Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fr John McNeill at EuroPride Rome 2011

Rome, beautiful Rome, I was here almost thirty years ago, back then, I was too young to appreciate its beautiful history as well as its charm. I think its still the same however I landed early in the evening (8.20pm) so it was already dark. A city looks different during the day.

In any case, as soon as I got off the plane, I was greeted by a hot sticky wind, which immediately reminded me of my beloved rock, Malta. I was excited as well as frustrated because the plane was delayed by an hour and the premiere of John McNeill's documentary 'Taking a Chance on God' was due to be screened at 9.45pm. I was definitely not going to make it on time. In fact I arrved at the hotel at 10.30pm. I quickly deposited my lugguage and made my way to the EuroPride park which happily, is only 300 meters away from the hotel. I thought that I would get there to find that it was all over, however in true Italian fashion (practically always late ;)) it had only just started. It was 10.45pm. I arrived just in time to hear Fr. John introduce himself as well as the documentary.

The tent was packed, all the chairs were taken, there was barely a place to stand and everyone was listening attentively. Listening to this charismatic 85 year old legendary, gay Jesuit priest, hanging on to his every word.

Short description about the documentary, not my words: 'Taking A Chance on God' is a 48 minute view of Fr. John's life and his dedication to the LGBT community. It 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. 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.

I have been staring at this cursor for about five minutes because I am trying to find the right words to describe what this man has done and what this man means to the LGBT world. I suppose it still needs time to sink in, I still need time to appreciate his courage and determination.

I want to honour this man and all he has done. I want to thank him for standing up and giving a voice to all those who were frightened, for not denying himself and the wholeness that he found in loving another man. He risked everything he loved so that he could let other people know that it is not evil to love someone of the same sex, on the contrary it is holy and good. He dedicated himself to psychological, theological and traditional research and wrote papers which received alot of attention. He travelled far and wide to tell his story but the Vatican told him to shut up. For several years he complied, however when the Vatican document (and here I will quote) defined homosexuality as “an objective disorder” and “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil', he could no longer remain silent. For having broken his silence he was expelled from the order he truly loves by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

I couldnt help but cry whilst watching the documentary and when I went to meet him I could see that he too was very emotional. I am grateful for having been able to meet this humble and whole man and for having been able to thank him personally for paving the way for the LGBT world and for making our life more possible. It is through the courage and determination of individuals like him that there has been so much change and acceptance in the LGBT world.