‘Taking A Chance on God’ tells the story of 85-year-old John McNeill, Catholic priest and pioneering advocate for LGBT human rights
Taking A Chance on God tells the story of 85-year-old John McNeill, Catholic priest and pioneering advocate for LGBT human rights. The film traces his life – from a childhood in Buffalo, New York, through his months as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, his call to the priesthood and his passionate advocacy for justice and equality for LGBT people in the Catholic Church and beyond. After the Stonewall uprising of June 1969, John became a leading voice of liberation for all LGBT people.
His writings inspired the founding of DignityUSA, an influential movement for LGBT Catholics that continues today. He marched openly in Gay Pride parades. His “coming out” on the “Today” show following the 1976 publication of his groundbreaking book The Church and the Homosexual was historic. In the 1980s, McNeill proclaimed hope for the gay community in the face of despair during the AIDS crisis.
But he faced a harsh backlash. McNeill was silenced for several years by Church authorities – led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who later became Pope Benedict XVI. In 1987, he was expelled from his Jesuit religious order for breaking that silence.
“In good conscience,” he wrote, he could no longer comply with the imposed silence in the face of a Vatican document that defined homosexuality as “an objective disorder” and “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”
Taking A Chance on God is a story of the heart; the story of John McNeill’s love for his Church, his gay community, his Jesuit brothers, and his beloved companion and now legally wed spouse, Charlie Chiarelli. With honesty and emotion, he reflects on the challenges and joys of these defining relationships.
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 courageous advocate for LGBT rights.
Today, John McNeill continues to proclaim same-sex love as holy, challenges homophobia and misogyny, and continues to advocate for reform of Roman Catholic teaching on sexuality. He persists in the struggle for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons around the world.
Brendan Fay, Director, Producer. Originally from Athy, Ireland, Brendan is an activist, filmmaker and advocate for justice and equality for LGBT people in the Church and wider society. Brendan has coordinated a documentary film series about being Irish and gay in America.
He directed A Month’s Mind and was co-producer of Saint of 9/11, both documentaries about Father Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain who died in the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001.
His films have been screened at many festivals, including the Cork International Film Festival (Remembering Robert: Director), the Tribeca Film Festival (Saint of 9/11: Co-producer & European Field Producer), the Frameline Film Festival ( Edie & Thea: Assoc. Director) and the New York Fleadh Film Festival (A Month’s Mind: Director). His work has also been broadcast on PBS and MNN New York.
Brendan is founder and co-chair of New York’s inclusive St. Patrick’s Parade, and founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance – a group serving the needs of the Irish LGBT community. He is a presenter on spirituality, sexuality and justice at churches, colleges, community groups, rallies and retreats. He has testified before government bodies in Washington, DC, and in New York, and been arrested in defense of civil and human rights.
Brendan has been involved in the movement for marriage equality since 1998. With Jesús Lebrón, he is co-founder of the Civil Marriage Trail Project, which brings gay and lesbian couples across borders to avail themselves of the right to legal same-sex marriage. Brendan lives in New York City with his spouse, Dr. Tom Moulton. They were among the first New Yorkers and bi-national couples to legally marry in Canada in July 2003.
In March 2008, in light of Polish President Lech Kaczyski’s misuse of images of their wedding in a televised address (in part, anti-gay) to the nation, Brendan and Tom traveled to Poland and appeared on national television, making the case for dialogue, respect and equal rights for same-sex couples.
Taking A Chance on God
Brendan Fay, Director & Producer
Dan Messina, Editor & Director of Photography
Ilene Cutler, Assistant Editor
Peter Wetzler, Composer