For more than twenty-five 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.
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 volumne 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
Transgendered Community;" and the People of Soulforce Award in 2000 to John and his partner for "lifelong commitment
to justice, mercy and truth."
(This biographical statement provided by John McNeill.)