The National Catholic Review

Fr. Mychal Judge, the fallen chaplain of the Fire Department of New York City, will be honored with a statue in front of his former parish, according to a story from Religion News Services (via The Huffington Post):

When All Saints Church sought to signal its hospitality to gays and lesbians, the Catholic parish in Syracuse, N.Y., turned to a well-known image from the 9/11 attacks: five firefighters carrying a body from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

The body belonged to the Rev. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan fire chaplain who rushed to the burning buildings and was killed by falling debris. Later, a half-hidden secret emerged about the gallant priest: he was gay.

All Saints hopes the statue will demonstrate that the parish, following Judge's lead, is committed to closing the chasms between rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, said the Rev. Fred Daley, the church's pastor.

The story is an interesting one, given the Church's hard-line teachings on homosexuality. The article explores Fr. Judge's priestly vocation and his sexuality, with insight from America's own Fr. James Martin:

The gay Catholic pundit Andrew Sullivan has called Judge's death an "emblem of service and holiness and courage," and argued that, by the Vatican's logic, the priest "should never have been ordained."

Researchers estimate that thousands of gay priests like Judge serve the church while remaining faithful to their vows of celibacy. Only a few, however, have publicly revealed their sexual orientation, leaving a dearth of positive role models for gay Catholics, Daley said.

The Rev. James Martin, culture editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said some Catholics are uncomfortable with Judge's sexual orientation and downplay that aspect of his life.

"But why should they be? For all we know, he lived a perfectly celibate life," Martin said. "He lived as the Catechism asked him to live and kept his ordination promises. Gay, straight or somewhere in between, he's a hero. If you rush into a burning building to minister to people, while knowing that you might die, that's true holiness."

Omitting any mention of Judge's sexuality, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has used Judge's heroic life and death for its own ends: in promotional materials encouraging men to join priesthood.

"One's orientation should never dominate one's ministry as a priest," said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops. "Clearly, it did not dominate the ministry of Father Judge, who by all reports was held in high esteem by many, especially by the fire department he served so well."

Read the full article here.

Comments

Thom Nickels | 8/31/2011 - 9:39am
For a Latin rite priest the main thing is to keep the vow of celibacy. Celibacy should trandscend issues of gay or straight. Why is this even an issue? Catholics are not staying away from Mass and from their local parishes because the Church has too many celibate gay priests. They stay away because since the 1960s the Mass has become banal, a Catholic-Protestant hybrid affair with semi-secular music, lay ministers, lay people distributing communion, destroyed churches that look like Baptist temples. Fix the Mass and return to Tradition and Catholicism will heal itself. Destroy the Liturgy and you destroy everything.  
Paul Leddy | 8/31/2011 - 9:28am
Let me throw out this question:
Who owns or who is the largest stakeholder in the issue of celibacy?  The priest? for whom celibacy is required but not necessary to his ministry; and for whom a discussion of it becoming an option is possible? Or the homosexual Catholic? for whom celibacy will never be an option.
If there is a beauty in the virtue of chastity, why is it necessary for a celibate to disclose his sexual orientation? What is the value in that? What encourages the public interest in the discussion of disclosing one’s same sex attraction when same sex attraction is not a sin?  Does the teaching Church proclaim clearly enough that same sex attraction is not a sin, or does it confuse the Church by its aggressive propaganda supporting the public’s perception of the sinfulness of homosexuality?
Juan Lino | 8/29/2011 - 2:10pm
Hurricane Irene demanded all my attention and so I am only now able to check blogs and so a couple of quick remarks.
 
Trying to watch the video on Hulu was a nightmare because of all the @#&^ commercials, so don’t bother!
 
I was interested in watching the video because I had spoken with Fr. Judge (both in and out of the confessional) several times over the years while he was at St. Francis of Assisi.  I respected him and found him to be a sincere priest, although I was not happy that he supported “Dignity.”  I told him this and mentioned that I was affiliated with the “Courage” Apostolate (which is faithful to the Magisterium, while Dignity is not), and was pleased to discover that our disagreement was never an issue between us.  I give him a lot of credit for that, especially since some clerics can't stand "opposition".
 
I wholeheartedly support an investigation into Fr. Judge’s “saintliness” being started but not if it’s going to be a way to give the Holy See “the finger” – which is what it seems to be at the moment.  Why do I say that?  Because, as the late Fr. Harvey taught us, the word “gay” is a politicized word and that’s why I prefer the term SSA. 
 
