We celebrate the life and courage of John McNeill, who passed away in Fort Lauderdale this week.
Jesuit priest John McNeill was the first Catholic theologian to go all the way on LGBT rights. Unlike his contemporaries, he didn’t seek a middle-ground compromise, arguing that homosexuality was a “lesser evil” that could be accepted in some circumstances. His theology defended LGBT rights in a new and complete way.
McNeill, who was a priest, theologian and psychotherapist, was best known for his landmark 1976 book, The Church and the Homosexual, which cast Catholic teaching on homosexuality in a completely new light. McNeill was also responsible for the creation of Dignity, the leading LGBT Catholic organization in the United States.
At the instigation of the Vatican, McNeill was expelled from the Jesuits in 1987 because he refused to be silent about LGBT rights.
McNeill is survived by his spouse and partner of 49 years, Charles Chiarelli.
Today before Congress, the Jesuit Pope Francis expressed his
concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.
McNeill first explained to American Catholics how and why LGBT Catholics should share in the richness and beauty of family life as well as in the life of the church.
We wish the pope would hear his message.
Picture courtesy of New Ways Ministry