Pictured John McNeill. Photo by Amy Wooten
Although disappointed by latest reports coming out of the Vatican about the expected document banning gay priests from being ordained, theologian and author John McNeill urged LGBT Catholics to keep hope recently during a lecture sponsored by Dignity/Chicago.
McNeill, who is also a psychotherapist and a former Jesuit priest, spoke about how LGBT people should deal with the homophobic Church hierarchy. After hearing the news about the expected ban, McNeill told the audience he experienced sadness and rage. Not only, he said, is it a 'fatal blow' to the Church, but the Vatican is scapegoating a whole category of people to establish its lost prestige due to sexual abuse scandals. 'There is a painful awareness of holy men who will feel betrayed and abandoned by the Church,' he said.
LGBT people should respond by realizing that the Vatican's actions have 'nothing to do with God or the teaching of Jesus Christ,' McNeill said. Instead, he continued, purging gays from the priesthood is simply a political move to scapegoat gays, despite all the advice the Vatican has received from psychologists and others that gayness is not a cause of sexual abuse. In addition, homophobic documents coming out of the Vatican attempt to invoke self-hatred, self-destructiveness, and a fear of God among LGBT people.
'Do not waste one ounce of energy on the negative attachment to anger with the Church,' McNeill said. 'Commit every ounce of energy to the positive ministry of love.'
Because of priest shortages, if homosexuals are banned from being ordained, there will be a 'total collapse' of the priesthood, McNeill predicted. He encouraged LGBT Catholics to maintain hope because the result will eventually be to introduce something new. 'The Church will become a totally Democratic Church,' he said. 'There will be total equality. No exclusion of women and gays, or anyone, for that matter.'
On Saturday, Oct. 1, McNeill accepted the Tom Dooley Award from The Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College at Hydrate. He was honored for his 25 years of service to the LGBT community. In 1974, he helped found Dignity/New York. Today, he remains an active member of DignityUSA, an advocacy organization for LGBT Catholics.
After publishing his book, The Church and the Homosexual, in 1976, the Vatican ordered him silenced in the public media. For nine years, McNeill remained silent but maintained a private ministry to lesbians and gays. In 1988, he was ordered by Cardinal Ratzinger to stop his practice, but refused. He was expelled from the Vatican. Since then, McNeill continues to dedicate his life to writing and speaking about LGBT spirituality and equality.