Silencing Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent is an impotent act on the part of the Vatican [front page, July 14] because the discussion they have sparked on how to reach out pastorally to gay and lesbian people will continue.

For close to 30 years the two clergy members have represented the compassionate face of the church to gay and lesbian Catholics. Anyone familiar with their work and the good fruits it has produced knows that their presentations are rooted in church teachings. The difference with the Vatican seems to be one of emphasis: The Vatican sees pastoral ministry as highlighting the immorality of homosexual activity; while Sister Gramick and Father Nugent do not discount or deny this teaching, their approach has been to emphasize other teachings of the magisterium, namely that gay and lesbian people "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity." Their approach acknowledges that gay and lesbian people have needs and concerns other than sexual activity.

This approach of first seeking common ground has been ratified by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in its 1997 statement "Always Our Children" and in previous documents. Scores of diocesan and parish ministries to lesbians and gay men also have used this approach.

The Vatican's decision will certainly anger many people, but we hope that their anger will be turned into constructive and productive measures to reverse the Vatican's silencing and to continue responding to lesbian and gay Catholics.

FRANCIS DEBERNARDO

Executive Director

New Ways Ministry

Mt. Rainier