It’s Time to Canonize Fr. Mychal Judge: Seeking Personal Testimony

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The time has come to begin the initial research to make Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, a canonized saint in the Catholic Church.  And we need the help of people like you to spread the word about such a possibility so that we can gather evidence about Fr. Judge’s life and ministry.

Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM

On September 11, 2001, Fr. Judge, who was a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, rushed into the World Trade Center building with other first responders, after terrorists had flown planes into the skyscraper towers.  As a result of his sacrifice, he died, and is now often referred to as “Victim Number One” of that tragic day which witnessed the deaths of close to 3,000 people, with over 6,000 more injured.

He was also known as an unofficial chaplain in the gay community, providing pastoral care and support wherever and whenever he could.  He ministered, selflessly, too, with HIV/AIDS patients and with people suffering from addictions.

Pope Francis paved the way for Fr. Judge to be considered for canonization this past week when he added a new possible pathway to sainthood:  the heroic giving of one’s life for others.

The pope issued a motu propio on July 11th entitled “Maiorem hac dilectionem.” The Latin title is derived from St. John’s Gospel: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The National Catholic Reporter explained why this development is significant:

“Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, Secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said the addition is meant ‘to promote heroic Christian testimony, (that has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues.’

“For centuries, consideration for the sainthood process required that a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize their veneration as saints.

“While these three roads to sainthood remain unchanged, they were not adequate ‘for interpreting all possible cases’ of holiness, the archbishop wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, July 11.

“According to the apostolic letter, any causes for beatification according to the new pathway of “offering of life” would have to meet the following criteria:

  • Free and willing offer of one’s life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected.
  • Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues — at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way — before having offered one’s life to others and until one’s death.
  • Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death.
  • A miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession is needed for beatification.”

Last week, I spoke with Fr. Luis Fernando Escalante, an Argentinian priest living in Rome, who serves as a postulator for the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes.  Fr. Escalante said that Fr. Judge clearly fits this new category of a heroic giver of one’s own life.

In order to propose that Fr. Judge be investigated by the Congregation to be considered for canonization, an immense amount of research first must be done.  What is needed are first-hand accounts from people who knew Fr. Judge personally or who have had any correspondence with him or have other significant documents that will give a clearer, more detailed picture of his life, spirituality, and ministry.  Extremely important is any information regarding a possible miracle attributed to Fr. Judge’s intercession.

Fr. Escalante emphasized that this new category for canonization requires only an ordinary living out of Christian virtues, not an extraordinary effort.  So, any stories that you or your contacts may have about Fr. Judge, even if they are seemingly ordinary, are needed.

Here is what you can do:

  1. Share this blog post (or simply the request for information about Fr. Judge) with your social media, email, and personal contacts.  Ask them to share this information with others by the same means.  We need this to go viral to find people who knew Fr. Judge, who feel they have experienced his intercession in a possible miracle, or simply want to support and help the preliminaries of his Cause.
  2. Refer anyone who has first-hand information about Fr. Judge to contact New Ways Ministry by email (info@NewWaysMinistry.org), phone (301-277-5674), or postal mail (4012 29th Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20712).
  3. Persons who have testimony about Fr. Judge need only make an initial contact.  They do not need to explain the nature of their interaction or experience with him in the initial contact.   Follow-up material will be sent to them to elicit the type of information that is needed.
  4. Ask other organizations to which you belong who also might know people who encountered Fr. Judge to share this information.
  5. Pray for the canonization of Fr. Judge.

This opportunity depends on YOU!  The only way that we can make Fr. Judge’s canonization a reality is through a mass effort to find people who knew Fr. Judge.  People who have been involved in Catholic LGBT activities are very likely to have met him or perhaps to have prayed to him for a miracle.  That is why we are asking you to share this information.   Of course, those who knew Fr. Judge from other activities–his parish work, his NYC Fire Department chaplaincy, his ministry to HIV/AIDS patients and addicts–are also sought.

An official request for the Cause of Fr. Judge’s canonization can only be submitted after a great deal of this initial research is gathered.  This may take many months, perhaps even a year or more.  Only through a mass effort to build a network of individuals and organizations who are searching for the necessary evidence and information will we be able to get to even the first step of the canonization process.

