Thursday, October 22, 2009
Who's That Queer
Mychal F. Judge, OFM (born Robert Emmet Judge on May 11, 1933; died September 11, 2001) was a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, the first recorded victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks and is oftern referred to as "the Saint of 9/11."
Upon hearing the news that the World Trade Center had been hit by hijacked jetliners, Judge rushed to the site. He was met by the Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, who asked him to pray for the city and its victims. Judge administered last rites to some lying on the streets, then entered the lobby of the World Trade Center north tower where an emergency command post was organized. There he continued offering aid and prayers for the rescuers, the injured and dead.
When the south tower collapsed at 9:59 AM, debris went flying through the north tower lobby, killing many inside, including Judge. Father Judge's body bag was labeled "Victim 0001," recognized as the first official victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Former President Bill Clinton was among the 3,000 people who attended his funeral, held on September 15 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan. It was presided over by Archbishop Edward Egan. Clinton said his death was "a special loss. We should live his life as an example of what has to prevail."
There have been calls within the Roman Catholic Church to canonize Judge to Sainthood. While there is no indication that Rome is seriously considering this, several churches independent of Rome, most notably the Orthodox Catholic Church of America, have declared him a saint.
Following his death a few of his friends and associates revealed that Father Judge was gay — as a matter of orientation rather than practice, as he was a celibate priest. According to fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen: "I actually knew about his homosexuality when I was in the Uniformed Firefighters Association. I kept the secret, but then he told me when I became commissioner five years ago. He and I often laughed about it, because we knew how difficult it would have been for the other firefighters to accept it as easily as I had. I just thought he was a phenomenal, warm, sincere man, and the fact that he was gay just had nothing to do with anything."
Judge was a long-term member of Dignity, a Catholic LGBT activist organization that advocates for change in the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality. On October 1, 1986, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an encyclical, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, which declared homosexuality to be a "strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil."In response, many bishops, including John Cardinal O'Connor, banned Dignity from diocesan churches under their control. Judge then welcomed Dignity's AIDS ministry to the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, which is under the control of the Franciscan friars, thereby partially circumventing the Cardinal's ban of Dignity. Judge disagreed with the Vatican regarding homosexuality, though by all accounts, he remained celibate. Judge often asked, "Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?"
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