Saturday, September 26, 2015

Just in case you missed it: Fr. John McNeill, Priest, Father of gay-Catholic movement, dead at age 90.

Rev. John McNeill, second from right, in New York’s gay pride march in the 1980s. 
He wrote “The Church and the Homosexual.” CreditCharles Chiarelli

From the New York Times, September 25, 2015
The Rev. John McNeill, an openly gay Roman Catholic priest who, from the 1970s onward, publicly pressed the church to welcome gay men and lesbians — and who was expelled from his order as a result — died on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 90.
His death was announced by DignityUSA, an organization that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics. Father McNeill had helped found its New York chapter in 1972.
A Jesuit who was ordained in 1959, Father McNeill was known in the decades that followed as an author, activist and psychotherapist specializing in the needs of gay clients. He first came to wide, explosive attention in 1976 with the publication of his book “The Church and the Homosexual.”
That book was the first extended nonjudgmental work about gay Catholics, a subject that had long been taboo in official church discourse. It has been credited with helping to set in motion the re-evaluation of the religious stance toward gay people — not only among Catholics but also among those of other faiths — that continues today.
“John McNeill is one of the most important voices in the history of the L.G.B.T. civil rights movement,” Brendan Fay, the director of “Taking a Chance on God,” a 2011 documentary film about Father McNeill, said in a telephone interview on Friday. “ ‘The Church and the Homosexual’ became the primary text that is still considered the key in transforming the conversation on religion and homosexuality.” - NYT

As I told the friend who sent me the link, With his background, he could have been a saint. I recall reading his book shortly after it came out - there was so much I learned about the gay movement within Catholic circles, and so much I disagreed with in his writings and what was considered pastoral care. Yet his writing reflected what was already at that time, the pervasive thinking among progressive clergy - I heard 'accept yourself' all the time in confession - or 'that's not a mortal sin' - or 'see Christ in the limbs of your lover' and so on. Sad indeed.

It's interesting how he is considered a pioneer among many gay-Catholics and queer-theologians.  I never held onto his books but do vaguely recall one line about how all of those who accept and support gays are themselves gay just because they embrace equality.  I have no access to the quote now - so I may have it wrong.  His second book title strikes me as apt - Taking a Chance on God.

That's pretty much what you do when you reject Catholic teaching and teach that homosexual acts are not sinful.

Fr. McNeill is survived by his husband Charlie Chiarelli.  They were together 46 years.

Prayers for the repose of his soul.

May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.


Lord, holy Father,

you revealed to us the way, the truth, and the life
in your beloved Son.
Grant that by faithfully following his example and teaching,
and through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
we may be led in safety to you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

H/T P for NYT's obituary.

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