For the sake of this heroic priest who literally gave his life for others, please spread the word!

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, July 17, 2017

Related:

For more information on the life of Fr. Mychal Judge, click here.

To read Bondings 2.0 blog posts that mention Fr. Mychal Judge click here.

Papal Canonizations, Part 3: More Questions than Answers

Pope Francis canonized Popes John XXII and John Paul II yesterday, formally acknowledging them as saints. In the weeks leading to yesterday’s six minute ceremony, questions have been furiously debated online, in print, and in person about what these canonizations mean for the Church today, how Pope Francis is viewing this event, and, most contentiously of all, whether one or both popes are indeed worthy of sainthood.

On Saturday, Bondings 2.0 covered the positive impact John XXIII had in calling for Vatican II and setting the conditions for greater openness in the Church, which you can read here. On Sunday, we covered the tremendous harm done to LGBT people and their loved ones under John Paul II’s 27-year papacy, which you can read about here. Today, we highlight some of the commentaries swirling around and, while not directly addressing LGBT topics, these articles are raising questions which impact our common efforts for a more inclusive, just church today.

Joshua McElwee’s reporting from Rome for the National Catholic Reporter notes that Pope Francis “wrapped up” the last 56 years of church history through the canonizations, but that “the implications of the saintings…are not so clear.” McElwee writes further:

“While the Vatican has sought this week to tie the popes together by their work shepherding the church through the 20th century — framing them as two bookends of church modernization and reform — Catholics in many parts of the world see John as the man who started that reform, but John Paul as the one who harnessed or even rolled parts of it back…

“Now that [Pope Francis] has sainted the man who opened the council and the man who over 27 years most shaped its reforms, how will he continue to direct its influence over the church?

“That answer may come most clearly during October’s meeting of bishops, which is expected to discuss a number of sometimes controversial subjects — including the question of communion for divorced and remarried persons.

“In other words, while Francis was able to wrap together 56 years in just six minutes Sunday it will likely be many years before we know the full impact of the council — and of the man now leading its continuing reforms.”

Also at NCR, Isabella Moyer wonders what Pope Francis actually thinks of these canonizations, and Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese states his belief that canonizing popes is a “dumb idea,” which makes those saints already in heaven have a good laugh. He writes further:

“I fear that the people pushing hardest for the canonization of a pope want him made a saint so he can be presented as the ideal pope that future popes should imitate. It is more about church politics than sanctity.

“Making a pope a saint is a way of strengthening his legacy, making it more difficult for future popes to change policies that he put in place. ‘How can you dare to change what St. Whoever established?’ …

Thirty years from now, another pope will preside over another double canonization, that for Blessed Benedict XVI and Blessed Francis I (yes, there will be a Francis II). I will not be around to be a party pooper, but if I am in heaven, I promise to organize a party for all these popes who, I am sure, will get a good laugh out of it.”

Fr. Reese is not the only person questioning the canonizations. US Catholic posted an article which called this process a “rush to sainthood,” and Emily Reimer-Barry of the the blog Catholic Moral Theology explores whether the canonization of saints is still relevant.

Finally, John Gehring of Faith in Public Life and Kim Daniels, formerly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, penned a piece together about these canonizations being a moment to bridge divides in the Church. They write:

“When Pope Francis canonizes Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica, he will do more than honor the lives of towering figures that brought unique gifts to the Catholic church and the world. He will also send a powerful message of unity. By simultaneously declaring as saints these two men so often deployed as symbols for competing Catholic camps, Pope Francis is reminding us that the Gospel leaves no room for ideology…

“As the world watches the Catholic church with new eyes, we must strive for something better than internecine battles and gotcha rhetoric. Pope Francis is challenging us to build “a church of encounter” that goes to the margins where people are hurting and broken. A divided church will not meet that transcendent mission.”