Should this particular parish erect a statue?  I think that’s a bit premature (like the NY Saints class that they are going to offer in St. Francis soon) because Fr. Judge has not been declared “Servant of God” (see below for a description of that is done):
 
"3. The bishop of the diocese in which the person whose beatification is being requested died is responsible for beginning the investigation. The promoter group ('Actor Causae'): diocese, parish, religious congregation, association, asks the bishop through the postulator for the opening of the investigation. The bishop, once the 'nulla osta' of the Holy See is obtained, forms a diocesan tribunal for this purpose. Witnesses are called before the tribunal to recount concrete facts on the exercise of Christian virtues considered heroic, that is, the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, and others specific to his state in life. In addition, all documents regarding the candidate must be gathered. At this point he is entitled to the title of Servant of God.
 
There are some comments that I’d like to respond to but I am pressed for time.
Paul Leddy | 8/29/2011 - 9:06am
This is one of the more gracious comments from a member of GAMMA in response to my post on their website (see #12 above):

Sorry I missed the conversation last night on whether the Catholic church is homophobic.
As an ex-Mormon who broke with that church, but only in part because of its homophobia, I have come to the view that religiously sanctioned homophobia is one of the most pernicious forces in our society.
It is pernicious because it ties those people in knots who are trying to honor their faith yet acknowledge what they know inside to be true. Worse, it gives cover to the out and out homophobes. Homophobia in churches is but one of many things that has de-legitimized organized religion in many of its current forms.
How something, in this case Christianity, that started out with the Sermon on The Mount can arrive at persecuting gays is a journey that is astounding. The healthy thing for gays is to deny the purported authority and claims of such institutions. They are the ones who have a problem, not gays who mainly seek to affirm their love and humanity. I realize that many aspects of Christianity are benign or positive, and I don't wish to offend anyone, but the rancid and toxic homophobic core of some forms of Christianity cannot be overlooked or waved away. It must be confronted.
Paul Leddy | 8/28/2011 - 8:50pm
The insistence on catholicity and mediation has important consequences for moral theology. One cannot go directly, immediately, or with perfect certitude from a scriptural quotation or a theological statement (e.g., God is love) to a particular moral conclusion (e.g., this promise is no longer morally binding). One must deal with all aspects of the human before one can come to a specific conclusion about a particular action to be performed or avoided. There is no shortcut around the hard work of understanding the human in all its complexity.
The temptation for many religious people is to move too quickly and with unwonted certainty from scripture or faith to a specific moral conclusion. Religious people have often been dismissed as do-gooders precisely because they have failed to recognize the complexity of the human and have not done the necessary work of thinking and judging before making a moral decision or pronouncement. Some time ago a Catholic group working for peace and justice asked me to evaluate a short statement if had written on multinational corporations. The first paragraph cited the Last Judgement passage in Matthew’s Gospel – when I was hungry, naked, thirsty, etc. The second paragraph concluded, “Therefore, multinational corporations are immoral.” I responded to the leaders of the group that if they were going to get into a debate with the president of General Motors – Thomas Aquinas Murphy – they had better know more than Matthew 25. They had better know something about economics and the whole complex reality of the human. (Curran, Loyal Dissent: Memoir of a Catholic Theologian p. 193)
John Flaherty | 8/28/2011 - 4:53am
"Worse it declares homosexuals as de facto unfit for Holy Orders."

I'd say that's probably a wise approach, especially in today's cultural context.  Your own commentary demonstrates the serious problem we have with homosexual tendencies in seminaries.  Considering how our priests will be subjected to the intolerance of society, I should think we'd want to encourage those men who're best suited to reject those failings.  We know society will fairly bombard our priets with messages about the virtues of homosexual lifestyles; our priests will generally be much better off if they're not fighting themselves so much while they're fighting this scourge.

As to the point you make about marginalizing people-or someone else's point about the Church being "homophobic" or not-I contend that people who feel marginalized or disgusted with the Church's actions, don't have a problem with the Church.  They have a problem with the morals the Church teaches, but don't wish to admit it.  I would suggest that such people need to contemplate their ideas more deeply, pray, and contemplate what the Church's mission really is.

That isn't a "nice", "gentle", or "kind" thing to say.  But Truth often doesn't allow for our modern renditions of these.
Either we hold high expectations..or we place our souls at grave risk.


John Flaherty | 8/28/2011 - 4:29am
Gotta tell you, some of these comments strike me as being outrageous.

The CHURCH made this an issue??  Hardly!  This priest's sexual orientation has only been an issue because the gay rights lobby insists on exploiting anything halfway worthwhile to press their agenda.  That same lobby only makes a huge fuss out of the Church's actions because they despise the Church for daring to challenge them.

