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In his own life, Mychal Judge carried the pain and the tension of being a contemporary gay man in the Church.

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Father Mychal Judge, New York Fire Department chaplain killed in the line of duty on September 11.

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in Catholic Church

MARCH 28, 2002. Brendan Fay remembers his friend and mentor, Father Mychal Judge. Fay is co-chair of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Woodside, Queens, a New York City neighborhood with a strong, new Irish immigrant presence. He is also one of the moving forces behind the Lavender Green Alliance, an organization of Irish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

THE GULLY: What do you think about this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago honoring Father Mychal Judge as the parade's Grand Marshal?

BRENDAN FAY: It's wonderful, fitting, and appropriate. He was very proud of his Irish heritage. It's a wonderful thing that Mychal Judge was honored in the Chicago parade, because maybe one day people will say, he was also gay, and look at all the good that he did. So, it's great that he was honored. Somewhere, the truth about his life will surface.

Mychal Judge was someone everyone admired and was drawn to, someone who uplifted everyone in all the many different worlds and communities in which he moved: the Franciscan community, the Catholic community, New York City's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, people with AIDS, immigrants... He was constantly crossing boundaries. After he died, we all found about each other.

Are gay groups allowed to march in the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade?

I'm not aware of the situation. There's a little Irish irony here. You may find the Chicago parade does not welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But here they now have a parade, with the President present, honoring an Irish gay man. To me, this is an irony.

Another irony is that there're now people sporting green carnations on St. Patrick's Day. The idea of the green carnation was created in 1892 by another Irish gay man, Oscar Wilde, at the opening night of "Lady Windermere's Fan." It symbolized art and nature. The green carnation became a symbol in the London underground gay community of the 1890's, the way the rainbow flag is today. There was even a novel that castigated Wilde and his life, entitled "The Green Carnation."

The Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade does not acknowledge in its official website that Father Judge was gay or that he ministered to the lgbt community. There is no mention of it in articles posted on the site, by Catholic writers John Bookser Feister and John Zawadzinski. Why is this?

It's part of the Church's denial regarding gay people in the Church — the denial to recognize and affirm the contribution of lesbian and gay people in the Church, and also as lay people. There are barriers of shame and discrimination. Lesbian and gay people are among the most talented people in the Catholic community — lay people, doctors, teachers, as well as Bishops.

Mychal Judge's inclusion in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago shows that, ultimately, denial fails. All the attempts to deny, suppress lesbian and gay people won't work.

Would Feister and Zawadzinski have known that Father Judge was gay?

Of course they knew. It was known. Within days or weeks, shortly after he died, it was reported in the media. All over the world. Even in Ireland.

You knew Mychal Judge. Tell us about him.

In his own life, Mychal Judge carried the pain and the tension of being a contemporary gay man in the Church, where they continue to destroy with words like "intrinsic evil," and the recent declaration of the Vatican representative [the Pope's spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who blamed gay priests for sexual abuse charges now rocking the Catholic Church].

Mychal Judge struggled with the same impulse of denial, and rather than succumb to it, he sought to live each day in honesty. He struggled with it, lived through it, and towards the end of his life, he celebrated and acknowledged the gift of New York City's lesbian and gay community in his life, a community that was an important part of his life — like the Franciscan community and the Catholic church.

He came out as a gay man insofar as he felt it would help. One could say he was selectively out. He was open. It was about being himself. He encouraged others to be themselves, as well. Therefore, in any writing or tribute to him, this should be acknowledged.

I spoke to Mychal Judge the night after [former New York Mayor David] Dinkins was pelted with beers cans [while marching at the 1991 St. Patrick's Day Parade with Irish queers] — it pained him to see, every year, the Irish lesbian and gay community being excluded. We talked about New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade, the politics of exclusion. This was when members of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) sought to be included in the parade. It was with great enthusiasm that he supported our effort in Woodside, Queens, in 1999, to start an inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade. Mychal Judge came in his Franciscan habit and stood among us and walked with us.

What needs to be done to honor Father Judge's legacy?

We need to acknowledge that Mychal Judge was a gay man. Acknowledge the intrinsic goodness of every single human being, including those who, like himself [Judge] are gay or lesbian. Lesbian and gay people are discriminated against at the border, in parades, in parishes, and it's time to honor and celebrate this people.

What can the lgbt community, specifically, do?

We should honor Mychal Judge and remember. We should not succumb to denial, or pressure of denial.

There's a whole world of ignorance, fear and prejudice. We continue to deal with it on a daily basis, whether we're Catholic and Irish, as I am, or not. I believe that Mychal Judge, just as he did in his life, even in his death will inspire us to continue in our work.

A Little Irish Irony

Labor's Queer Irish Troubles

Related links:

For "Breaking Centuries of Silence," Brendan Fay's wide-ranging 1997 interview with Perry Brass. From gay Irish Republican heroes to why former New York Mayor Dinkins got pelted with a beer can at the 1991 St. Patrick's Day Parade.

For Dignity-USA, the gay Catholic group. Includes response to Papal spokesman Navarro-Valls' recent anti-gay declaration.

For the Lavender & Green Alliance.

For Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

For Complete Coverage New York City

Gay Mundo
gay pride The Gully's ultragay coverage. Includes musings on activism, info on queers from Puerto Rico to Taiwan and more.


9/11 and Aftermath
Guide to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on NYC and DC. Includes info on Afghanistan and the Taliban.

New York City
News, opinion, and weekly headline review of New York City.

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