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LGBT rights pioneer John J. McNeill has died

LGBT rights pioneer John J. McNeill has died

From the Miami Herald

The Rev. John J. McNeill, a Jesuit priest who co-founded Dignity, a group for gay and lesbian Catholics, died Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, three weeks after his 90th birthday.

Posted by Sunshine Cathedral of Fort Lauderdale to McNeill’s Facebook page:

“It is with great sadness that Sunshine Cathedral announces the departure of John J. McNeill from this experience of life to the next. Father John made his transition last night. A Jesuit, a scholar, an activist, a prophet who proclaimed God’s unconditional love for LBGT people, Rev Dr John McNeill touched countless lives and inspired many ministries. He was a blessing to this world for 90 years and he will be missed. We extend love to his faithful spouse Charlie and to all who counted Father John a friend or mentor. A courageous and indefatigable laborer in God’s vineyard, Father John challenged Catholic hierarchy and cultural homophobia while affirming the goodness of human bodies, relationships, and sexuality. He was a hero and his memory will bless all who hold it.”

From the website of Dignity, a little about Fr McNeill’s history;

In 1987, McNeill was expelled from the Jesuits after nearly four decades for refusing to be silenced by the Vatican on LGBT issues.  The same year, he was Grand Marshal of New York City’s LGBT Pride March.  Until recent yearshe pursued a multi-faceted vocationas a psychotherapist, spiritual director, retreat leader, and author, with a constant focus on the needs of the LGBT community.  In addition, along with Fr. Mychal Judge, he founded The Upper Room AIDS Ministry, an outreach for homeless persons with AIDS in Harlem. Through these activities, he offered hope and healing—at times literally life-saving—to countless people around the globe.

Born and raised in Buffalo, McNeill entered the U.S. Army in 1942 and became a prisoner of war in Nazi Germanyan experience that for him was profoundly spiritual and led him to enter the Jesuits in 1948.  Ordained in 1959, he taught philosophy and theology at Fordham University, Union Theological Seminary, and Le Moyne College, where he was a noted peace advocate during the Vietnam War.

A powerful presence at nearly every Dignity convention and in many Dignity communities until recent years, McNeill was presented with DignityUSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.  In 2011, he traveled to Rome, where, along with European LGBT leaders, hedelivered a letter to then-Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.  The letter asked for dialogue and urged Church leadership to speak out against the violence, injustice, and discrimination experienced by LGBT people around the world.


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Pam Darling

John McNeil was a spellbinding speaker who brought healing and hope to many many people. He made huge sacrifices for his ministry with LGBT folks, including being expelled from the Jesuits who had been his home for decades. He said he had always supposed he would be buried in the Jesuit cemetery on the Hudson River, and it was difficult to let go of that image. Thanks be to God for this brave man.

Kurt Hill

May he rest in peace with the saints in light. Blessed John McNeill, pray for us that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Rev Dr. Ellen M Barrett

A wonderful teacher and priest, with a great heart. It was a delight and a privilege to know him slightly. In Paradisum deducant te angeli…and may he rest in peace and rise with Christ in glory!

JC Fisher

Memory eternal. Father John, rest in peace until you rise in glory! (and pray for us)

Elizabeth Holtzman

God bless GLBT people! Thank God for McNeill.

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