John McNeill. Gay Pioneer Priest Will be Welcomed in Rome for Europride 2011
Press release, June 1, 2011
John McNeill, the 85-year-old gay pioneer priest, will travel from his home in Florida (USA) to Rome (Italy) for Europride 2011. John returns to the heart of Catholicism, where he was ordered to silence in 1977 for speaking and writing on issues of homosexuality by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who later became Pope Benedict XVI. For refusing to obey this order of silence, McNeill was eventually expelled from the Jesuit order in April 1987. McNeill will be in Rome for the world premiere screening of a new documentary on his life by Brendan Fay, Taking A Chance on God.
His groundbreaking writings – including his 1976 book The Church and Homosexual – have been translated into many languages and inspired the founding of DignityUSA, an influential movement for LGBT Catholics that continues today in the United States, and similar movements in other countries.
Taking A Chance on God will have its world premiere screening as part of Europride 2011. The film will screen on Monday evening , June 6, in Europride Park.
Fay, an Irish-born filmmaker and activist who now lives in New York City, directed A Month’s Mind and was co-producer of Saint of 9/11, documentaries about Father Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain who died in the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001.
While in Rome, McNeill and Fay will deliver a letter to Catholic Church leaders at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The letter will ask for dialogue and renewal;, and urge Church leadership to speak out against the violence, injustice, and discrimination experienced by LGBT people around the world.
McNeill will also visit the Jesuit Church of the Gesu . There he will express a prayer of thanks and hope at the tombs of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola and Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the late Superior General of the order. In 1976, Fr. Arrupe gave McNeill permission to publish The Church and the Homosexual.
Fay commented, “For a few days Rome will be a sea of rainbow flags as thousands of LGBT activists in Rome for Pride mingle with Catholic pilgrims in Rome for Pentecost. In the midst of Pride celebrations, our community needs John McNeill’s reassuring voice of hope. McNeill’s message that gay love can be holy love is as relevant today as when he first began to proclaim it in the early 1970s.
Fay continued, “Taking A Chance on God addresses current issues of human rights and same-sex marriage in a very personal way. John and his life partner of more than forty years, Charles Chiarelli, are living witnesses to the joy of same-sex committed love.” McNeill and Chiarelli were legally married in Toronto on September 8, 2008. Chiarelli’s family were originally immigrants to Canada from Sicily.
The film is also timely in reflecting a dramatic shift in attitudes toward LGBT issues among Catholics, as documented by recent polls in the various countries. There is a vital conversation going on among Catholics around the world, as more families and parishes embrace and welcome their LGBT sons and daughters.
“Taking A Chance on God gives a rare look into the heart of one inspiring man’s journey, as he negotiates his life as a Catholic priest, a gay man, and a tireless advocate for LGBT rights,” Fay said. The film will be screened in festivals this summer and fall. For current schedule information visit www.takingachanceongod.com.
Andrea Eubera, president of Nuova Proposta: Christian Homosexual Women and Men, said: “We Are looking forward to having John McNeill in Rome as our honored guest for the forum on Faith and Homosexuality that will be organized within Europride 2011.
Through his books, John was one of the first voices in Italy to offer a message of love and inclusion to LGBT people, and to give us the strength to discover again the face of God as the Holy One of all of us.
LGBT people in Italy still need help like John’s on our journey towards dignity and liberation. We are honored also to host the premiere of Brendan Fay’s film on John Taking A Chance on God. The theme of our program is ‘soul, move forward!’”
Paolo Patanè, president of Arcigay, the major Italian LGBT organization, and member of the Management Board of Europride 2011, said: “I welcome John McNeill and Charles Chiarelli as special guests of Europride 2011. John McNeill, as I’m sure Brendan Fay’s documentary about his life will witness, has been, and still is, a pioneer for the liberation of LGBT people all over the world.
If we think about the things he did and when he did them, the only feeling we are able to experience is deep gratefulness.”
Taking A Chance on God
Brendan Fay: Director, Producer
Dan Messina: Editor, Director of Photography
Ilene Cutler: Associate Editor
Peter Wetzler: Composer