RNS: Fallen 9/11 priest emerges as an icon for gay Catholics
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.
"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.