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Priest Preaches Tolerance

A Roman Catholic priest and a nun from Baltimore who tried to soften the struggle between homosexuals and the Catholic Church through their Â"New Ways Ministry,Â" have been ordered by the Vatican to stop preaching to gays and lesbians.

Neither has been willing to speak about the case up to this point. But Father Robert Nugent now feels he should expand his message of tolerance to others.

Father Nugent, who spoke with CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Thalia Assuras, has not been excommunicated. He is still a priest in good standing and still able to work as long as he accepts the VaticanÂ's ruling, which he says he has.

Â"They said I was no longer able to involve myself in public projects such as retreats, workshops, seminars for gay and lesbian Catholics and their parents,Â" he said.

Does this mean Nugent is going against his own principles?

Â"Well, IÂ'm a priest in the Catholic Church,Â" he says. Â"IÂ've been a priest for over 25 years. IÂ've enjoyed the ministry. IÂ'm also a member of a religious community of obedience, which I take seriously, although this is the first time IÂ've been asked to answer under that vow of obedience.Â"

Church authorities told him he was not emphasizing strongly or clearly enough two points of church teaching.

"The Church rejects homosexual acts and uses the word Â'disorderÂ' to talk of the homosexual inclination,Â" says Nugent. Â"I had difficulty using those words because I felt they were contributing to the alienation of gay and lesbian Catholics.Â"

Instead, he said, Â"I was emphasizing the Catholic Church teaching against violence and discrimination, or the need for the Church to reach out to gay and lesbian people and the human dignity that everybody has.Â"

The Catholic Church also uses the word Â"evilÂ" to describe homosexuality activity.

Â"That is a technical term,Â" said Nugent, Â"as is disorder, which people do not understand. And they hear it applied to themselves and think the Church is talking about them as being evil. That is not a good way to build bridges and reconcile people into the Church by using that kind of language.Â"

What does Nugent think will happen in terms of the relationship between the gay community and the Catholic Church?

Â"This decision has brought a lot of anger and frustration, and IÂ'm sure some people will walk away from the church,Â" he says. Â"On the other hand, it has called people to recommit themselves to ministry, parishioners throughout the country are welcoming people.Â"

Does he expect the Catholic Church to become more tolerant of homosexuality and change?

Â"I think tolerance is not the best word, but acceptanceÂ" says Nugent. Â"I think the Church in this country has undergone a tremendous change in understanding the experience of gay and lesbian people in trying to welcome them and dialogue with them. I think that will continue.Â"

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