The Daily Agenda for Monday, July 14
July 14th, 2014
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
TODAY IN HISTORY:
► 15 YEARS AGO: Vatican Orders Priest and Nun To Halt Pro-Gay Ministry: 1999. New Ways Ministry, founded in 1977 by Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, was (and still is) “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities.” The ministry’s name was inspired by a 1976 pastoral letter by Bishop Francis J. Mugavero of Brooklyn which, while emphasizing “chastity is a virtue which liberates the human person,” nevertheless “pledge[d] our willingness to help you bear your burdens, to try to find new ways to communicate the truth of Christ because we believe it will make you free.”
Free from what, exactly, the letter didn’t say. (This was before the religious ex-gay movement was founded in 1976.) But Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent saw that the clearest path to freedom was to create wider acceptance for gay and lesbian Catholics within the Catholic Church. Sr. Gramick came by her advocacy for gay people a few years earlier while working on her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, where she befriended a gay man and began ministering to those who had left the Church because of its stance toward gay people. Fr. Nugent had been involved with pastoral ministry and counseling to gay Catholics since 1971. When Fr. Nugent and Sr. Gramick co-founded New Ways Ministry at Mt. Rainier, MD., it attracted almost immediate attention from the Church’s hierarchy. In 1984, Archbishop of Washington James Cardinal Hickey’s criticisms of New Way Ministry led the Vatican to order Fr. Nugent’s and Sr. Gramick’s resignation. They complied, but continued speaking and writing about gay and lesbian issues within the church.
On July 14, 1999, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published a “Notification regarding Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent“, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which is charged with enforcing adherence to Catholic doctrines. The CDF, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who would later become Pope Benedict XVI), “permanently prohibited” Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent “from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.”
Fr. Nugent responded with a lengthy statement describing his experience with Vatican officials during the previous two decades. That prompted a further order from the Vatican prohibiting him from speaking any further “about the Notification itself, about the ecclesiastical processes that led to it or about the issue of homosexuality.” Fr. Nugent then decided to return to parish-based ministry.
But Sr. Gramick refused to complying with the silencing. “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right [to speak]. To me this is a matter of conscience.” She then transferred from the School Sisters of Notre Dame to the Sisters of Loretto, where she has continued her work for social justice and outreach to LGBT people. In 2004, Sr. Gramick became the subject of a powerful documentary film, In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith, directed by Albert Maysles of Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter fame. New Ways Ministry continues its work of independent advocacy on for LGBT Catholics.
► Arthur Laurents: 1917-2011. The three-time Tony Award winning playwright, director and screenwriter started out by writing scripts for radio shows and training films for the U.S. Army during World War II. One photograph of GIs in the South Pacific jungle inspired him to write Home of the Brave about anti-Semitism in the military. The play opened on Broadway in 1945 and ran for sixty nine performances. (When the play was adapted for the 1949 film, the topic switched from anti-Semitic to anti-black bigotry.) That first run wasn’t a long one, but its controversial subject would come back to haunt him later when he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was placed on the infamous entertainment blacklist during the McCarthy red scare.
His tenure on the list was relatively brief, and by the mid-1950s, Laurents was in Broadway and Hollywood’s good graces again. Good thing, because he went on to write West Side Story and Gypsy, and the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Rope. He also wrote the scripts for the films The Way We Were and The Turning Point, and directed the 1983 stage production of La Cage Aux Folles. Laurents died in 2011 in New York of pneumonia at the age of 93. His partner of more than fifty years, Tom Hatcher, had preceded him in 2006. In honor of Laurents’s career, the lights on Broadway were dimmed at 8:00 p.m. the following night.
► Charles Pierce: 1926-1999. The self-styled “male actress” was very clear about what he was and what he was not. “You can call me an impersonator, an impressionist, a mimic, or a comic in a dress. But not a drag queen! A drag queen is someone who dresses up and goes to a ball! I’m an entertainer.” And what an entertainer he was. His impersonations included Bette Davis, Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Joan Collins and Carol Channing, who said “He did Carol Channing better than I did. He titled his 1990 show, “The Legendary Ladies of the Silver Screen: All Talking, All Singing, All Dancing… All Dead.”
Pierce began his male actress career after another drag performer, who impersonated Bette Davis and Tallulah Bankhead, rejected Pierce’s suggestions on how to improve his act. Pierce then decided he could do a better job. In some of the clubs in the early fifties, Pierce performed while wearing a tuxedo because of laws banning cross-dressing, but by the time he moved to San Francisco and was a regular performer at the Gilded Cage, he was performing in ever more elaborate costume. Eventually, he caught the attention of Hollywood producers and got guest roles in movies and television, including a guest stint on Designing Women where he impersonated Joan Collins and Bette Davis. He died in 1999, following a long battle with cancer.
► My Mom: 1940. Happy Birthday Mom!
► Jane Lynch: 1960. Nobody does bitter sarcasm like Jane Lynch. Since 2009, she has played the role of Sue Sylvester on Glee, where her Emmy-, People’s Choice- and Golden Globe-winning performance is the only rational reason why anyone would want to watch Glee (in my opinion at least). She has also appeared in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and had a recurring role in The L Word. In 2010, Lynch married clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Embry in Sunderland Massachusetts — you can see their video for Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project here — but the couple divorced in January 2014.
If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?