John J. McNeill was a pioneering gay priest, psychotherapist, author, theologian and Jesuit scholar who inspired numerous LGBTQ persons of faith and their allies. He died a single year ago currently on Sept. 22, 2015 in a hospice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his companion of 49 years, Charles Chiarelli, at his bedside. He was 90.
The National Catholic Reporter named him a “patron saint of LGBT Catholics” in the headline for his obituary.
McNeill started ministering to lesbian and gay Catholics in the 1970s, helped give birth to the LGBT Catholic organization Dignity in 1974, and wrote the groundbreaking 1976 book “The Church and the Homosexual.” He was silenced by the Vatican and expelled from the Jesuit order for coming out and advertising LBGT rights in church and society.
I 1st met McNeill in 1987, quickly soon after he ended his silence. He came to preach at Metropolitan Neighborhood Church of San Francisco, exactly where I was serving on the clergy employees. He filled the church with a significant and adoring crowd, and but when I had the likelihood to greet him personally he seemed grounded and prepared to concentrate his warmth on every single person interaction. I was impressed by his highly effective-but-gentle presence and the intellectual force behind his liberating theology.
McNeill became a colleague, inspiration and pal who supported practically all my book projects more than the subsequent 28 years. He spent hours on the telephone supplying me with background material for my coming-out guide “Hide and Speak,” and eagerly wrote endorsements for my other books.
He went on to create extra books on LGBT spirituality, like “Taking A Possibility on God,” “Sex as God Intended,” “Freedom, Glorious Freedom” and “Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair.”
Conflicts amongst McNeill and the Vatican spanned decades, like a 2011 trip to Rome exactly where he delivered a letter addressed to Pope Benedict XVI asking the church to condemn violence against LGBT persons.
So it appears like no coincidence that McNeill died on the identical day that Pope Francis arrived on his 1st take a look at to the United States. The timing of his death spared McNeill the discomfort of seeing the US media glorify the Pope though he slighted the suffering and requirements of LGBT persons. In one more sense, McNeill’s timely death passed the baton for the Pope to carry the holy work to bring appreciate and justice for all.
His life story is told in 2012 film “Taking A Possibility on God.” It was directed by Brendan Brendan Fay, who co-developed “Saint of 9/11” about Father Mychal Judge. A trailer is on line at YouTube.
McNeill is survived by Chiarelli and nephew Timothy J. McNeill. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Memorial gifts can be created to the John J. McNeill Legacy Fund, established by his loved ones to offer assistance for the preservation and dissemination of his writings, lectures, and teachings.
May well Father John McNeill join Christ and all the saints in heaven who offer a continual supply of inspiration and help for LGBTQ persons of faith. Rest in energy, Father John!
The Rev. John J. McNeill, Jesuit priest who became famed LGBT activist, dies at 90 (Miami Herald)
John McNeill, Priest Who Pushed Catholic Church to Welcome Gays, Dies at 90 (New York Occasions)
Each Feet Firmly Planted in Midair by Chris Glaser (Huff Post)
John J. McNeill Memorial web page on Facebook
For extra information, see earlier posts at Jesus in Like:
Gay priest McNeill shakes up Rome with new moves and new film
Update: Gay priest McNeill’s premiere succeeds in spite of rain in Rome at EuroPride
LGBT Christians to Pope: Quit homophobia! (plus photographs of EuroPride & John McNeill)
This post is element of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Classic and option saints, persons in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of specific interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons and our allies are covered.
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