A devoted advocate for gay and lesbian Catholics, Father Robert Nugent, SDS, has passed away. Nugent is known for co-founding New Ways Ministry, an organization that cares for gay and lesbian Catholics.
A blog on the New Ways website shared the news of his passing, which took place on January 1, 2014, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He had been suffering from brain cancer for three months.
Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, reflected on the impact of Father Nugent’s life:
When few priests would do more than whisper about homosexuality, Father Nugent was meeting with lesbian and gay people and encouraging them to claim their rightful place in the Catholic Church. During a time of intense homophobia in both church and society, he exhibited uncommon courage and foresight in welcoming and affirming the goodness of God’s lesbian and gay children.
Nugent's work was not always appreciated by the Vatican, which told him in 1999 to stop writing and speaking about homosexuality. He obeyed the request out of loyalty to his vow of obedience, and remained a priest in good standing.
The Rev. James Martin, S.J., editor-at-large at Catholic magazine America, commented:
I always admired Father Nugent's pioneering work with gay and lesbian Catholics; along with Sister Jeannine Gramick he helped many thousands of people feel more welcome in their church. But I admired just as much his fidelity to his vow of obedience. In a complicated time, Father Nugent navigated a course between justice and fidelity with enormous grace and trust in God. All Catholics--not just gays and lesbians --owe him a debt of gratitude. May he rest in peace.