For more than 30 years, John J. McNeill, an ordained priest and psychotherapist, has been devoting his life to spreading the good news of God's love for lesbian and gay Christians. One year after the publication of The Church and the Homosexual (1976), McNeill received an order from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican ordering him to silence in the public media. He observed the silence for nine years while continuing a private ministry to gays and lesbians which included psychotherapy, workshops, lectures and retreats. In 1988, he received a further order from Cardinal Ratzinger directing him to give up all ministry to gay persons which he refused to do in conscience. As a result, he was expelled by the Vatican from the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) for challenging the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of homosexuality, and for refusing to give up his ministry and psychotherapy practice to gay men and lesbians. McNeill had been a Jesuit for nearly 40 years.
John McNeill was born September 2, 1925, in Buffalo, New York. After enlisting in the U.S. Army during World War II at the age of seventeen, McNeill served in combat in the Third Army under General Patton and was captured in Germany in 1944. McNeill spent six months as a POW (Prisoner of War) until he was liberated in May of 1945. John enrolled in Canisius College in Buffalo after his discharge from the army and, upon graduating, entered the Society of Jesus in 1948. He was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1959.
John J. McNeill (born September 2, 1925) was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1959 and now is a psychotherapist and an academic theologian, with a particular reputation within the field of Queer Theology. John and Charles Chiarelli met in 1965 at the St. Charles gay bar in Toronto and married in Canada. Charles takes care of him "with faithful, love and patient." "He has been for forty-five years at my side," says McNeill. "I thank God every day for the blessing of Charles in my life."
In 1964, McNeill earned a Doctorate in Philosophy, with highest honors (Plus Grande Distinction), at Louvain University in Belgium. His doctoral thesis on the philosophical and religious thought of Maurice Blondel was published in 1966 as the first volume of the series Studies in the History of Christian Thought edited by Heiko Oberman and published by Brill Press in Leyden, Holland.
During his professional career, McNeill taught philosophy at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY, and in the doctorate program at Fordham University in NYC. In 1972, he joined the combined Woodstock Jesuit Seminary and Union Theological Seminary faculty as professor of Christian Ethics, specializing in Sexual Ethics. In 1975, McNeill entered the graduate clinical program in Psychotherapy at the Institutes of Religion and Health (IRH). After completing the program, he began his private psychotherapy practice and became a member of the faculty of the IRH teaching courses in "Object Relations Theory of Psychodynamic Development". For many years while on the faculty at IRH, he was Director of the program in Pastoral Studies for inner city clergy at the Manhattan Branch. As adjunct professor at Union Theological Seminary in 1990 he taught a course on "Psychological and Spiritual Dimensions of Ministry to Gays and Lesbians".
In 1974, McNeill was co-founder of the New York City chapter of Dignity, a group for Catholic gays and lesbians. For over twenty-five years, he has been active in a ministry to gay Christians through retreats, workshops, lectures, publications, etc. For twenty years John was a leader of semiannual retreats at the Kirkridge Retreat Center in Pennsylvania.
McNeill's major works on the subject of gay and lesbian liberation, self-acceptance and spiritual maturity are as follows:
• In 1976, The Church and the Homosexual was published. This book was a re-evaluation of homosexuality from a moral and theological viewpoint. It was published in four other languages: French, Spanish, Italian and Danish. A fourth edition with a new preface was published by Beacon Press in 1993. Other publications include "Homosexuality, Lesbianism and the Future: Building a More Humane Society", in A Challenge to Love, ed. by Robert Nugent, Crossroads Press, 1983.
• In 1988, his second major work on gay liberation theology, Taking a Chance On God: Liberating Theology for Gays and Lesbians, Their Lovers, Friends and Families, was published by Beacon Press. This book was published in French and German in March of 1993, and Italian in October of 1994.
• The most recent book, which examines the role interior freedom plays in spiritual maturity, entitled Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians and Everybody Else, published by Beacon Press was distributed early in February, 1995. It was published in Italian in 1996.
• In 1993, he also published an article entitled “Homosexuality and Spirituality” in The New Dictionary of Spirituality, (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota).
• His article entitled “Tapping Deeper Roots: Integrating the Spiritual Dimension Into Professional Practice With Lesbian and Gay Clients” was published in The Journal of Pastoral Care, Vol. 48 No. 4, Winter 1994.
• His memoirs entitled Both Feet Firmly Planted in Mid Air: The Spiritual Journey of John McNeill was published in 1998 by Westminister/John Knox Press.
The honors John McNeill has received for his dedicated work include: grand marshal of the New York City Gay Rights Parade in 1987; the National Human Rights Award in 1984 for his contributions to lesbian and gay rights; the Humanitarian Award in 1990 from the Association of Lesbian and Gay Psychologists; the United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches Special Award for his "dedicated work in spreading the Gospel to the lesbian/gay community"; the 1997 Dignity/USA Prophetic Service Award "In Recognition of over 25 years of extraordinary work on behalf of the Catholic Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community;" and the People of Soulforce Award in 2000 to John and his partner for "lifelong commitment to justice, mercy and truth."
McNeill was the guest of honor 2011 Europride, invited by Nuova proposta in Rome to attend the premiere screening of the documentary film about his life, Taking a Chance on God, edited by director Brendan Fay. Today McNeill has eighty-five and moves on a wheelchair, accompanied by his husband, Charles Chiarelli (they met 1965 at the St. Charles gay bar in Toronto and married in Canada), which takes care of him "with faithful, love and patient." "He has been for forty-five years at my side," says McNeill. "I thank God every day for the blessing of Charles in my life. Without his presence, my ministry with gay people would not have been possible. Charles has prepared and proofread all of my books, taught me how to use the computer and still helps me to maintain a balance with his biting sense of humor."
Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families, and Friends by John J. McNeill
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press (May 1, 1996)
Amazon: Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families, and Friends
Taking a Chance on God explores how lesbians and gay men can claim both a positive gay identity and a fulfilling life of Christian faith.
The Church and the Homosexual: Fourth Edition by John J. McNeill
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press; 4 Sub edition (September 1, 1993)
Amazon: The Church and the Homosexual: Fourth Edition
In this "brave and good book which shatters bad myths" (Commonweal), McNeill shows that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, and argues that the Church must not continue its homophobic practices.
Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else by John J. McNeill
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: Lethe Press; Reprint edition (January 10, 2010)
Amazon: Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else
Freedom, Glorious Freedom, acclaimed author John J. McNeill shows how lesbian and gay Christians can achieve full spiritual maturity and self-acceptance. McNeill discusses freedom of conscience and discernment of spirits, ancient teachings of the Christian church that have a special urgency for lesbian and gay people who need to free themselves from all the homophobic authorities and deal with God on a direct and personal basis. The liberating process of coming out of the closet is seen as a spirit-filled effort to achieve the glory of God by becoming fully alive. McNeill offers a twelve-step spirituality as a spiritual process of liberation from all addictions in order to experience the love of God in its fullness. The epilogue expresses in detail a philosophical vision, looking both to the past and to the future, of how gay liberation fits into the Spirit-directed evolution of human history and its role in the ongoing struggle for human liberation.
Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey by John J. McNeill
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; 1st edition (September 1, 1998)
Amazon: Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey
With the publication of his groundbreaking The Church and Homosexuality in 1976, John McNeill placed himself in the vanguard of scholars who were challenging long-held assumptions about the Bible and homosexuality. Through his continued scholarship, spiritual reflection, and untiring activism, McNeill has brought hope and affirmation to thousands of gay and lesbian Christians. Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair is McNeill's autobiography.
More Real Life Romances at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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