The Church and the Homosexual

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The Church and the Homosexual
John J. McNeill - The Church and the homosexual.jpeg
Author John J. McNeill
Country United States
Language English
Published 1976
Media type Print

The Church and the Homosexual is a 1976 book by the Jesuit theologian and priest John J. McNeill. The book is notable in the field of moral theology in that it was among the first books to argue that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.


In 1976, McNeill published The Church and the Homosexual, which challenged the Church's prohibition of same-sex activity. It was the first extended non-judgmental work about gay Catholics, a subject that had long been taboo in official church discourse. The book was the first attempt by a reputed scholar and theologian to examine and challenge traditional church teachings on sexuality and attitudes toward gay and lesbian Catholics.

The work argued for a change in Church teaching and that homosexual relationships should be judged by the same standard of heterosexual ones. It argued that a stable, loving same-sex relationship was just as moral, and just as godly, as a heterosexual one and should be acknowledged as such by church leaders. It has been credited with helping to set in motion the re-evaluation of the religious stance toward gay people.[1]

After an extensive review of the manuscript by a panel of theologians, the work received permission from McNeill's Jesuit superiors prior to printing and the Vatican imprimatur. It was translated into several languages. However, the following year the permission was retracted at the order of the Vatican, and McNeill was ordered by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger not to write or speak further publicly about the issue of homosexuality.

McNeill responded in a statement highlighting his concern that "gay men most likely to act out their sexual needs in an unsafe, compulsive way, and therefore expose themselves to the HIV virus, are precisely those who have internalised the self-hatred that their religions impose on them." He nevertheless observed the imposed silence for nine years while continuing his private ministry to gays and lesbian Catholics.[2][3]

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