No, I think this article quite absurd too.  If many weren't so determined to attempt forcing the Church to change Her ways to suit the modern world, I think this priest's sexual orientation would likely be pricesly what it should be:  Irrelevant!
Liam Richardson | 8/27/2011 - 11:20pm
David

It would be nice to be in a church where it did not matter. But we are in Church whose leaders made it matter. Don't blame the mirror that reveals what the reality is. It's dysfunctional to have to Make Mommy Look Nice when She Isn't That Nice (but it's a tried a true role of someone in a dyfunctional family to try to get everyone else in the family to pretend So We Don't Have To Discuss It). 
JIM MCCREA | 8/27/2011 - 8:01pm
Why should gay and lesbian members of the clergy and religious “come out?”
 
Heterosexuality  is such an enormous assumption to have glided so silently into the foundation of our thought.  Adrienne Rich,
http://www.terry.uga.edu/~dawndba/4500compulsoryhet.htm
 
Heterosexism is a  structure of power in society (as racism and sexism are) that privileges as superior (natural, more healthy, normative) heterosexuality over homosexuality and, through a variety of procedures of subjectification, creates homophobic subjects.  
Mark Blasius, An Ethos of Lesbian and Gay Existence, Political Theory), November 1992.  http://www.jstor.org/pss/191972   
http://www.deepdyve.com/lp/sage/an-ethos-of-lesbian-and-gay-existence-6WYgW5n106 
JIM MCCREA | 8/26/2011 - 4:53pm
Gee, Joe:  wouldn't your dyspepsia be more under control if you didn't lurk here and get upset to very often?

I'm sure that there are many, many tighty-righty magazines, blogsites, etc. that are more in line with your way of thought.
Anonymous | 8/26/2011 - 4:31pm
''The story is an interesting one, given the Church's hard-line teachings on homosexuality''

What the heck does this comment mean?  ''Hardline''?  I think it would be much more appropriate to describe the Church's teaching as ''compassionate'' on homosexuality. 

The Church's teaching is compassionate just as Saint Paul's teaching is compassionate.  Why does America Magazine wish to ''conform'' ''to this age''?  Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.''
Liam Richardson | 8/27/2011 - 3:27pm
Norman

And let us not forget where Spellman picked up his habits of power: under Cardinal O'Connell in Boston. So much of the sick chancery culture in the US (and I don't mean homosexually sick, I mean power sick) has its roots there.
Paul Leddy | 8/27/2011 - 9:41am
I posted this article with the following preface on GAMMA's website this morning.  GAMMA (the gay married men's association) is a support group for gay men in straight marriages; we're located in Washington DC. We held one of our twice monthly meetings last night. It is conincidental that all attending last night are cradle Catholics:
Is the Catholic Church Homophobic?
This question came up at last night's meeting.  Before one can offer an answer, a definition of what the ''Church'' is, is needed: is it the hierarchy or everyone within the Church, its ''catholicity''? Below is an article in the current issue of American Magazine, a weekly published by the Jesuits. Fr. Martin is mentioned in this article.  He has frequently written about gay issues in this magazine.
It can drive one crazy trying to reconcile the (ever emerging, ever changing) teachings of the Catholic Church (not the dogma) which may be interpreted as homophobic with the actions of the ''Church.''  What one believes the Church teaches and what the Church actually does would be difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible, to reconcile. There is that temptation to get wrapped around an axle trying to make straigth-line correlations. Life doesn't really work that way.
There was the Church I knew and there is the Church I know. I love the Church I know. I prefer to live in the present. 
Anonymous | 8/26/2011 - 10:09pm
Jim and Norman,

I highly recommend this weekend's Sunday Liturgy for reflection.  I did not make up the Word. 

And remember, all things are possible with God.  So I won't give up on the Jesuits or America Magazine.
Liam Richardson | 8/26/2011 - 9:05pm
It matters because the Vatican made it matter, that's why. It matters when cardinals and bishops put forth arguments that celibate gay men cannot really be celibate in the proper sense because they are not foregoing something good, only something bad. Et cet. There has been a steady flow of argument that has been aimed at marginalizing, even denigrating, the value (even worse, in the case of nearly Donatist statements such as Navarro-Valls infamously uttered in March 2003, the validity) of ministry of ordained gay men. Fr Judge is a rebuke to such rubbish.

That's why. 
Craig McKee | 8/26/2011 - 6:35pm
Fr. Judge joins many other gay people who perished that day:
http://www.angelfire.com/fl3/uraniamanuscripts/sept11.html

Memo to the Vatican:
SANTO SUBITO!
http://saintmychaljudge.blogspot.com/