow Gramick's arguments to their logical conclusion, since the early church erred in its reestablishment of "Royal Consciousness", there was absolutely no authority for the suppression of her ministry to homosexuals or her views about homosexuality. She gave no mention of her vow of obedience and its relation to the situation.
She stated that, "÷the investigative processes used by the Vatican are shrouded in silence and secrecy." She considers herself to be among the good company of other unjustly silenced theologians including Matthew Fox, Hans Kung, and others. In Gramick's construct of her new theology each of these persons including herself should be allowed to teach, debate, and promulgate their interpretations of truth.
Gramick takes her arguments to a new level when she states quite emphatically that, "÷Vatican II was meant to bring the Church from the "Royal Consciousness" back to "Jesus Consciousness"". She even goes further to imply that Pope John XXIII meant this when he declared his desire to pursue "aggiornamento" or to "bring the church up to date". She seems to be implying that Vatican II's proclamation of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit meant that new truth would be constantly revealed through the people.
To support her argument about Vatican II she identifies three key resources which she refers to as the "Aggiornamento Documents". They are:
It is interesting to note here that Sister Gramick only referred to the Synod of Bishop's document as being titled "Justice in the World". By not referring to the documents full title, Gramick mislead her audience and did not reveal the document's affirmation of the establishment of the ministerial priesthood and its role in the Catholic Church.
Sister Gramick attempted to portray all three documents as being about Social Justice within the Church, treatment of dissenters within the Church, and the right of dissent within the Church. At length she emphasized such terminology as "dignity of the human person", "one's own consciousness", "the common good", "freedom of speech", "diversity of opinion", and "human reason".
Once again she deliberately misled her audience by misinterpreting these documents. Pacem In Terris was the major Papal Encyclical of John XXIII in which he set forth the requirements for world peace in profoundly human terms. It was quite simply a social philosophy for peace among men and between nations. It most certainly did not allow for public dissent regarding legitimate Church teaching by any member, religious or laity, without consequence.
In referring to the Vatican II document, Dignitatis Humanae (Declaration of Religious Freedom), Gramick stated that ,",,,in all matters religious, every manner of coercion should be excluded". Without fully verbalizing her opinion on the matter of her own silencing by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, she implied that she had been coerced and that she had suffered a violation of her human dignity at the hands of the Catholic Church. The misrepresentation of Dignitatis Humanae was in failing to fully disclosed that the document deals with religious freedom of the individual and communities within governments. It does not deal with religious pluralism or pluralism of doctrine within the Holy Catholic Church Herself.
She supports her use of the Synod of Bishop's document which she refers to only as "Justice in the World", as being a mandate stemming from the Gospels for the Church to bring liberation and justice to the World. In reality, the document was much more than that. It addressed various difficulties experienced by priests in the ministry in addition to the need of relating the Gospel to existing worldwide and local circumstances. Gramick, however, made it the foundation upon which she declared to her audience that, "We must first practice justice within our own church!" This drew a resounding round of applause from the audience who clearly supported and absorbed the dissenting Sister's message.
"Silencing," she proclaimed, "is self righteous certitude!"
In closing her argument she offered that the documents she had just discussed were all from, "÷a high level of teaching authority". She expounded that they gave us all the right to dissent within the Church and that they exceeded any authority of any Roman hierarchy including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (I pondered how the documents would have ever come to be had it not been for the existing Roman Hierarchy. It seemed that such a detail was of little consequence to Sister Gramick.) "Silencing is embarrassing to the Church and unworthy of the followers of Jesus", she stated. She further stated that through silencing, "÷we run the risk of perpetuating error," offering slavery as an example. Of course she misrepresented the example of slavery, because it is clear that the1435 Papal Bull of Pope Eugene IV condemned the enslavement of black natives of the newly colonized Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. This was a full 60 years before the European discovery of the New World. The same concern was later voiced regarding the Indians of the New World in Paul III's 1537 Pontifical Decree "Sublimis Deue" (The Sublime God). A favorite tactic of those seeking to discredit the Church and its' teachings is to imply ambiguity of the treatment of slavery.
Sister Gramick turned to her own situation and said, "Church authorities can attempt to silence, but one does not have to cooperate with the silencing. I cannot collaborate in my own silencing. At least not passively." She went on to say that she is actively trying to change the decision but did not offer how she was doing that. Obviously, her lecture circuit tour is meant to foster support among her followers. She also said that another way she was dealing with her silencing was to ignore the decree.
A brief question and answer session was held at the conclusion of Sister Gramick's lecture. Most of the questions came from self identified lesbian's who expressed support and sympathy for her situation. One such supporter told Sister Gramick that she considered herself a "cafeteria catholic" and ask if that was OK or not. Gramick's reply, "We ALL have to be cafeteria Catholics. If we did not disagree and choose we would not have change in the church. And, only a dead body does not change. Cafeteria Catholics are very spiritual."
Some in the audience from a local orthodox catholic group known as Los Pequenos de Cristo tried to respectfully challenge Sister Gramick on some of her ideology. But, Gramick cleverly did not engage them. She only smiled and nodded going on to the next question.
There was no opening or closing prayer to Sister Gramick's talk and the gathering was devoid of any real expression of devotion to Christ and his Church by the 100+ people present. In that regard, a Unitarian Church was a fitting venue for the lecture. The "worship space" included painted figures of a Cross, Star of David, Yin-Yang symbol and other eastern religious symbols.
Sister Jeannine Gramick continues to spread error (heresy) and division within the Church. It is characteristic of the attack from inside the Church She is currently suffering. This attack is a deliberate and destructive process by the dissenting groups and their leaders. An attack like this has not been seen since the Protestant revolt of 400 years ago. When will the dissidents in the Church stop trying to prove their equality with God through exercise of their own reason and malformed consciousness and just accept the beauty of obedience to Him and His Church? When will our Bishops exercise their power of excommunication regarding the dissidents for the common good of the Body of Christ?