What do these canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II mean for you? How do they impact the bridge building done by LGBT advocates worldwide to foster understanding about sexual orientation and gender identity? What impact will canonizing a pope who opened the doors to LGBT people indirectly and a pope who tried hard to close them mean for Pope Francis today? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Papal Canonizations, Part 2: Pope John Paul II’s Record on LGBT Issues

Today is canonization day for two recent popes:  John XXIII and John Paul II.  In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that Catholics who support LGBT equality are somewhat mixed in their emotion today because while John XXIII opened the way for a discussion of justice in the church, John Paul II instituted a number of developments that were detrimental to LGBT people.   Yesterday, I reviewed John XXIII’s record, and today I will will look at John Paul II’s record.  Tomorrow, this blog will review some of the recent commentary written recently about the influence these two men have had on the church and the world.

Pope John Paul II

There are many memorable things that will distinguish John Paul II’s papacy:  the downfall of the Soviet Union, the assassination attempt on his life and his moving forgiveness of his would-be assassin, his many and varied travels to all corners of the world.

Unfortunately, John Paul will also be remembered as the pope who instituted a number of developments that were negative and unduly harsh towards LGBT people.  Through numerous measures, messages, and actions, this pope tried to hold back the burgeoning LGBT justice and liberation movement that was initiated because of the reforms John XXIII instituted in the church.  I will mention only a few major highlights.

To begin with, John Paul oversaw and authorized the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons which introduced a number of harmful principles and concepts.  For example, this document:

–introduced the term “objective disorder” to describe a homosexual orientation.  Immediately this term caused much confusion because it sounds as though the Vatican is calling homosexuality a psychological or medical problem, when, in fact, the term is used strictly in a philosophical sense.

–described homosexual activity as “intrinsic moral evil.”

–claimed that Church teaching transcends scientific knowledge: “The Church is thus in a position to learn from scientific discovery but also to transcend the horizons of science and to be confident that her more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions, created by God and heir, by grace, to eternal life.”

–while condemning violence against lesbian/gay people, the document also blamed supporters of gay/lesbian rights for that violence, and claims that such violence can be understood and rationalized:

“when [pro-gay] civil legislations is introduced to protect behaviour to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.”

–blamed gay/lesbian people for the HIV/AIDS crisis, and labels their advocates as dangerous to public health:  “Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.”

–warned bishops not to allow Church facilities to be used by groups that do not subscribe to the church’s teaching on sexual activity: “All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church. . . . Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups. . .”

In 1992, John Paul II’s Vatican issued Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons.  Sent privately to the bishops, the document became public when New Ways Ministry, after receiving a copy of the text from an anonymous source, released it to the press.  The Washington Post carried the first story on July 17, 1992.     This document:

–instructed bishops to be more circumspect in their support of civil rights legislation for lesbian/gay people: “Such initiatives, even where they seem more directed toward support of basic civil rights than condonement of homosexual activity or a homosexual lifestyle, may in fact have a negative impact on the family and society.”

–instructed bishops that discrimination is not unjust “in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teacher or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.”

–compared restricting the rights of lesbian/gay people with restricting the rights of “contagious or mentally ill persons, in order to protect the common good.”

In August 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with approval from John Paul II, issued Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual PersonsThis document reiterates the Vatican’s opposition to same-sex marriage.  Among its main points:

–Heterosexual marriage would be devalued by same-sex marriage: “Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.”

–Permitting adoption of children by same-sex couples “would actually mean doing violence to these children…” by harming their development.

–Catholic law-makers (and all Catholics) have a moral obligation to oppose same-sex unions:

“…where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.”  . . . .

“If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way.”

Many Catholics saw statements like these as designed to roll-back the movement in the church which was working for greater acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people.  These efforts did not succeed.  The Catholic movement for LGBT equality is stronger than it ever was.

Clearly, John Paul II had a major blind spot when it came to LGBT people.  Some may view this fault as something evil, but I tend to look at it as a mark and reminder of the imperfect humanity that we all share.  We all have blind spots.  We all need to be educated better on a variety of issues.  While some may disagree him his canonization, for a number of reasons, I think this occasion can help to remind us that, even with our flaws, we are still all capable of sainthood.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

Papal Canonizations, Part 1: Pope John XXIII’s Influence on LGBT Equality

On Sunday, April 27th, two recent popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, will be canonized as saints in the Catholic Church.  For many Catholics who support LGBT issues, this double canonization is an occasion of mixed emotions. Though many are happy with the canonization of John XXIII, their joy is tempered by the fact that John Paul II, who was responsible for instituting many anti-LGBT policies and teachings, is being similarly honored.

