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John J. McNeill Month

By Mark Matson, President, DignityUSA

At my request, the Board of Directors of DignityUSA and the network of chapter presidents have named the month of April 2011 “John J. McNeill Month.” I need not describe all the major sacrifices and contributions this man has made over the course of his life to the principles that DignityUSA has been asserting during our 41-year history. John was among the first Roman Catholic priests to take a public stand for LGBT civil rights. He published a seminal book called The Church and the Homosexual, marched in Gay Pride Parades, and was interviewed on national television. John was expelled from his religious community, The Society of Jesus—The Jesuits, because in good con- science he could no longer comply with the Vatican imposed silence in the face of Cardinal Ratzinger’s October 1986 “Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” which defined homosexuality as “an objective disorder” and “a more or less tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.” He resumed his ministry to LGBT persons as a psychotherapist, retreat director, author, and public speaker.

The story of his life is soon to be immortalized in the documentary film Taking a Chance on God. The film will have its world debut in Rome on June 9, 2011, for Euro-Pride, a month before a showing at DignityUSA’s Convention in Washington DC. However, the financial needs to complete and promote the film remain considerable. I have been in communication with the producer and director of the film, Brendan Fay of Dignity/New York. He tells me the project needs $35,000 for completion. These funds will be applied to the acquisition of music rights, post production editing, audio clean- up, purchase of rights for news footage, graphic design and production, and color cor- rection – all required prior to the June 9th release date.

While the focus is on John McNeill, one cannot separate his story from that of DignityUSA which is featured prominently in the film. Help bring John’s story – and our story – to a new generation and communities around the world by contributing to the completion of this film. During April 2011, the leadership of DignityUSA is asking you to send a tax-deductible contribution in one of two ways. PayPal and credit card donations can be made at www.takingachanceongod.com. Checks may be made out to Dignity/New York and mailed to PO Box 1554, New York, NY 10150-1554. Note “McNeill Documentary” on the memo line.

I have made a $100 contribution in spite of the many expenses I am incurring as DignityUSA’s President, and with the upcoming DignityUSA Convention 2011 in Washington, DC. If you know of Catholic LGBT persons, friends, and allies with deep pockets, please bring this opportunity to their attention.

DignityUSA has over 3,000 members. If 400 contribute $50 each, we will raise $20,000. Of course, any amount helps. With our help, Taking a Chance on God can be completed, translated into Italian, Polish, and Spanish, and distributed to film festivals around the world in 2011. I can think of no more tangible way to thank John McNeill for the impact his rare courage and intellectual smarts has had over the past 40 years on DignityUSA’s mission and ministry, and the advancement of the well-being, civil rights, and social justice for LGBT persons, families, and friends. Will you join me?

If you have questions about the project, direct them to Brendan Fay at Brendan@stpatsforall.com.

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