Uncommon Jesuit

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 7, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

These priests in their collars caused quite a stir at this Gay Pride Day parade in the early ’80s. I knew all of them from Dignity/NY. Fr. John McNeill is second on the right. He wasn’t active in Dignity when I was a member, but he had founded the organization and the chapter.

John McNeill was silenced by the Vatican and expelled by the Jesuits for his work for gays in the Church. He had written extensively on gay spirituality including the landmark book, “The Church and the Homosexual.” He is now in his 80s and lives in Florida with his longtime lover.

As part of a celebration marking its 25th anniversary, Dignity/NY invited back several former leaders to reminisce and comment on chapter history, and lend a “Quo Vadis” feel to the evening. John McNeill and I were both part of that panel discussion.

I was on the board of Dignity during a tumultuous time. Feminist issues, including lesbian visibility, inclusive language and women on the altar, met a lot of resistance by many Dignity members, especially former seminarians that were very happy with the church just as it was except for its position on homosexual sex. Most were very happy having a gay Mass in St. Francis Xavier Church once a week and didn’t want to rock the boat or change much outside of that. It was also a time when AIDS first reared its head. I remember seconding the motion to donate money to a newly formed organization: the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

While I had tremendous respect for McNeill as a very brave man and visionary, I did take him to task over the almost nonexistent presence of women in “The Church and the Homosexual.” The book was exclusively focused on the gay male experience and barely mentioned Catholic lesbians.

McNeill responded that he felt he couldn’t write about the lesbian experience since he wasn’t familiar with it. I understood his point as a writer, but as a theologian and pastor I wish he would have stretched beyond his own experience to encompass more of the Church.

Brendan Fay of http://stpatsforall.com is raising money to complete “Uncommon Jesuit,” a documentary about John McNeill. To send a donation or learn more about the film, contact him at Brendan@stpatsforall.com.

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