Pope John XXIII

Today, I’ll review the contribution of John XXIII on LGBT issues in the church. Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at John Paul II’s influence on these matters.  On Monday, we will provide a review of some of the wealth of commentary written recently about these two men.

John XXIII’s greatest achievement in his papacy was convening the Second Vatican Council, which opened up a new era of theological reform in the Church.  Most importantly, for LGBT issues, the theological reform included an important development in the Church’s sexual teaching.  Theologian Lisa Fullam recently offered a succinct description of Vatican II’s development of sexual theology in her essay, “Civil Same-Sex Marriage: A Catholic Affirmation.”  Fullam states:

“The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes identified two ends of marriage: the procreation and education of children, and the intimate union of husband and wife through which ‘they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day.’ (GS 48) Gaudium et Spes eliminated the long-held idea that procreation was seen as the primary end of marriage while the union of the partners was deemed secondary or instrumental to that primary end. The Council insisted that  ‘[m]arriage to be sure is not instituted solely for procreation’ (GS 50). Instead, it ‘maintains its value and indissolubility, even when despite the often intense desire of the couple, offspring are lacking’ (GS 50). Departing from most previous teaching in which the procreative end of marriage was elevated over the unitive end, the Council refused to prioritize either. However, the Council insisted that childless marriages are still truly marriages, not some lesser partnership, while no such contrary affirmation is made—loveless but procreative unions are not affirmed (or rejected) as true marriage by the Council.”

By displacing procreation from its position of primacy in sexual theology, and by raising the unitive function to a higher status, Vatican II opened the way for theologians to explore the unitive function more deeeply, which allowed them to consider the moral status of relationships which were not biologically procreative, especially gay and lesbian relationships.  So, John XXIII’s Vatican II  opened the way for a new discussion of sexuality in theology, which paved the way for the growing field of lesbian and gay theology.

Vatican II’s emphasis on justice being a constitutive part of the preaching of the gospel also had an effect on the development of LGBT ministry.  Fullam points out that John XXIII’s emphasis on human rights in his encyclical Pacem in Terris provided a new perspective for Catholics:

“The language of rights, then, is how Catholics take our religiously grounded understanding of the common good out into public discourse. With the humility appropriate to fallible human beings, we seek input from all people of good will as we do so. We don’t seek to legislate the whole moral law, but only those rights and duties by which the flourishing of all people is made possible. Our deep commitment to human dignity and the equality of all human persons is the bedrock on which Catholic teaching grounds its social message.”

John’s writings opened the path a more justice-oriented church.  One other outcome of this pope’s approach was the development following Vatican II of liberation theology, which would eventually be applied to the LGBT experience.

Immediately following Vatican II was when Catholics first started taking the human rights and liberation of LGBT people more seriously.  As this blog stated on October 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II:

“In one respect,  the movement for LGBT liberation, equality, and justice in the Catholic Church is a direct result of Vatican II.    The Council’s reform of theology, its updating of scriptural interpretations, its openness to scientific knowledge, its invitation for participation by the laity, its clarion call to work for justice in the world and the church–all these things were part of the 1960s Catholic zeitgeist which resulted in a burgeoning movement to be involved with, and work for justice for, LGBT people.

“It’s no accident that both two of the oldest Catholic ministries to LGBT people–Dignity and New Ways Ministry–emerged from this era and as a direct result of priests and religious following the call of Vatican II.  Similarly, it would have been unimaginable that John McNeill’s theological groundbreaking work, The Church and the Homosexual, could have been written before the Council.”

It is no overstatement to say that without John XXIII, the movement in the Church for LGBT equality would have been much delayed and much diminished.  For this contribution of his, and for the many other ways that he ushered in a more compassionate, just, and socially involved church, Catholics who support LGBT equality are rejoicing at his canonization.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry