A gay priest is considered a saint by many since his heroic death in the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.
Father Mychal Judge, chaplain to New York City firefighters, responded quickly when Muslim extremists flew hijacked planes into the Twin Towers. He rushed with firefighters into the North Tower right after the first plane hit. Refusing to be evacuated, he prayed and administered sacraments as debris crashed outside. He saw dozens of bodies hit the plaza outside as people jumped to their deaths. His final prayer, repeated over and over, was “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”
While he was praying, Father Mychal was struck and killed in a storm of flying steel and concrete that exploded when the South Tower collapsed. He was the first officially recorded fatality of the 9/11 attack. Father Mychal was designated as Victim 0001 because his was the first body recovered at the scene. More than 2,500 people from many nationalities and walks of life were killed. Thousands more escaped the buildings safely.
After his death, some of Father Mychal’s friends revealed that he considered himself a gay man. He had a homosexual orientation, but by all accounts he remained faithful to his vow of celibacy as a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan order.
The charismatic, elderly priest was a long-term member of DignityUSA, the oldest and largest national lay movement of LGBT Catholics and their allies. Father Mychal voiced disagreement with the Vatican’s condemnation of homosexuality, and he found ways to welcome Dignity’s AIDS ministry despite a ban by church leaders. He defied a church boycott of the first gay-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens, showing up in his habit and granting news media interviews.
Many people, both inside and outside the GLBT community, call Father Mychal a saint. He has not been canonized by his own Roman Catholic Church, but some feel that he has already become a saint by popular acclamation, and the Orthodox Church in America did officially declare him a saint.
Note: The author has updated this article here.
A lesbian Christian author who writes regularly about LGBTQ spirituality, Kittredge Cherry holds degrees in religion, journalism and art history. She was ordained by the Metropolitan Community Churches and served as the denomination’s national ecumenical officer, advocating for LGBTQ rights at the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. She maintains the website QSpirit.net.